One of the lessons COVID-19 taught us is that we are very busy people. Being forced to stay at home and give up many of the things that previously had filled our time was eye-opening. Commutes, midweek programming, children’s activities, sports, Bible studies, book clubs, family commitments, and more were suddenly gone. To some this change in routine was isolating and lonely. They didn’t know how to fill all this newfound time. To others it felt like a much-needed respite from a much-too-busy pace of life.
As pandemic guidelines eased and things opened back up, each of us made conscious decisions about which time-consuming activities we would add back into our lives. Unfortunately, in many cases, people have not returned to the volunteer roles they had before the pandemic. An April 2022 Forbes article said two-thirds of volunteers in a study had reduced their volunteer time or stopped volunteering altogether as a result of the pandemic.
That’s why those who have continued to volunteer, who have returned to volunteering, or who began after the pandemic are so important. “For where your treasure is,” Matthew 6:21 says, “there your heart will be also.” The same can be said for our time. The items on our calendars are a reflection of the priorities we have.
Our congregations rely on volunteers to help them run. Denominational ministries do as well. The following pages highlight a few of these volunteers who are giving selflessly for the sake of God’s kingdom. To them and to others who volunteer, we extend a hearty thanks.
Matt Beukema volunteered for a year with Resonate Global Mission in Lupeni, Romania. He recently joined Resonate’s team of missionaries and is planning to serve for at least two more years. Beukema’s work in partnership with the New Horizons Foundation includes building mountain biking trails to develop adventure tourism in the Jiu Valley.
“I get to be part of cultivating new life in the Jiu Valley by joining an organization that rebuilds social capital and plants seeds of economic opportunity in a struggling coal-mining valley,” Beukema said. “I’m glad and grateful that I can work with Resonate and join in the work that God is already doing here in Romania.”
Amber Wagner goes on one-week mission trips with her congregation every summer to help disaster survivors through World Renew. This year’s trip was her fifth.
“I enjoy spending a week to serve others with my church as we work hard and have fun repairing homes,” said Wagner, who is from Highland Park, N.J. “Many disaster survivors wait for years for their homes to be repaired. I love experiencing their hope and joy as their home is transformed.”
Marlene Wolters was born in Burns Lake, B.C., to an Indigenous father and a white mother. She volunteers on the Canadian Indigenous Ministries Committee and is passionate about bringing education and reconciliation to all.
“I help collaborate on projects run by the committee through listening and offering feedback from my perspective,” she said. “There are many people who have felt out of place in our churches. There are many people who have been ‘othered.’ I volunteer because I want them to know there are more people out there who've experienced this. You don’t need to stay silent. You belong, body and soul, just as much as everyone else.”
Francisco Phiri is a gender justice volunteer with one of World Renew’s local partners in Zambia. “Before joining Diaconia in 2016, my life and way of living was not so pleasing,” he admitted. “I used to drink a lot and many times would beat my wife. My wife never had a voice about anything in the family. I dictated everything according to my own understanding and liking. I decided what to buy for the family, and I controlled all the proceeds from our harvest.”
Through a World Renew program, Phiri learned about farming, but he also learned about gender justice and the need for families to work together. He stopped drinking, apologized to his family, and began to share decision making with his wife. Phiri brought home a cash box in which they keep their savings, which have increased due to his new farming skills and his lack of drinking. The couple also made a commitment that neither of them would open the box without telling the other.
When Diaconia wanted gender justice volunteers, Phiri stepped forward. His story of transformation inspires other men to change and raises awareness about the importance of ending gender injustice and violence in the home. He said he enjoys playing a role in the journey toward thriving relationships, families, and communities.
Jenna Hoff has three adopted children, two of whom have intellectual disabilities. She combats ableism, blogs about her own physical disability, and volunteers with the Christian Reformed Church’s Disability Concerns. She co-edits the Disability Concerns Canada newsletter, which includes interviewing people and writing and editing articles. She also serves on the Disability Concerns Advisory Committee Guiding Coalition, where she attends meetings, shares her thoughts and ideas, and provides perspective from her life experience.
“As both a person with a disability and a mother to young people with disabilities, I have experienced and witnessed firsthand the pain of living in a world where ableism is very common and can sometimes be the norm,” she said. “I want to take a stand against ableism by doing what I can to effect positive change. Our churches should be places where love is most often felt, but sadly this is not always the case. When we all work together to combat ableism and create inclusive and loving environments, we follow Jesus’ command to love one another.”
Ron Hosmar has spent the past eight years as a Youth Ministry Champion for Classis Eastern Canada. In this role, encouraged and supported by Faith Formation Ministries, he connects with churches in the classis about the ever-changing landscape of youth ministry.
“Our world is changing. Churches are changing, and youth ministry is changing,” Hosmar said. “It’s hard to navigate all this, whether you are a volunteer youth leader or a paid staff person. I have the privilege of coming alongside these persons and supporting them as they figure out their church youth ministry in their own context.”
Hosmar said he volunteers in this role because young people today live in a foundation-moving and faith-challenging world. They need church communities that can surround and raise them as was promised at their baptism. This takes work.
“I enjoy talking with youth leaders and paid staff about the successes they are witnessing as they walk with their youth in their church,” he said. “I also enjoy just listening to their hearts. Each youth leader does youth ministry because they have a passion to see the lives of their youth grow deeper in faith. My role helps them do that. That is very rewarding. I also have the privilege of meeting with fellow Youth Champions and learning from them. This is an invaluable resource that helps me in my own youth ministry as well as those of our classis.”