When I was 12 years old I travelled outside the US for the first time with a group of missionaries to Mexico. It was also my first time studying these verses in 1 Corinthians 12, “For as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body—so also is Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. So the body is not one part but many. If the foot should say, “Because I’m not a hand, I don’t belong to the body,” in spite of this it still belongs to the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I’m not an eye, I don’t belong to the body,” in spite of this it still belongs to the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed each one of the parts in one body just as He wanted. And if they were all the same part, where would the body be? Now there are many parts, yet one body.” I was thinking,” Wow! The body has MANY parts! They don’t all look the same or have the same function! They are ALL important for making the body whole! God placed EACH part just as HE wanted!”
I was the youngest member of the team and I remember being nervous about how I could possibly contribute something in a group of teenagers and young adults. I had seen service in my church as being roles someone might fill like a pastor, sunday school teacher, secretary etc. It didn’t seem that there was a role I could fill at my age and I thought maybe one day I could serve God’s people as an adult. I read these verses in 1 Corinthians and realized I didn’t need to just fill a role in church but needed to use the gifts God had given me and fill my own part now.
We had come to Mexico to do some community clean up projects and also visit a boys orphanage. For the fist time I was given so many opportunities to serve without regard for how old I was. I taught lessons to the boys at the orphanage, performed puppet shows, cleaned their home and played with them. I acted in skits, prayed with the team and was expected to serve as any other member. I was shocked and excited. I dove in and loved every minute of serving alongside God’s people. I began to see how each person in the group excelled in different functions. Some were amazing actors, teachers, builders, organizers, leaders, prayer warriors, small group leaders, and evangelists. I was seeing a small circle of God’s body moving as many parts but building us up as a whole.
Each night we came back exhausted but I would fill pages in a journal about all God was teaching me. On the last night of our trip we had a final meeting and were asked to share anything we learned if we wanted to. I got up with my journal and read out a page on 1 Corinthians 12. I remember sharing that I was seeing the verses lived out in our group that the body of Christ has MANY parts. I told them that I saw myself as the pinky toe of the body haha. I shared that being the youngest, I related to verses 15-16 thinking that because I am not a very prevalent part of the body, I didn’t matter or could not be used. I could now see I was a needed part of God’s body and that He had placed me just where He wanted even as a pinky toe.
When I came back to my church I was no longer nervous to serve and I remember trying out pretty much any area of service that someone would teach me in. Later as a high schooler I was given a spiritual gifts test. I loved gaining further insight into my strengths and figuring out what I am not so gifted at. It gave me so much confidence to see that I was given a heart for discipleship, compassion and hospitality. It was also good to realize that evangelism and speaking in front of many people are not my strong suits.
I encourage you to ask the people in your church to help you test out ways to serve and see if that’s where God has placed you in the body. Don’t be shy. The family of God is the best place to get insight and they will be your supporters. Ephesians 4:16 says, “From him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.” The goal of your position in the body of Christ is to build up your brothers and sisters. Your gifts are meant to be given away to your family in Christ.
Lastly, I have learned not to be too locked in to a set ministry but to let the Holy Spirit guide you where to serve. You may find yourself building God’s people in ways you never expected. When I first moved to China I had been doing youth ministry for 5 years. I automatically assumed this was God’s “spot” for me in the body and that’s what I would continue in. I had a huge wake up call when I saw that the church there needed service in areas I wasn’t super comfortable with. I admit I pouted about it for a while but the Holy Spirit worked in my heart. I ended up helping with sound and PowerPoint which I had never done before. It was a great learning experience and opened me up to seeing the bodys’ needs and being willing to help. Let’s pray about our churches needs and be open to building the body. Remember we can be bold about filling in our part in the body because God has placed us each where He wants us.
Katie is the wife of an amazing Ugandan man and Mama to an always dancing 2 year old boy. She currently lives in the Bay Area in California. Her family has also lived in China and Germany in the past few years. She is from a super small town, but loves to travel! She is passionate about flowers and is a trained florist. She loves sitting down and listening to people’s stories–another reason she loves this blog.