Volunteering: a window of opportunity

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As the new year rolls around, we are all given fresh opportunities to consider our priorities and integrate new habits into our routines. We start making plans for the year ahead. Perhaps we might be thinking about travelling the world, or spending more time with friends or being more intentional about developing our relationship with God. But how often do we think about being a missionary? 

Volunteering as a missionary offers the opportunity to experience all these things—travelling the world, spending time with friends and drawing closer to God. In 2023, a group of volunteers travelled to the Philippines to serve as digital evangelists, stepping away from their homes and ordinary routines to help pray for people, give Bible studies, create online content and witness God’s love to a challenging area of the world. Among these volunteers were Nathan Lausberg, Elijah Manda, Terry Toisenegila and Lia Raikusa, from the South Pacific Division, who shared with us their experiences.

What inspired you to become a volunteer?
Terry reflected, ”It was back in my final year of studies. I remember the lecture hall filled with eager students, and my lecturer, Pastor Timothy Kaio, stood at the front, passion evident in his voice as he delved into the intricacies of global missions. The focus of that particular day was on the 10/40 Window, an area known as ‘The Resistant Belt‘ due to its dense concentration of people from major non-Christian religions.”

This 10/40 Window is the rectangular area encapsulating North Africa, the Middle East and Asia—between approximately 10 and 40 degrees north in latitude around the globe. About two-thirds of the world’s population live in this area, including the poorest demographics. This area is called the “Resistant Belt” because the gospel is incredibly difficult to share due to the dense concentration of Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists, with around 3.28 billion individuals having never heard the gospel message. The Philippines falls within this ‘window’. 

Terry continued, ”As my lecturer passionately explained the challenges faced by missionaries in this region, especially among the majority Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist populations, a sense of conviction settled over me. I couldn’t help but contrast my own environment with the reality of those living in the 10/40 Window. I hail from a country where the story of Jesus is familiar to many, where churches stand on street corners, and where the gospel is accessible to anyone and everyone. However, within the 10/40 Window, the story of Jesus is often perceived as a myth or a distant tale.

”That evening, as I walked back to my dormitory, the weight of my lecturer’s words lingered. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I needed to do something. The contrast between the spiritual landscapes of my home and the 10/40 Window gnawed at my conscience and I was so challenged. In the days that followed, I found myself immersed in research about the challenges faced by missionaries in the 10/40 Window. Stories of perseverance, resilience and unwavering faith began to unfold before me. It became clear that these missionaries were not just preaching a message; they were living testaments to the transformative power of the gospel in the face of adversity. That was what inspired me to become a volunteer missionary.

”Fast forward a year later, I find myself in a foreign land, surrounded by unfamiliar faces and immersed in a culture vastly different from my own. The challenges are real, but so is the sense of fulfilment that comes with sharing the message of hope . . . I praise God because, through the Center for Digital Evangelism and the Adventist World Radio, we are able to reach these areas within the 10/40 Window with the love, redemption and salvation story of Jesus with no walls, no borders and no limits.”

What has been the biggest highlight from your experiences volunteering?
The highlight for Elijah was reaching out to online seekers: ”Some I have prayed for have received the answers to their prayers, and some, whom I have responded to their Bible questions, found delight in the answers.”

For Terry, the biggest highlight has been ”connecting with an individual from one of these 10/40 Window countries and seeing how this ministry has touched him, and eventually connecting him to a local church in his area for baptism. You know, the world may be vast and diverse, but the universal need for love, grace and the message of Jesus transcends borders and cultural barriers.”

Nathan said, ”Getting to know the amazing people serving here has been awesome! The community aspect with fellow Adventist youth has been an incredible blessing to me, and I thank God that He has used them to grow my understanding of Him through them. Knowing that I have made friends for life is a highlight for me.”

How have you seen Jesus working and inspiring others during your time volunteering?
: ”Many people are seeking after God, and to see the Holy Spirit working in the hearts of many is an encouragement to keep fulfilling the mission Christ gave us.”

In Elijah’s words, ”Digital evangelism penetrates every wall and border, breaking the impossibility of reaching people for the kingdom of God . . .”

Terry shared that, ”through volunteering, I’ve seen Jesus at work, inspiring and transforming lives. His teachings come to life through the practical expressions of love, compassion and humility carried out by dedicated volunteers. The impact extends far beyond the immediate beneficiaries, creating a ripple effect that contributes to positive change and a deeper understanding of God’s purpose in our lives.”

How has your own spiritual journey and faith grown or changed from your experiences volunteering?
reflected, ”For me personally, stepping out to serve has been a journey of personal growth in my faith. It has challenged me to go beyond my comfort zone, deepening my trust in God’s provision and strengthening my reliance on Him. Witnessing God’s work in action has been for me a firsthand experience of God’s transformative power, solidifying my conviction in the reality of His love and compassion. Not only that, serving God here has been a profound teacher of humility. This humility has been a cornerstone in cultivating a servant’s heart and a more Christ-like approach to life.”

Elijah said, ”I witnessed the hand of the Lord guiding me and leading me here from day one. . . . This missionary experience is a lifelong, changing experience I have come to see. My college years and my first seven months in the field as an intern pastor did not give me the dynamics of faith that volunteering is doing to me. By the end of my term, I believe I will be a different person in character and faith.”

In Lia’s experience, ”Being a missionary/volunteer is a blessing. Not only physically but spiritually as well. Answering God’s call and allowing Him to take control of my life is not something I regret; it’s the best decision I’ve made. . . . Every day with the Lord is sweeter, and knowing His promises made it even sweeter like honey, knowing that the Lord has bigger and brighter plans for me, and no matter what I do or go through, He is always there to love, forgive, bless, protect and guide me.”

What would you say to others who are thinking about volunteering?
”My encouragement to those thinking about volunteering is just to take the step of faith . . . the world needs to hear the gospel of truth about the great Volunteer Missionary who laid down His life so they can have life. The Greatest Missionary, Jesus Christ, is calling every one of us to follow in His footsteps in seeking the lost, and this work cannot be completed if we stop volunteering,” reflected Elijah.

Terry identified that, ”It’s a practical way to live out your faith, express beliefs through actions and find unparalleled joy in giving . . . if you’re thinking of being a volunteer missionary, it’s like our Adventist Volunteer Service motto says, ‘Do it, Be a Volunteer.’” 

Nathan concluded that the decision to serve may be tough and confusing, ”but it could be an experience of a lifetime, that can change who you are in this life, and the life to come”.

The Adventist Church has a worldwide Adventist Volunteer Service whereby individuals can be supported in mission and volunteer work, either long-term or short-term; local or international. There are so many opportunities to serve around the globe, and infinite blessings to be gained from volunteering. 

If you are looking for an opportunity to do something new this year, consider volunteering as an amazing way to experience the power and love of Jesus in your own life. For more information go to volunteers.adventistchurch.com.

Olivia Fairfax is an editorial assistant at Adventist Record.

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