The Qualifications of a Volunteer

February 15, 2013 • United States

Volunteers work together as a team to clean up homes in Calhoun, Georgia.

By Nikki Roberti Miller, Samaritan’s Purse staff writer

The people who volunteer with Samaritan’s Purse are pretty incredible. But the most amazing part about them is how truly ordinary they are.

Leaving for Georgia on my first Samaritan’s Purse trip to cover our relief efforts after a tornado hit the town of Calhoun, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Part of me assumed I’d run into a lot of young college groups or youth groups who would come for a couple days. After all, these people would be doing hard manual labor.

What I didn’t expect was the majority of the people to be over 50 and staying not just for a couple of days, but for a couple of weeks.

Retirees, self-employed workers, and even people who were just willing to use their vacation days—these volunteers were truly incredible. They just pick up everything and leave their lives for days at a time so they can help those in need.

Some people have special skills like working with chainsaws or heavy machinery. But the majority are just normal people like you and me. They come equipped only with a will to serve and capable hands to do what’s asked.

One woman I met talked about how, when she started volunteering a year ago with her husband, she felt like she really didn’t have much to offer and knew other women felt the same way. After all, it’s easy to convince yourself that you’re not strong enough, skilled enough, or useful enough to make an impact on anyone’s life.

But that’s wrong thinking. Sure, if you’re an unskilled woman (or man) who’s not built like Arnold Schwarzenegger you’re not going to be doing heavy lifting and brandishing a chainsaw. But people are needed to rake, wave safety flags, cook meals, and speak to the homeowners while the more intense work is being done. No job is more important than the other. Everyone is needed to make the whole effort function, and there truly is a job for everyone.

It reminded me of 1 Corinthians 12, about how the body of Christ is built up with many parts. Our physical bodies were used as examples. After all, don’t we have a need for both a hand and an eye? One isn’t better than the other. They both work together to make the body function. Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief efforts work just the same way.

Anyone on the fence when it comes to serving may also think, “Well, I’m too far away to go.” But people from all over the country came to serve in Georgia. There was a man from Michigan and a couple from Chicago. When I mentioned how far they had come, the Chicago couple said, “What? We’ve gone farther before. A day’s drive is nothing.”

After speaking with many of the homeowners, I realized what had the biggest impact on them wasn’t the actual yard work being done. It was the volunteers. They took note of those who came from different states. They noticed how everyone did everything they could for them, regardless of skill level. And it touched them in a way that was almost indescribable.

After one family received a clean yard and a Bible from the volunteers, their 13-year-old daughter said, “Someday, I want to be just like them. I want to serve people too, for free at no cost.”

I couldn’t help but smile because it was so great to hear someone so young expressing the desire to selflessly sacrifice for the sake of another person. But the truth is, a lot of us have that “someday” thrown into our thinking. We somehow convince ourselves that we’re either too young or too old or just too busy. There are a million excuses for waiting for the right timing to serve. But the truth is, the time is now.

It’s easy too look at our shortcomings and assume we have nothing to offer. But, regardless of who we are and what we’re good at, or even where you’re from, we’re called to be the hands and feet of Christ. Not someday, but now.