Jesus washes feet

Illustration by LaTonya Jackson.

John 13:1-15

Jesus knew that he was going to die while he was in Jerusalem. As he thought about leaving this world, he was reminded how much he loved his disciples. He would love them until the very end.

So that night during dinner with his disciples, Jesus got up from the table. He took off his outer robe and tied a towel around his waist. He poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel. The disciples looked back and forth. Why was he doing this? This was a servant’s job.

Jesus knelt before Simon Peter, who said, “Lord, are you really going to wash my feet?”

Jesus nodded, saying, “Right now you don’t understand what I am doing, but later you will.”

Peter resisted. “You will never wash my feet,” he said.

“I must wash your feet for you to belong to me,” Jesus replied.

Now Peter understood. “Then wash my feet and hands and head!” he said eagerly.

But Jesus said, “A person who has bathed does not need to be washed again, except for the feet. You are clean, although not everyone at this table is.” Jesus said this because he knew that Judas was going to betray him.

After washing everyone’s feet, he put on his robe and came back to the table. “Do you understand what I have done?” Jesus asked. “You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right. That is what I am. I have set an example for you as your teacher. I have washed your feet. Now do as I have done and wash each other’s feet.”

This story and art are from The Peace Table: A Storybook Bible, co-published by Brethren Press and MennoMedia as part of the Shine curriculum. Used with permission.

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Prepared for a lifetime

From Ecuador onward:
BVS prepared me for a lifetime

By Jim Gibbel, Brethren Volunteer Service Unit #50

After graduation from Juniata College in 1960, I chose Brethren Volunteer Service as my  alternative to military service. Why? That’s what my church, Lititz (Pa.) Church of the Brethren, taught me!

The two-month BVS training at New Windsor, Md., was a thorough preparation for service, peace, and community—not for a BVS term, but for a lifetime. I remember that emphasis stressed by Dan West, a Brethren leader with us for one whole week of training. 

Because my mother was not well, and my father had died in 1959, I wanted to serve somewhere not far from home. Instead, I was called to Ecuador! Henry Long, Foreign Missions staff of the Church of the Brethren, visited me and encouraged me to go.

In July 1961, I began my BVS project in Llano Grande, Ecuador, an indigenous community located half an hour north of Quito, the capital, where the Brethren Mission office was located.

For two months I lived with a family in Quito to learn Spanish. After that my home was a simple, small house near the missionaries in Llano Grande, with water and toilet outside. I always joined missionary families for evening meals on a rotating basis. That was interesting!

I was treasurer/business manager of the Brethren Mission, consisting of five or six families and individuals involved in education, medical work, agriculture, raising chickens, and evangelism/church.

I’d go for supplies, take care of mail, shipment details, business matters; I’d transport students by truck back and forth every day to Quito for high school (as the Brethren school in Llano Grande was elementary only); I helped market poultry as that business developed; I helped build the church building with adobe blocks; and I generally participated in the life of the community, the church, and youth activities.

Living with these folks for two years, I felt a part of them! At my farewell celebration, the youth of the church presented me with a painting of Cotopaxi, the second highest peak in Ecuador. It had been done by a local artist, H. Moncaya, with signatures of the youth on the back.

What did I take away from my time in BVS? 
•   I learned Spanish!
•   I treasure lasting friendships with many missionaries.
•   Friendships and visits with wonderful people in my community of Llano Grande, including some who visited us in Lititz, and we visited them in 1994 and again in 2006.  
•   My limited view of life was changed immensely. I gained a deep appreciation and respect for other cultures and peoples, and for new experiences in this amazing world.
•   I gained a love of travel: I traveled alone in Peru and Chile one Easter, and at the end of my service in 1963, my brother John and I traveled home overland through Central America by public transportation. A great adventure! After Ecuador, I never stopped traveling until several years ago.
•   And since my assignment was with Brethren Mission, my love and dedication to the Church of the Brethren grew and continued my whole life.

After BVS, Jim Gibbel was a long-time insurance agency manager, now retired. He and his wife, Elaine, live at Brethren Village in Lititz, Pa.

This reflection was originally featured in the winter issue of
The Volunteer, a publication by Brethren Volunteer Service. Learn more about this ministry of the Church of the Brethren at

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)