Spirits Are Renewed at a Volunteer Retreat

June 25, 2013 • United States

People who serve with disaster relief came from far and wide to enjoy a weekend of refreshment and rejuvenation

There’s a war out there.

At least, that’s how Major Edward Graham put it when he spoke to a room full of Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief volunteers on June 8.

Major Graham, the youngest son of Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham, pointed out that many of the same qualities and traits leaders possess during battle overseas are attributes disaster relief volunteers need to demonstrate as well.

6-25-13-USDR-retreat-Edward-Graham-1352US-B-508“It’s a battlefront with souls and Mother Nature, ” he said, comparing disaster relief responses to his combat experiences. “But to be a leader, you need to be a servant first.”

If its one thing this group of people from all over the United States and Canada has in abundance, it’s a servant’s heart. Nearly 300 volunteers, many of whom serve month after month, disaster after disaster, arrived at The Cove in Asheville, N.C., for a relaxing retreat, inspiring speakers, and helpful information sessions.

“We offer this time for volunteers to come and be spiritually rejuvenated. It’s a time for them to be renewed by the Lord,” said Stephanie Yandell, Samaritan’s Purse volunteer coordinator. “It’s a time to give them rest, thank them, and show them our appreciation for all they’ve done.”

Speakers included Milad Dagher and Richard Blackaby, with worship led by John and Ann Barbour. The overall theme was Christian boldness, encouraging volunteers to not only continue serving, but to step out in ways they had yet to even consider.

With the increased number of disasters over the past couple of years, there has been a need for more site management team members. These are volunteers who commit to a higher-level of leadership when Samaritan’s Purse responds to a disaster. From team leaders to cooks and even office managers, these are vital roles that are necessary to fill before other volunteers can even be accepted.

Tim Haas, U.S. Disaster Relief manager, encouraged the volunteers to consider joining the site management team

“I acknowledge that you are tired. You are weary,” Tim said after recapping all the disasters Samaritan’s Purse has responded to since last year’s retreat. “But it’s the best addiction. I am reminded, once you go out and see the church working, you’ll just want more.”

Brian Pride and his wife, Jodi, came all the way from Flora, Illinois, to investigate for themselves what it would mean to become part of site management team. They have volunteered with Samaritan’s Purse for four years, primarily with rebuild projects because Brian’s background is with construction.

“I thought it could be great to find out how to take the next step in volunteering,” he said. “It got to the point where it was ‘God, where are you leading us?’ Maybe it’s site management. But whatever we do, it’s all for the glory of God.”

Brian attended an information session on being a part of the site management team and said he found it very helpful and encouraging. He couldn’t wait to take the information to the men’s group at his home church.

Ruth McIntosh came all the way from Edmonton, Alberta, to attend this year’s retreat, the fifth annual get-together. She volunteers with the Samaritan’s Purse office in Canada, but when Canada sent a team to Binghamton, N.Y., to help with a flood response in 2006 Ruth was a part of that team.

“I thought it would be cool to see the American side to this,” she said. “The spirit of the countries to help in Jesus’ name is the same. It’s humbling to see how Jesus uses whoever comes. They are always the right people and always at the right time.”

Volunteers spent a couple of days at the Cove enjoying reconnecting with their friends and taking a break from their busy schedules.

As people laughed together over meals and shared solemn moments in prayer and communion, it was evident that volunteers truly are servants, ready for the disasters to come.

“We would not be able to do what we do if it was not for the volunteers who come to work with us,” Franklin Graham said.