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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Servant’s Heart

Painting from the Jesus Mafa project. See for more information.

Mary Kay writes...

On Maundy Thursday, I sat in church for the services. I was by myself, as Charlie had a class to teach and the boys had homework. So I was the only white person in the congregation of several hundred. I had taken a seat near the back, rather than our usual seat up front, in an effort to be a little less conspicuous (yeah, right!).

About ten minutes into the service, one of the church leaders came over to me and said that the Reverend Minister (senior pastor) was wondering if I would be willing to take part in the foot washing that would occur later in the service. One of the things that we were taught in our missionary training was that a good missionary should be ready to preach or pray at a moment’s notice. So of course, I agreed to help out. The woman led me to the front of the church to sit with other church leaders.

As I sat through the next part of the service, my mind kept wandering. I had participated in foot washings back home, but only in small groups, never in a large gathering like this. Of course, this was my first Easter in Ghana, so I had no idea what to expect. Would we wash the entire congregation’s feet? That could take quite some time. And Ghanaian feet are not like American feet. Since Ghanaians usually wear flip flops or sandals, or even go barefoot, their feet are much dustier and more calloused than most Americans. More like the disciples’ feet would have been at the Last Supper. But God has called me to serve these people, and I will gladly wash their feet. Was there a hint of pride that I would be so chosen? Yes.

Then came time for the foot washing. Basins of water and towels were carried to the altar and chairs set up. We were called forward. But I was being directed to sit in one of the chairs. What was going on? Was the minister going to wash my feet? Surely not – I was here to serve them, not the other way around. But that was exactly what happened. Four persons, three leaders of various church groups and I, were called up front and the ministers washed our feet in front of the rest of the congregation.

At first, I felt uncomfortable being served, rather than serving. But then it dawned on me – my reaction was just like that of Peter’s that first night. “No, Lord, you shall never was my feet!” [John 13:8]. And Jesus’ answer is still the same today as it was 2000 years ago. “Unless I wash you, you have no part with Me.” I went back to my seat humbled.

It is so easy to focus on the end of the passage about Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. Jesus did instruct the disciples to wash one another’s feet, to have a servant’s heart. As a North American, I tend to jump to the end, focus on the action, put this task on my “To Do” list, and later check it off. But first, I must be served. I must allow myself to be humble and vulnerable, so that Jesus can wash my feet. Then I will have a part with Him.

“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10