Published on July 27, 2018

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What It Means to Serve

The word “serve” is one of those words that has many meanings.

Serve can mean waiting on tables. It can mean to serve a purpose or function. People who hold office or perform a duty are said to serve. It can mean being devoted to something like a church, or art, or your country. It can mean working for someone. It can mean delivering a warrant or summons. It can be used to describe someone who is serving in the military, or serving the ball into an opponent’s court, or someone who brings the food or drink, or someone doing time.

It can mean being obedient to someone, or giving them your homage. To “serve someone right” means to punish or get even. “You got served” is slang that is used when someone proves that they are better than someone else, or when someone is beaten very badly, or when someone inadvertently gets taken by surprise or is embarrassed by a situation.

If there is a thread running through all these meanings, it is one of engagement: you can’t serve without being personally involved.

In the gospel of Luke, Jesus says “I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27, NIV). Jesus was fond of describing His life and ministry in terms of ways in which He is personally involved. Among the other things Jesus said were “I am the bread of life,” “I am the light of the world,” “I am the door,” “I am the good shepherd,” “I am the vine,” “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” and ultimately, “I am the resurrection and the life.” For an organization rooted in Christian values, understanding what it means to serve is extremely important.

What we mean by “serve” appears right in the heart of our values when we state, “Service: We care for our patients, their families and each other with compassion.” With those words we first express our willingness to engage, and then to do so in a particular way: “with compassion.”

To begin with, we are personally and physically engaged—our service isn’t “virtual.” It is anchored in time and place. We serve with compassion when we pull together to combat a crisis, when we respond to a challenge, or when we take a stand.

We serve with compassion when we listen to one another, value the history and stories of our past, and honor and appreciate the ways in which God has led us in the past. We serve with compassion when we stand up for those who are defenseless, for those who are in need, and for those who need healing.

When we seek God’s strength for our community in prayer, and when we pray together as a visible symbol of our standing before God. When we persist, and when we don’t give up. When we keep our eyes fixed on the future, and when we offer hope to those we care for—we serve with compassion.

Serving with compassion is at the heart of what we are and what we do. And there are as many meanings to the word “serve” as there are people employed by Adventist HealthCare.

Physician and philosopher Dr. Albert Schweitzer, who served the people of western Africa during the middle of the 20th century is famous for saying, “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: The ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.” At Adventist HealthCare we find ways to serve—and create hope, health, and happiness—every single day.

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