By Amelia Vogler
What do we know about faith?
Not much. That's why we're here, right? I don't pretend to be a theologian, pondering and questioning and thinking about faith. But that doesn't mean I was a Sunday School dropout. I've always been curious and wanting to learn more about theology so I can relate it to my faith. Classic Presybterianism: A constant quest for knowledge and understanding.
But another classic Presbyterianism, especially during Lent, is a yearning for service. The season of Lent is filled with examples of service and culminates with Jesus's ultimately divine act of service for humankind. Less thinking and waiting, more doing and serving. Perhaps because I'm a goals-oriented, results-driven person, I prefer to see my faith in action. And to me, my faith means service.
Service to others has been ingrained in me since before I can remember. And I have sought opportunities to serve others throughout every stage of my life.
"On my honor, I will try: To serve God and my country, to help people at all times, and to live by the Girl Scout Law." I, along with thousands of other young girls, learned the Girl Scout Promise as Brownies and enacted that thinking through volunteering. I may not have known or understood it then, but saying those words instilled a drive to be of service to others.
In college, I joined Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women because of its strong history of spreading literacy to underserved communities. My fellow sorority sisters volunteered in Richmond, Virginia's historic Church Hill. This was the site of Patrick Henry's infamous, "Give me liberty or give me death!" yet many of the students in that neighborhood could not afford the liberty of having books at home or even in their school libraries. Our weekly service trips were vital not only for our own sisterhood, but also for ensuring that all children would be given the freedom to learn. Seeing our students progress and have fun reading showed me that service to others is transformative.
After college, I served as a Young Adult Volunteer through the Presbyterian Church (USA) in Nairobi, Kenya. This was the perfect service opportunity for me, because I was able to combine my passion for journalism and storytelling with serving others as a communications intern for Church World Service. I traveled around Eastern and Southern Africa to share stories for CWS' headquarters here in the U.S. I thought my service was sharing these stories so that they would entice donors. But of course, that wasn't the case. If anything, everyone I met in Kenya served me, by sharing stories about one of the world's fastest-growing economies in order to dispel the notion that "Africa" is just a giant country and "they" always need our help. No. That is simply inaccurate and untrue.
I worshipped with people from all walks of life and yet, people served me with unwavering faith that God was good. And that Jesus was The Way. The Young Adult Volunteer program's motto is, "A year of service for a lifetime of change." It sounds almost cliché but it is true. It was a year of service that continues to change my life.
And now I'm here. I'm here at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City serving as a Lenten testimonial reader. I'm here serving at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City as a volunteer with our essential and vibrant homeless ministries (especially our annual Shelter Family Christmas and Easter parties!). I'm here serving at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City as a leader of NEXT, our young adult ministry. I'm here serving at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City as an Elder on the Session.
One thing I know for certain is that I'm here, serving, because it is part of my faith.
Amelia Vogler is an Elder in the Officer Class of 2019. She is co-leader of NEXT Ministries and a member of the church since 2014. She shared this testimony on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018. This season of testimony accompanies the Lenten Sermon Series, Sifting the Real from the Fake in Life and Faith.