Never be the Same

By Terry Goessling

No-one heard everything Jesus said, but for those who heard ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ it is enough inspiration to bring the power of God alive in a person’s life in their time of need. I saw this firsthand in our students. Right from our moment of arrival at Bethany Home in Malaysia, without hesitation […]

No-one heard everything Jesus said, but for those who heard ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ it is enough inspiration to bring the power of God alive in a person’s life in their time of need.

I saw this firsthand in our students. Right from our moment of arrival at Bethany Home in Malaysia, without hesitation they got in among those around them. This mostly involved stooping down: to comfort, to wipe dribble, to take an arm, to grip a pencil, to put on a shoe. From the first instant our Immanuel College students humbled themselves to serve others.

At Bethany it is impossible not to be stirred by the needs of the people there and at the same time to see the effervescence and happiness radiating out of them. My first memory is of watching the sun setting in the darkness behind the palm trees as I looked out the window during a worship service. Inside, where the lights shone brightly, people of all levels of ability were racing forward to the microphone to share something they had learnt, maybe to read a few words of Scripture or sing a verse of a song, with utmost enthusiasm and joy.

I knew I was viewing the picture of others that God has: people of infinite preciousness and worth to their heavenly Father.

I was in awe of how our staff and students set themselves aside, putting strangers ahead of themselves. For two weeks they gave up their time, their energy, their resources and their hearts. It was hot, noisy at night, and sleeping didn’t come easily. Without fail, Immanuel staff and students pulled together as a team and fulfilled their call with generosity, compassion and grace.

As well as serving in practical ways, the team also tended to the spiritual needs of people at Bethany; they led devotions every day, sang, read Scripture, and prayed with and for the community. We’ll also miss the emotional support we gave and received.

There are always difficult times in a setting as challenging as a special school, and our presence meant additional companionship, hugs, advice and support for Bethany staff and students alike. My heart was overflowing to see people completely setting themselves aside to serve others. It was big.

‘I have given you an example to follow.’ These are words Jesus spoke to his disciples (in a story in John 13). Jesus is our example of how to live and love and follow God’s heart and purpose.

I have never seen love shine more brightly than in Bethany Home. People were serving one another in love. Because of this, I am different now. Because I saw people think like Jesus, love like Jesus and truly respond like Jesus, I will never be the same again.

Student Sophie Holder shares about her experience:

‘Bethany Home is a place where the smallest things matter the most.

My highlights of Bethany were in the small actions – the countless numbers of ‘high fives’ between us volunteers and the students; the laughter and transformation of a child as soon as they step into the pool and start playing with toys; the way that someone smiles at you when they’ve finally learnt how to do a maths problem or do up a button on a shirt; or the smile you’re given from across a room when one of the children recognises you. These small things make a world of difference.

I came away from Bethany with so much more than I could have ever imagined.

I learnt to care less about superficial things, but rather to enjoy how lucky I am and to use this to help other people. I learnt about other people and their stories, and about the benefits to everybody of listening and ‘being present’.

It can be difficult sometimes to remember how lucky we are, how fortunate it is that most of us are able in our minds and bodies, that we are accepted by our society for who we are, that we are treated humanely, that we can be educated and that we can work.

Bethany Home has taught me so much and will continue to be an aspect of my life for a long time to come.’


If your school would like to know more about how they can connect to the mission of God through a LCA International Mission service-learning and ministry partnership, you are invited to phone Erin on (08) 8267 7300 or email erin.kerber@lca.org.au. For more information, go to www.lcamission.org.au/join-gods-mission/service-learning/

Read more stories about school partnerships and school service-learning at www.lcamission.org.au/category/stories/local-partners/schools/

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