Servant in the Shadows | Acts of Service Create a Culture of Christ

A True Story that Changed a Culture

What I am about to share is a true story. It is the story of a servant in the shadows whose act of service mysteriously created a culture of Christ. The names have been omitted to protect those involved. Many years ago I witnessed an occurrence at Wilderness Ranch. I have never told anyone about this.

Giddy Gear Heads

First, though, there’s something glorious about May in the high Rockies. The aspen trees are budding, the daytime temps are just beginning to stretch out of their winter doldrums and the streams gurgle and surge in a display of strength. Depending on where you are, it’s also not hard to sense the fresh smell of new gore-tex, to see the puffy unblemished down jackets and feel the gleaming, never-touched-dirt hiking boots. For adventure guide-types the anticipation of the summer season is palpable.

And then there’s guide trail training. Some of the natural beauty of May in the Rockies diminishes when the intrepid backpacking guide pushes through chest deep snow drifts, carefully inches across raging liquid ice rivers, and takes step after step through goopy streams of mud that should be trails. Neither gear nor gear-user comes back looking or smelling new after 8 days of that.

Like an Overstacked Sink of Dirty Dishes (that no one wants to wash), the Porch Was Full of Mud-Caked Hiking Boots

One particular May after trail training, the pile of muddy and mis-treated hiking boots was particularly egregious. No boot came back spared from the unyielding punishment of the trails in May. But, it was a time to celebrate the successful completion of trail training. And that meant putting off any cleaning of gear, including boots, and enjoying a hot dinner inside a camp dining hall and not a rain fly.

At the end of the night, the dinner ended and the activity dwindled down. The guides eased back to their dorm style bunk rooms and we were all more than surprised to see our clean and shiny hiking boots carefully placed where the clunky pile of dirty boots had previously been. Someone had snuck out of the party and scrubbed and cleaned every guide’s boots. No one saw who did it. Except me. I saw who did it, but that person never saw me catch them in the act. I backed away and slipped by unnoticed. But, I’ll never forget the impression that act formed. It reminds me of a couple of things Jesus said as he was pleading with his followers to embrace a truly unselfish life so that God would get the glory, not themselves:

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing… (Matthew 6:3)

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)

One Way A Culture of Servanthood is Created Through Secret Acts of Service Which Become Symbols for What Community Can Be About

What I witnessed that day was a simple act of service and love going completely unnoticed and for the most part un-thanked. It set the bar very high for me as I was a young guide and wanted to minister and serve in a way that honored that night. That is how culture is created… through powerful but humble acts of service that serve as a symbol for what a community can be about. This servant in the shadows was determined to serve and not do it for show or any sort of display. It’s still a personal challenge and symbol of community to me today, all these years later.

  • What’s the bar for you in servanthood?
  • How do you find the strength/motivation to embrace a task that will not end in any thanks or recognition?

Guest Blogger | Izzy Ismert
Izzy is the manager of Wilderness Ranch, a Young Life backpacking program in Creede CO.


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