Living My Faith through Service

by Sharon Mathew

It’s been a delight to work with Sharon as our intern this year! We are grateful for all she has contributed. When Marybeth met with her at the end of her time as a student to discuss what she’s taking with her from her involvement in CVA, Sharon reflected on how it has deepened her Christian faith. Here she shares her story with you.

This past year interning with Community Volunteer Action (CVA) has been a wonderful experience that allowed me to develop practical work experience, gain a perspective outside student life, and grow in both maturity and responsibility. I was blessed to have Marybeth and Jeff as my supervisors and I am very grateful for the wealth of guidance they’ve offered me and, more than anything, for their patience and kindness despite my many “starting troubles.”  I never imagined my journey with CVA would be so multi-faceted when I signed up at ClubsFest on a rainy September day in my third year of university. Little did I know, my ensuing involvements as a weekly volunteer and later as a group facilitator at various agencies like Pathways to Education, Welcome Inn’s Senior’s Program, and Reading Buddies Literacy Program would leave a lasting impression on my life and genuinely enhance the quality of my time as a student.  In my journey from volunteer to facilitator to now intern, I’ve noticed that the two overarching themes of love and service have helped me integrate meaning into my time here with CVA.

Admittedly, my generation is the “selfie” generation, and that’s in more ways than one. While images of people turning the camera on themselves can be amusing, it often alludes to the self-driven ideals of our society.  We are almost always looking to see how things and people can work to our benefit or highlight our achievements or make us look good and, as a result, being a “servant” becomes a foreign and, dare I say, undesirable concept. Being a volunteer allowed me to start investing my time and energies in another person and work towards their success.

Volunteering with CVA has opened my eyes to the reality that the most effective way to live my faith in action is to humble myself to the role of service. As a student there were difficult weeks where worries about school or the future seemed like the “worst things ever!” and overshadowed my ability to see the needs of others. However the sacrifice of 3 or so hours of volunteering would be quickly rewarded with the smiles of newfound confidence on the faces of the kids I tutored or helped with reading and my perspective would be reestablished.

1 Corinthians 13 says that “if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing,” and goes on to highlight how love is gentle and unassuming, always seeking the good of others even at the cost of personal comfort. Volunteering with CVA has really helped me understand the essence of this passage. Many of the little kids I worked with at Reading Buddies came from troubled homes and as a result had numerous behavioural issues and no one to pay attention to their literacy skills. On especially boisterous or stressful days, all it took was a quick word of encouragement or a bit more extra attention to calm them down. Ultimately these kids craved our attention and loved that we were singling them out just to read to them or play games with them. Over the course of the term, I witnessed how the consistent presence of the volunteers and our simple gestures of kindness helped reinforce a sense of self-worth in the kids.

Cultivating our hearts for service often comes with some sort of sacrifice, and being at CVA really helped me act out this attitude and aspire to be more like Jesus. My experience is that stagnant faith never has a chance to spread or reach out, but faith that is inspired by a desire to serve can change lives.