It’s not often that a chapel speaker leads the student body in a song popularized by Barney the Dinosaur. But for Lisa Peoples, standing behind the podium in white and black chevron pants and a bright red blazer, the guileless ditty of “I love you, you love me, we’re a happy family,” flowed seamlessly into the theme of her talk Wednesday.
Peoples, executive director of Area Relief Ministries (ARM), a nonprofit in Jackson dedicated to helping the underprivileged and impoverished, spoke to the student body about loving and serving.
She told a satirical story, based on Jesus’ statement that “what you have done to the least of these, you have done to me.”
“I was hungry and you discussed my hunger. I was imprisoned, and your country formed policies that said even though I did my time, I would always pay for my mistake,” she said. “I was homeless and you preached to me the spiritual shelter of love. I was lonely and you left me alone with a promise to pray for me. You seem so holy, so close to God, but I’m still very hungry, very sick, very lonely and very cold.”
Basing her speech on Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself,” she said we live in a broken world, full of broken systems and broken people. But, as Christians, we fix the brokenness by showing our love. She said the only way people can tell if we’re Christians is by our actions.
“The world around us can’t see our inner faith,” she said. “But they can see the works that flow from our faith, motivated by love.”
She recited James 1:27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
“Perhaps you don’t know any orphans,” said Peoples, who runs the Hub Club, a tutoring service for at-risk youth, as a part of ARM. “But there’s a child you may know who needs a little extra attention, who needs some tutoring in math or science. I happen to know an awesome afterschool program that always needs volunteers for that. They’ll be glad to have you.”
“There’s an infinite number of ways you can love your neighbor,” Peoples said. “Some of those ways, we can plan, and those are the easy opportunities. More challenging can be those opportunities that we don’t plan.”
“So, yes, you can serve. Serve your neighbor, love your neighbor.”