The Thomas family in Tanzania in 1964: Elder Fred and Jean Thomas, and their four children (left to right) Dave, Peter, Fred, and John.
I well remember my first experience with a volunteer. I was a twelve- year-old missionary kid living in Tanzania in 1964 when Lloyd Logan came from the United States as a volunteer to help at Heri and Kendu Bay Hospitals.
Lloyd often came by our mission station so we got to know him quite well. To us missionary kids, it seemed like there was nothing he couldn’t do. He was a great trumpet player and said he got that way by practicing with his trumpet hung from a string so his lips just touched the mouthpiece. He could play any hymn at church and, wow! He even climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro by himself carrying a 70-pound pack. Lloyd was the first recorded student missionary to go to Africa. When he approached the General Conference administration about volunteering, he was told there was no procedure for sending volunteers and that it simply couldn’t be done. However, the General Conference president saw potential in the use of volunteers and was able to work out the details. To Lloyd this was a miracle. You can expect to see his story in an upcoming issue.
Initially, volunteers were processed as full-time missionaries because there was no system for recruiting and sending them out. In 1996 the Adventist Volunteer Service (AVS) was established as an arm of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Secretariat. Today the AVS program combines some 800 requests from 78 countries with more than 1,300 volunteers coming from 72 countries. We are truly a global service impacting the world for Jesus.
Today Adventist organizations with needs can post these opportunities through our system so that those wishing to volunteer can see them and apply. We always have many more needs posted (currently 435) than we have volunteers to fill them, so the opportunity is great. Perhaps you could fill one of these openings!
The volunteer demographics have been shifting in recent years. Historically, most volunteers came from North America. Now we see about half of the volunteers coming from other countries. This is the result of a rapid growth in Adventist higher education producing available student volunteers and graduates who are willing to serve. Some of the world divisions and colleges/universities are becoming very active in promoting volunteering. About half of the volunteers are university age with the balance being adult through retirement age.
The largest single group of volunteers is teaching English in Asia. The next group is elementary and secondary teachers serving in the Guam-Micronesia islands. Then there are all the volunteers who do a large variety of things from assistant deans to pilots, doctors, developers, IT programmers, communications, cooks, maintenance, accountants, and builders. There is virtually no limit to what a volunteer can do!
Each edition of Mission 360°will feature stories from past and present volunteers. You will get to read about their experiences, struggles, and joys and see how God is still very active in missionary life.
If you have been a volunteer, we want your stories! Please send them to AVSpublications@gc.adventist.org. If you are thinking about volunteering, please visit www.AdventistVolunteers.org for more information.
Choose to become an active participant in mission—it is where Jesus becomes real to you and to the unreached thousands.
I don’t remember much from those days. But one thing I will never forget. In the midst of my suffering and doubting, God reached me with just one electrifying realization.
Centers of influence are currently being established in cities around the world.