The Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA) recently celebrated National Volunteer Week by marking the significance and the wide range of work that volunteers from the United States and Canada engage in to further the work of the church.
Although National Volunteer Week April 15-21 has just ended, there’s still time — in fact, there is always time — for churches and others to honor the crucial work that volunteers do.
Without volunteers, the CRCNA would have a hard time reaching the world with the life-transforming message, through word and deed, that Jesus Christ brought and taught. Volunteers serve with the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC), Christian Reformed World Missions (CRWM) and other agencies, ministries and partners of the CRCNA.
CRWRC, the international relief and development agency of the CRCNA, especially relies on volunteers.
“CRWRC’s ability to reach into people’s lives to fight hunger, respond to disaster, and create change in poor communities would be cut short if it weren’t for the involvement of thousands of generous, caring volunteers,” says volunteer service manager Mary Dykstra in a story on the CRWRC website. “Volunteers provide invaluable services in every part of CRWRC’s ministry.”
ServiceLink is the CRCNA office that assists many volunteers in finding places of “opportunity for learning and service that match their gifts with the needs of CRC agencies and their partners, as well as other Christian ministries.”
There are many ways to volunteer, from an afternoon at the home office to short and long-term assignments overseas, according to ServiceLink.
Ken Bosveld, a former journalist, is a member of a volunteer ministry group that began at Calvary CRC in Flamborough, Ontario, and has expanded to include members from several other churches. They have worked in such countries as El Salvador and Honduras.
In a blog written on The Network, Bosveld wrote about the importance of volunteerism, as well as the role of ServiceLink and the many opportunities that the CRCNA offers volunteers. In part. he has written:
“Many Christians choose to offer a portion of their time in the form of volunteering and ServiceLink’s role is to support and foster volunteerism within the CRCNA...
“It is comforting to know we serve a God who promises to one day set us free from the boundaries of time. But, until then, serving God involves discerning how best to use our gifts and resources – including time.”
Dykstra from the CRWRC says North American volunteers can give one week to three years of their lives to support the daily work of CRWRC’s international development staff and partners in impoverished communities.
CRWRC partners in poor countries around the world to train and manage thousands of volunteers who provide essential services in their communities — health care, literacy training, AIDS care, trauma counseling, peace-building, and community organizing.
Each year, CRWRC volunteers also give hundreds of thousands of work hours to help the survivors of tornados, floods, hurricanes and other disasters in the U.S. and Canada who have no other options for recovery. The volunteers do this through assessment, clean up, reconstruction, repair, and emotional and spiritual support.
And those who have never volunteered still have many opportunities to give of their time and energy.
Christian Reformed World Missions, for instance,currently has many opportunities for people to volunteer in countries around the world.
Some of these opportunities include being an HIV/AIDS educator in the Philippines; serving as a teacher of English to adults in Asia; working as a theological library volunteer in the Dominican Republic; teaching secondary school in Kenya, or becoming part of a vacation Bible school outreach program in Asia.
Volunteers say that the experiences they have had have been deeply moving and invaluable.
“I have received vastly more than I have ever given. I thank God for that," says Dave Carter, who has volunteered for CRWM/CRWRC in Haiti and Nigeria.