HopefulLeigh intentionally uprooted her life in the Chicago suburbs by moving to Nashville in an effort to live more dependently on God. Now working as a pediatric social worker, she writes about life in the South, what God has been teaching her, and her ongoing quest for the perfect fried pickle. You can follow her adventures on Twitter @HopefulLeigh and her blog: http://www.HopefulLeigh.blogspot.com.

I hail from a legacy of service. My paternal grandparents began volunteering at the local convalescent home before I was born and continue this day. My grandparents are among their most loyal volunteers, though they’ve had to scale back in recent years due to their own health concerns. My maternal grandparents served at their local parish but also opened up their home to friends and strangers alike.

My grandma, in particular, had a gift for caring for the sick and dying, often bringing meals or stopping by to visit. My dad is a carpenter and uses his talent to serve the church and mend homes belonging to single mothers and the elderly. My mom provided respite care for children with special needs when my brother and I were young. She, like her mom, has brought many meals to families experiencing illness or difficulty.

I grew up learning to look out for the needs of others. I was taught that serving at church was an important part of faith and so I have served in a variety of roles in the last couple of decades. Yes, service starts at a young age in my family.

It’s not enough to have this legacy, though. Service starts from within. What is my attitude about volunteering and the very people I serve? How do we ensure that our motives are pure? Is it possible to live as if we are the very hands and feet of Christ?

I began examining what the Bible said about the poor and the needy a few years ago and I have come to the conclusion that a life of service is not limited to the walls of the church, community organization, or our homes.

We are tempted in evangelical circles to emphasize faith, or at least pronouncement of faith, over actions. Yet faith without actions is dead.

Isaiah 58 gets at the heart of the matter. God speaks to us in verses 6 and 7: “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”

When we meet the needs of those around us, when we seriously embrace Christ’s proclamation to go here, there, and everywhere, it is then that God meets us in greater and more intimate ways than we thought possible. I cannot say that I am a Christian if I ignore the oppressed and the needy.

Our acts of service will be unique to who we are. I find that when I keep my strengths and passions in mind when I volunteer, it becomes something to which I look forward and something from which I learn.

Like my grandmother and mother, I provide meals and hospitality to those in need. Like my father, I use my gifts to glorify God. Like my grandparents, I strive to become involved in the community around me.

We rarely know how our actions and attitude affect people. My prayer is that God would use me to reach a world in need and that I would not shrink back from doing my part.

Do you volunteer? What criteria do you use in choosing an organization?