Volunteers assemble packets for convention delegates on Feb. 13, 2019, at the LCMS International Center in St. Louis. (LCMS Communications/Frank Kohn)

Do you remember the first time you volunteered to help with something?

Perhaps not. I certainly don’t. I was volunteered a number of times by adults as a child, but I don’t remember the first time I made the choice on my own to volunteer.

But do you remember volunteering to help with something you care about very deeply, something that carries significant meaning for you? I think all of us can.

Whether it was at church, a school, a local nonprofit, our alma mater, or a community event when you volunteered you made a significant contribution to make a corner of the world a little better place for others. Perhaps, even hopefully, you are still doing that.

Volunteering is as much a joyful sacrifice as any philanthropist’s donation. Volunteering showcases the talents and time God has entrusted to the person volunteering, as that person freely and joyfully applies those gifts to a particular “puzzle.”

I’m always amazed at the number of people at my son’s Lutheran elementary school who, before heading home to do the next fun thing, stop and do the mundane task of putting chairs and tables away after a parent meeting or school event.

Someone will ask, “Will you stay and help?” Both students and adults chip in to get that job done in a stunningly short amount of time.

That particular “puzzle” was resetting the gym or fellowship hall for the next activity. It was solved — properly and quickly — because of volunteers.

Why do they do that? Because the people who stopped and helped care deeply about the school and its mission — and each other.

Volunteers assemble packets for convention delegates on Feb. 13, 2019, at the LCMS International Center in St. Louis. (LCMS Communications/Frank Kohn)

A few years back, my dad celebrated his 50th ordination anniversary. Mom and Dad decided to throw a congregation-wide barbeque party in their backyard.

Dad asked if I would help with the grilling. Keep in mind, I’m in Missouri, and they live in the far western portions of Colorado.

But Dad asked, and I agreed. Why? Because I love my parents, and I wanted that day to be as special as it could be. So I volunteered.

Then, after we arrived and the big day began, others came to the house to volunteer.

My sister and her husband from Nebraska. My dad’s cousin and his wife. My 4-year-old son “helped”; he pointed and directed people to where they could park their cars. Several members of the congregation set up tables and chairs, or served food.

And, after it was over, people stayed to help clean up. They all volunteered — no one was paid a dime — and it was a great day.

Volunteers make a significant contribution to the lives and well-being of those around them.

The other night I was talking with my now 9-year-old son. It had been a rough day for him at school.

I told him: “Buddy, you get back whatever you freely give to others. Give your teacher respect; you’ll earn her respect. Give your friends honesty and truthfulness; they’ll give you the same back. Give a neighbor help in their time of need; they are more likely to help you if the situation is reversed. Give your dad grief, you can expect some grief in return. You get back whatever you give freely to others. And God lets you choose what you will give.”

Volunteers live that mindset out in a manner that is truly worthy of the Savior; not because they want something in return, but because they know deep down that giving and sacrificing makes the world around them a little better place to be.

Then God performs a little miracle. Somewhere in the mix, their lives are changed for the better. Even the way they see themselves changes, for the better. It can be fun to observe that when it happens.

You volunteer. Perhaps you volunteer regularly without any public recognition. So please take this little article as that well-deserved recognition.

You make a difference. You exemplify our Lord’s command to “Love one another.” You are a bright beacon of hope because you reflect the joy of Christ that is in you (Galatians 2:20).

You volunteer. Thank you for the significant contribution you make in the world, in our Savior’s name.

Thank you.

LCMS celebrates valued volunteers

During National Volunteer Month in April 2019, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod invites districts, congregations and members to join us in celebrating our treasured volunteers.

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