“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” – Galatians 5:13-14
When I first volunteered with people touched by a disability, I was prepared to give of myself. I knew I would be brought to the end of myself and challenged in many ways even though I was not sure exactly how. I thought that I would bless the individual who I would serve – I thought I was doing a good deed by serving others. However, I quickly realized that I was the receiving a great and invaluable gift.
In my self-focused mind, I did not consider that I would leave volunteering blessed beyond what I could imagine. Yes, I was the one who volunteered to serve. Yes, there were plenty of moments of exhaustion and coming to the end of myself. However, the person before me was the one who blessed me.
It can be scary to volunteer. No matter how many years of experience you may have working with people touched by disability, you will never have all the answers. You will make mistakes. You will feel moments of uncomfortableness. But God is good; He is a God of redemption. If we waited to serve until we had all the answers, we would never make any progress.
Step out in faith and serve. You will be surprised through the ways you will be blessed by serving at a Joni and Friends Family Retreat or on a Wheels for the World trip, or at a local church’s respite care. God will use you and your gifts in unique ways. He will challenge you but He will also equip you. You will learn much about yourself and your heart. God will reveal Himself to you in creative ways if you are looking for them.
Trust the Lord, He will carry you. He will lay you low, He will break you in service, He will expose your sinful heart to you. How wonderful is this! Yes, it is completely counter human nature – we naturally want to run from uncomfortableness and suffering. But, look to your Savior! He did not run when He was faced with suffering, suffering that was completely unjust. He embraced it because He loved His Father and obeyed His commands.
Volunteer today! Give of yourself and you will be blessed in numerous and creative ways.
“’For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”’ – Matthew 25:35-40
Emmalyne Kwasny is a senior at Mississippi State University and serves as editor-in-chief of the university’s student-led newspaper, The Reflector. Emmalyne volunteers with Joni and Friends Mississippi and is currently interning with Joni and Friends Cause 4 Life.