Aug 1, 2016

Memories of Great Volunteers


I've had the privilege of serving with some incredible volunteers during the last 27 years.  They have inspired me, helped me grow and made a lasting impression on my life.  Here are two of their stories. 

Betty
I'll never forget the first time I met Betty.  I was a young pastor in my first full-time ministry role.  I was helping a friend from college start a church in California.  God had blessed our efforts and hundreds of people were attending.  This was back in the day when many churches used buses to bring kids to church.  One of my responsibilities was overseeing this part of the children's ministry.

One weekday, I was working in the church office, when through the window I saw a big, old Cadillac pull into the parking lot.  You know...one of those that's like a mile long.  A little old lady got out of the car.  She must have been in her 80's.  And it was obvious she was wearing a wig.

She began to stare inquisitively at the back of the parking lot.  I went outside and introduced myself.  She pointed to the back of the parking lot where we kept the buses that we used to pick up kids and asked me, "Are those buses?"  I replied, "Yes they are."

Betty then asked me if we used the buses to pick up kids for church.  I told her yes.  She got a twinkle in her eye and said, "Years ago, the church I attend brought kids to church on buses.  I volunteered and loved helping bring them to church.  My church doesn't do this anymore.  I sure miss those days."  I thanked her for stopping by and she left.

A few weeks later, on a Sunday morning, guess who pulled into the parking lot?  Yes...Betty in that big old Cadillac.  She attended the service that morning and kept coming back faithfully.  A few months after she started attending, she approached me after the service and told me she wanted to start volunteering on the children's ministry bus.

I asked if she was sure she was up to it.  I reminded her that it gets hot in the summer in Southern California and there was no air conditioning on the buses.  She said she wanted to do it and I wasn't going to stop her.  She was stubborn that way.

And so Betty, in her 80's, began volunteering on the bus that brought kids to church.  I'd watch the bus come in and there she would be...sitting in a seat surrounded by little girls that she was caring for and telling about Jesus...the sweat dripping from under her wig and down her forehead.

Betty had such a passion to see kids come to Christ and she was burdened for the thousands of other kids in the city that we hadn't been able to reach yet.  She asked me if we had another church bus if we could bring more kids to church to hear about Jesus?  I told her yes, of course.

Not long after, one weekday I saw the old Cadillac pull into the church parking lot again.  I went out to greet Betty.  She brought me to the back of the car and opened the trunk.  Inside was an amazing collection of antique dolls...still in the original boxes.  She explained that she had been collecting them for many years and they were worth a good sum of money.  She told me she was going to sell them and use the money to buy another church bus so we could bring more kids to hear about Jesus.  I was blown away.  I asked if she was sure...it would be a big sacrifice on her part...I knew the collection must mean a lot to her.  Betty said her husband had told her she couldn't sell the dolls, but she told me, "He doesn't tell me what to do."  She was stubborn like that.

And so...she took the dolls...sold them...and we bought another bus to bring more kids to church to hear about Jesus.  Betty taught me what really matters in life.  Betty taught me that there's no "retiring" from volunteering...that you should keep serving and making a difference as long as God has you here.  Betty taught me to never stop striving to reach more kids and families for Jesus...no matter the cost or sacrifice.  Betty taught me to serve even when it's not convenient or easy.

She was an amazing volunteer.  I miss her.  And I look forward to seeing her in heaven one day and catching up on all the great times we had serving Jesus together.

Howard
He was a big man.  When he was a police chief, they called him Howard "Bull" Bennett.  He was also a trophy of God's grace.  A professing atheist, his wife had prayed for him for years.  He finally came to church and had an encounter with God that changed his life.  He was transformed into a new man with a big heart for serving Jesus.

Howard loved creating things on his computer.  Retired from the police department, he would spend hours working on his home computer.  One way he served was by helping me design children's ministry brochures and handouts.  I would go to his house each week and sketch out for him what needed to be designed.  He would then spend hours working on the projects.

Howard and I not only shared a passion for children's ministry, but for football as well...and we loved the same team...the Dallas Cowboys.  He had a plaque hanging above his computer desk of the 1992 Super Bowl championship team.  I know...that's about the last time we won a Super Bowl.  Anyways, we would talk about the Cowboys and how the season was going when they were playing.

One afternoon, the phone rang.  It was Howard's wife, Mary.  She was crying and extremely upset.  She said Howard had been sitting at his desk and had passed out and wasn't responding.  I jumped in my car and rushed to the house.  The paramedics were already there and were trying to revive him.  I held Mary's hand as we prayed for him to be okay.  They tried to bring him back...but he was gone.  He had suffered a massive heart attack.  He had passed away doing what he loved...working on his computer.

I spoke at Howard's funeral and shared about the wonderful times we had serving together.  After the funeral, Mary handed me Howard's Cowboy's plaque and said, "Howard would want you to have this."

I keep the plaque in my office and when I look at it, I think of Howard and remember him.  He taught me that God's grace can reach anyone...even an atheist.  He taught me to use the gifts God has given you to reach kids.  He taught me to serve faithfully...all the way...until God calls you home.  I miss him.  I will see him again.

Here's a picture of the plaque from Howard that hangs in my office.

I'm so thankful for all the amazing volunteers I've had the privilege to know and serve with.  I'm a better leader because of them.  I know you have volunteers who have impacted your life as well.  We'd love to hear about them and how they've impacted your life.  Share about one of them in the comment section below.

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