USA (MNN) — Turbulent
economic times have created community challenges that are too big for the government
to efficiently handle on the local level.
Bottle-necked resources created a wellspring of volunteerism where
communities have come together and responded to needs of their neighbors.
The service-minded groups tend to knit together parts of society that aren't
always together. The investment in time
creates unique bonds and pride in the local community. Volunteers also develop an ethic of civic
engagement, and a job gets done.
So what is the difference between service-based ministry and
a community organization powered by volunteers?
Joey Payne, operations manager for Global Aid Network, says the answer
is all in the message.* "Everyone wants to make a difference. Here at
Global Aid Network, it's not just about feeding people or clothing them; they
also know that with all of this product, they are changing lives for Christ. With every packet of food, every box of clothing, we're going to share
Specifically, when GAiN USA gets involved anywhere in the
world, they partner with the local church. That local church is part of something bigger than itself. "They understand that God has created us
to be a body, and each part of us is able to do something to really make a
difference to change lives overseas. I've seen little kids who say, 'I want to
do this for the rest of my life!' I've
also seen [older people]: 'I can do even more now that I'm retired; so what do you have open for me?'"
Some of these volunteers want to be more hands-on with the
distribution aspect. That's where the
short-term mission trips come into play, explains Payne. Some say, "'I want to see where this product goes.
I want to help hand it out personally and make sure it gets to the right
place.' They go with other people that they've met while they've been
volunteering here. They absolutely come from the same pool–the volunteers who
go and hand everything out personally."
That investment of themselves frequently opens doors for the
Gospel. "When they (the recipients)
ask the question, 'Why did you do this?' we're going to say 'Jesus sent us. He loves you so much that He
had people pack up these boxes, He had people donate the product, He had people
come all the way over here to hand it
out to tell you that Jesus did it all.'"
The best part of volunteerism at GAiN USA is that it's not
limited to adults. Families often take vacation together and help
with the June packing event at the Distribution Center * Payne says, "We need everyone from small
children who will help us sort and package seeds and school supplies, to people
that literally come in four to five days a week here at our GAiN distribution
center to help us answer phones and to pack things. We, literally, could not survive without
Last year, Payne says they worked with 14,000
volunteers. All of them helped, in one
way or another, to prepare the materials for overseas projects. The best part, she says, is how lives are
changed. "When people come in, they're a little bit excited about missions
and ministry. But when they leave here, they say, 'I can actually do this. I can
make a difference!'"
Check our Featured Links Section for a link to the June
packing event in Pennsylvania.