Volunteers help pack a container filled with tools and resources for missionaries. (Image courtesy Every Child Ministries)
International (MNN) ― Volunteerism promotes community bonding. When people from different walks of life get together for a cause, a sense of fellowship and camaraderie develops.
This infuses a sense of belonging in a community, strengthens people, and nurtures development in a Church body.
The moral test of any society is how it treats its weakest: children, elderly, sick, needy, and handicapped. There is a role to play for believers making a difference around the world. Every Child Ministries is one among many agencies making a concerted effort to see things change in Africa. Co-founders John and Lorella Rouster are now celebrating the people who helped make it possible.
Aside from those who could give funds, the credit goes to the volunteers. We interviewed a volunteer who has been serving with ECM for 26 years, Denise Elder. First, we asked her what got her started with ECM. "Lorella and John had just gotten back from their first tour in Africa, and she spoke at our church's women's ministry. She was looking for some help in a grassroots with Every Child Ministries and was asking for help. I had the time and ability to help her, so that's kind of how we got started."
Then we asked Elder what kept her coming back for over a quarter century. It was the ability to make a difference, she said. "There were things that I could do that were helpful and impacted the children in Africa. John and Lorella's love for the children in Africa--those were the things that kept me coming."
For as much success as ECM has seen over the years, it is due to God's blessing and many pairs of hands and feet that there has been any change or growth at all. "Considering we started in John and Lorella's basement and did a lot of coloring, a lot of copying and hand-folding--a lot like Sunday School would be. [Now we've grown] to having an office and staff!"
Volunteers gave ECM 5,320 hours of time last year to help the missionaries. That support is fundamental to healthy communities. It's an opportunity to learn, connect, and be inspired by the Gospel stories, but also by individual growth.
ECM wanted to recognize its volunteer force. They're participating in the President Volunteer Awards program created by President Bush & continued by President Obama.
This year, ECM presented the highest honor, the Lifetime Volunteer Award, for over 4,000 hours of volunteer service to Pat Horner. The ministry also presented four gold awards for over 500 hours of service, 3 silver for over 250 hours of service during the year, and 2 bronze for over 100 hours of service.
Elder's servic--over 26 years--far exceeds the 4,000 hours for the Life Volunteer Award, but much of her time was not counted before 2003, when the award program began. Her passion and enthusiasm for ECM is evident. When asked how she would describe volunteering for them, she said that it provides a very satisfying way for people to get involved in missions at a more personal level. Plus, "You think [missionaries] are way more spiritual than you. But then when you volunteer with people that live life everyday like you do, with many strengths, different gifts, but weaknesses, too, it makes you feel like God can use you, just the way you are."
Many ministries echo ECM's sentiments on volunteers, using the word "life's blood" to describe how important they are in agency support. There are skilled and unskilled jobs. Much of the labor taken by volunteers keeps administrative costs low. From ECM's perspective, it's about good stewardship of the resources they have.
Elder agrees. "If you can volunteer time, that's as good as giving money. Nothing goes to waste here. I think people appreciate that."
Most importantly, volunteers help spread the Gospel. Their support enables on-the-field presence to do their jobs with the tools they need. ECM needs volunteers to help raise funds for the ministry by hosting Freedom Parties in their homes. These feature some of the goods made by the survivors of modern-day slavery--women who have been helped out of Trokosi slavery by Every Child Ministries.
ECM also needs representatives at conferences to answer questions about their work, as well as volunteers who are fluent in languages used in Africa who would be willing to translate literature.
There are many more opportunities to help. Check our Featured Links section for details and links.