Volunteering and Servanthood

As the Director of The Timothy Project, I have the opportunity to come in contact with a lot of great and good hearted folks. For the past six years, we have assisted church and student groups in exploring ways and places to serve. It is fulfilling work, leading volunteers in service, and it is also at times complicated, inspiring, frustrating and downright tiring (we are people after all). When I am at my best, I have come to realize, I am a little less concerned about the actual work to be done and a little more attuned to how God might use the work of our hands for some purpose, maybe previously unknown. In other words, when we “let go and let God”, we are opened up to a world of possibilities.

I believe that ABCCM embodies this spirit of service. We have had the privilege of serving people through the ministry of ABCCM since 2008. Much of our service has been through the Veterans Restoration Quarters, a long term transitional housing facility for formerly homeless male veterans and Steadfast House, the women and children’s counterpart. However, we have also done extensive work at the North Buncombe Samaritan Ministry, Cumberland Avenue Crisis Ministry, the Medical Ministry, Coxe Avenue Donations Center and other projects that involve a joint effort between our volunteers and vets at the VRQ. Our volunteers have donated funds and built the large “Points and Maintenance” building behind the VRQ and this summer purchased and constructed the two new storage buildings, replacing the old metal storage buildings that lacked the capacity for effective shelving and organization. One of our volunteer groups a few years back built the concrete block “stalls” for the dumpsters outside the kitchen area. Other groups cleared the beautiful areas adjacent to the river and built a walking trail around the property.

The North Buncombe Samaritan Ministry was looking to expand services to an underserved population in the north end of the county and we partnered in building the storage facility adjacent to the crisis ministry there. It is a wonderful experience to see a team of volunteers devote a week of service, knowing they cannot totally complete their task but willing to do their part and hand it off to the next group to carry the project further. Like other tasks we face in life, it can be a challenge to accept what we can and can’t do and must rely on others to carry on. I think that these teams exemplify what the gospel teaches us—God doesn’t ask us to do it all, just the part we are called to, with the gifts and abilities we are given. The same can be said for our work at Steadfast House, where teams built an outside storage building, others built inside storage (think there might be a theme here?). The Medical Ministry does an incredible work in addressing the needs of the community, and it is an increasingly needed work. A team this summer did some things there that normally just can’t be done because there is no time and not enough people to do it. And it was rather routine stuff-a reminder that not all service is exciting and stimulating, just needed. One of the admirable components of ABCCM and one reason we have great respect for the ministry, is the fact that so much of the funding goes to direct service for people. That means that buildings are sometimes in need of care and repair and some tasks undone. The Crisis Ministry on Cumberland Avenue is a case in point. Our groups have helped there in a variety of capacities. All total, our teams have contributed approximately 3500 volunteer hours to the various ABCCM ministries thus far in 2013.

I share this, not only as a point of pride for teams that have volunteered for service, but also as  encouragement to us as volunteers and as servants of the living Christ. Much can be accomplished by those who do not care who gets the credit, who work together for the common good, whose purpose it is to please God and follow the life and work of Christ, our model for service. I think those who serve that really “get it” recognize that service is about receiving as well as giving. It is about respecting the worth of each person and realizing that the person we are helping might well be able to help me as well. The veteran pouring his heart out in a confessional testimony might be preaching the sermon I need to hear that day. The wounds, emotional or otherwise, that others exhibit might in some way heal a part of me.

An article about my work and connection with ABCCM would not be complete unless I mentioned some incredibly dedicated and caring people. Kelley Freeman is volunteer coordinator at the VRQ, a position I believe she is “anointed” to fill. She is my friend, colleague, teacher and an example of the importance of being centered in Christ in the midst of life’s storms. Cheryl Wilson is a tireless advocate for the ministry. Judith Walter has brought a great spirit and energy to Steadfast House. Aaron Schnurbusch at the Samaritan Ministry is a gifted person who has given great guidance to what we do there. The staff at the Medical Ministry has been very gracious and appreciative. Scott Rogers provides rock solid leadership that helps enable volunteers to engage the ministry in a great variety of ways.

The Timothy Project also serves in other communities and other states. Wherever we go, I can’t help finding myself comparing what is being done there in social ministry to what is being done here in Buncombe through ABCCM. Maybe I am biased, but we are blessed.