I’m intrigued when potential volunteers approach me about serving at The Sparrow’s Nest. We have the volunteers who at first could care less what they do as it is something to be helpful. Clean toilets? With gladness! Sort through seedy donations? Absolutely! Others don’t really know what they want to do but they have a ready list of things they don’t want to do including talk to people, anything physical, nothing at night, and really only on the 4th Monday from 2:33-3:27 p.m. Others view us as their Poverty Petting Zoo. Still others boldly declare they are a professional who’s time is very costly. They are glad to bow down and offer this service to us as long as it doesn’t involve stuffing envelopes and be sure to post pictures to social media for everyone to see. A select few step forward and say “I feel God is calling me to do this, I don’t really know what this is but I want to be obedient, I don’t even know if this is the something you need, I’m willing to learn, I’m a bit wary, but I don’t know how I can walk away from this.”
It’s a tricky balancing act for sure. However, I know we have prayed for volunteers and if they come perhaps not in the easiest of packages I need to trust that God is doing something in their lives that is not evident to me or He needs to do something through their lives to impact me, my staff, other volunteers, and certainly our organization.
Our middle schoolers this weekend served in a myriad of places around the St. Louis area from a veteran’s home, community garden, homeless outreach, christian camp, Crisis Nursery, as well as The Sparrow’s Nest. The majority of projects involved digging up weeds, hauling off debris, stacking donations, or cleaning out closets. From outward appearances nothing to sexy or jazzy. We knew it would be hard for these middle schoolers who are desperate to feel needed and to make a difference to see the purpose of these activities as anything important.
I got pretty emotional at our leader’s meeting when I shared with them some of the frustration we have at The Sparrow’s Nest when people turn down the things we need help with as not important enough, not enough direct contact, too trivial. I respect that if as an overall ministry, individuals and organizations do not feel called to partner with us at this point. However, what I have a very hard time understanding is when the work “isn’t good enough or impactful enough.” Our organization tries to start with the gifts and talents that God has blessed potential volunteers with to determine the best place for them to serve. However, some times there is just work that needs to get done and we need someone to raise their hand and just say “I will.” These people understand that volunteering and service is not about you get out of it but how it impacts another person’s life.
I told some of the other leaders I firmly believe that if we are not willing to participate in the seemingly small tasks God places before us as opportunities to glorify Him, we will never be presented with the big opportunities we dream of. If we fail to accept there is no way we can see how big and wide and encompassing God’s plan is, and we turn our noses up on the smaller acts He is using to transform people’s lives we will miss out on the biggest blessing we can experience.
So to the middle schooler who physically crawled into The Sparrow’s Nest trash cans to clean out nasty smelly dried on who knows what (remember we are a maternity home, LOTS OF STINKY DIAPERS), I do not know what on earth God is preparing for you but in my opinion it is something huge. Your act of service does not go unnoticed. And if we were impressed I can only imagine how God is absolutely beaming with pride over you.