I still remember his name – Ivan – and every time he looked at me, he seemed to look straight into my soul. He was maybe 5 years old, loved playing soccer, quiet and reserved. He wanted to hang out with me and be my friend.

Even though he was dirty, his clothes hadn’t been changed in a week, and he smelled a little bit like the sewer that ran swiftly through the park where we played, it was his eyes and crooked, wry, sloped smile that drew me in—they changed me.

Missing those piggy back rides

I met Ivan during my second year of teaching, while I was a youth leader in my church. We led a group of youth down to Mexicali, Mexico with Asuza Pacific University (yes, similar to trips many of the youth in our community make today—including my own son). Simply playing and building relationships with the kids at a local church’s Vacation Bible School was part of our work in Mexicali.

Maybe Ivan’s smile and the way he looked at me caused me to pursue him and build a relationship with him or maybe I was being led by something larger than myself. All I know is that by the end of the trip, I was truly sad to leave him; not because I was going to back to first world living and leaving him behind, but because I had built a relationship with him. He opened himself up to me and I to him (he was riding on my back pretty much the whole week).

I wrestled with the concept of needing to go home and not continuing to relate with Ivan and I miss him to this day. I actually kept a journal of the trip and recently referred back to this journal with fond memories. Every now and then, I wonder how Ivan’s life has gone since the week we spent with him.

Part of our soul

Change happens in many different ways, for me; it took a young boy’s eyes and crooked smile to re-calibrate my outlook on who I am and what God is calling me to do. Looking into another person’s eyes and reaching their soul and building a relationship with others is vital to who we are as Christians. 

At ACS we take this seriously. We believe that service is not something we do “to” or “for” others.

Service is something that is ingrained into our DNA, it’s in our bones…it shouldn’t really even be called service—but rather, a way of being, or a disposition in this world. We recognize that in order to build God’s kingdom through the education of our kids, we need to find authentic ways (especially in the context of our learning) to build service into it.     

One of our core beliefs at ACS is Service: fostering servanthood and leadership development; modelling the compassion of Christ in all we do.

May we serve with the servant heart of Jesus. And through our service, may we build relationships that last a lifetime.