United States (MNN) — Doré Westra has been volunteering at Set Free Ministries as a counselor for over 15 years. And at 91-years-old, Westra plans to continue as long as God leads him.
It all began when Westra and his wife went to a Set Free appointment years ago. Through the session, he was able to identify the things he needed to forgive his father for.
Three years later, his wife encouraged him to go again. At that point, Dean Vander Mey, executive director of SFM, suggested that maybe God wanted him to take what he’d learned and share it with others.
Westra and his wife volunteered at their church, running people through the Seven Steps to Freedom. But they wanted to do more. When Set Free Ministries settled in Grand Rapids, Westra began working there and has been doing it ever since.
Tales of Victory
Over his years of service, Westra has led several people to Christ. The exact number is unknown. One story in particular Westra wanted to share.
He was assigned to do a session with a 15-year-old boy who immediately informed Westra that he was only there because his mom forced him. The boy said he was not a Christian and enjoyed partying.
Westra was at a loss. So he went to God for guidance.
“I prayed, three days, ‘Lord tell me what to say to this boy. Tell me what to bring him. What shall I say, what shall I not say.’”
And God answered him. He led the boy through some books of Scripture. Together they looked at the narrow and wide road described in Matthew 7.
God changed the boy’s heart. He decided to follow Jesus. The whole office celebrated in recognition of the celebration going on in Heaven.
The two faces of volunteering
This story illustrates how volunteering in ministry can bless others. Vander Mey says, “When you lay your life down for others and actually heed the call of Jesus to go make disciples, it’s not the great suggestion. It’s called the Great Commission.”
This obedience, he continues, is also a blessing to the one who is obeying. It allows them to experience the blessings of God that many people will never see.
Westra says there’s another benefit to the volunteer work at Set Free: “Every time we bring somebody through the seven steps, we as volunteers get convicted of something in our lives that we have to deal with. And that keeps us closer to God.”
Pete Noor, Ministry Advancement Director, shares his own experience with volunteer work with inmates. He says that often, “When you’re working with an inmate, something will come up and you will find that you have been uniquely qualified to address that situation because of your own life experiences and things that you’ve been through.
“So, when you volunteer here, God uses what you’ve been through, and suddenly, some things that didn’t make sense to you before start to become a little more clear as to why you went through some things, and it’s so you could be of use to help others and serve others.”
He says it helps build your trust in God.
Like the runner described in 2 Timothy 4 and Hebrews 12, Westra’s story is one of finishing strong.
When asked what keeps him going, he brings up 2 Corinthians 6:1.
“It says, I am God’s coworker. And it doesn’t say anything about retiring. So I said, ‘Lord, if I am your coworker, what work am I doing? Send me what you want me to do.’ And the Lord has taken me at my word and He has been sending me.”
At 91-years-old in a society where elderly age means retirement, Westra is not only an inspiration, but an anomaly. He continues to serve, not only as life meets him, but actively at Set Free.
Vander May says, “[Westra] is kind of a bright light around here. When he shows up, the room kind of changes. He is an encourager, he’s a man of great faith.”
He says it’s been amazing to see God use Westra’s experiences to help others become free — from their sins, pain, struggles.
Noor leaves us with this thought. When we become old in life, God has brought us through a lot of situations, trials, and experiences all as part of our sanctification process. Through these times, we’ve gained wisdom and experience which can be shared with others. Set Free is a place to share that experience.
Westra says we have to trust God and be willing and let Him work through us.