By Jonathan Fawcett, Church Relations and Social Media Specialist for North American Ministries
What would happen without volunteers? Five Disaster Relief Units filled with a vast array of tools, safety gear, equipment and Bibles would lay dormant and collect dust. The heavy equipment would remain idle and unused, and many victims of disasters would be unaware of the love of God.
This was my second year seeing the faces of Samaritan’s Purse volunteers at the Disaster Relief Volunteer Retreat. These men and women have been accustomed to bearing witness to devastation. At a moment’s notice, they travel to the aftermath of the storm. They purpose to go to the environment filled with the sounds, smells, and sensory overload of catastrophe.
The fourth annual retreat was a time to bless the volunteers, honor their hard work, and worship the Lord with them. The retreat was hosted at The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove.
Surrounded by the mountains of Asheville, NC, The Cove offers a peaceful atmosphere, contrasting the backdrop of disasters that the volunteers usually see. The North American Ministries team gave specific training and classes to further equip volunteers in their service to homeowners.
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, M.D. addressed the audience on Friday, boldly expressing that the Lord Jesus Christ was his Savior. Following him, Dr. Gil McKee, pastor of First Baptist Church Tuscaloosa– the host church for Samaritan’s Purse Alabama rebuild team–stirred up an excitement for heaven. The next night, Will Graham communicated the importance of godly leadership.
Keith and Carol Anderson were counted among the volunteers in attendance. “It was good to see that we’re not alone,” Carol said. “There were a lot of people out there from different walks of life, and from different stages of life, who have the same heart that we do.”
The volunteers display a love that fuels a passion to share the Gospel. “It’s not about anything but spreading the Gospel,” Keith said.
The greatest commandment, “Love God and love others as you love yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39) is their main focus. If God is love, without Him, we can’t access, give, or know love (I John 4:7-8). It is impossible to give away what we don’t already have. If we don’t love ourselves, how can we love others? We love ourselves, not because of what we do, but because we are made in His image (Genesis 1:26). We are a new creation and the righteousness of God because of what He did for us (II Corinthians 5:17-21). We are His.
Volunteering is just a reflection of the revelation that God’s call is worth embracing. The called are worth loving. Christ in us–the hope of glory–is worth loving. God believes we are worth loving. His love for us is unconditional, as should our love towards others be.
The days spent with volunteers allowed me to put names to the faces of people that have given their life to fulfill the greatest commandment to love God and others as themselves. They know who they are and love who God for who He has called them to be: the hands and feet of Christ. They simply obey His commandments by loving others unconditionally, to pick them up and show them that they are worth loving because Christ first loved them.