I can still remember learning how to read a map when I was a little boy. It made me realize how big the Earth is and how many countries there are. I remember looking at my map frequently, and I would make plans to go abroad to learn more about other cultures and countries.
For me, the part that was most fun was dreaming about learning other languages. And now, here I am! I am certain that this childhood dream was made possible only because God helped me to make it reality. Everything fell into place and fit so well so that I don’t believe it was just a coincidence. It was God taking care of everything. Of course, life is not perfect; it has its ups and downs. This dream happened to come true after a very disappointing situation in my life. It was only after I had gone through this difficult experience that I met a friend who taught me much about volunteering.
I was studying at a university in Brazil, and one day I attended an evangelism practice that was a big part of my grade. I will never forget that practice because it was a great experience for me; I was able to get in touch with people and make new friends. There I met someone who became a good friend of mine. And he just happened to have been a volunteer! We got along very well and had a lot in common. I believe that God put this friend in my life to help me get over the rough patch that I had been going through.
My friend told me so much about his own experiences volunteering, I thought to myself, that’s the experience I have been looking for! I had already completed an application to be a volunteer but I hadn’t decided where to go and didn’t know how to choose. I had been praying about it, but hadn’t taken any other steps for a while. Now it seemed as though the answer to my prayer had come. I asked God once again if He wanted me to go forward with the process. And with each step I took, I could see God clearly leading me.
It has been almost four months since I got to Norway to start my volunteer service. Even now, I catch glimpses of God taking steps to aid me in my work as a volunteer. To me, that means that God cares about my dreams. He is always working together with us; He never puts aside our dreams. If you have a dream, it is really important to Him. Talk to Him about it! My experience here has been wonderful. I have been learning so many things about the culture and I’ve also been learning the Norwegian language. The more I learn, the more I realize that everyone has the need for a spiritual life, regardless of how different our cultures are.
Through my own experience, I have learned that being a volunteer means seeing God’s hand and following His guidance in my life, even though sometimes the way ahead of me is gray. To understand that God loves me, no matter how I feel at any given moment, is the first step in accepting the call to be a volunteer. I believe that love will make a difference in the lives of others when we accept and receive it from God and then put it into practice towards those around us. A passage from Steps to Christ, by Ellen White, helped me to better understand how much God loves us. It says, “Nothing is too great for Him to bear, for He holds up the worlds and rules the universe. Nothing that happens to us is too small for Him to notice. Nothing in our lives is too sinful for Him to know about. No problem is so great He cannot solve it. He shares our joys and our worries. He hears every sincere prayer and is always ready to answer. God knows His people perfectly, and He treats each one as though there were not another person for whom He gave His dear Son.”* Knowing this has made a great difference in my life, so I have decided to try to make a difference in the lives of others by showing them the love that God has for them.
God fulfilled my childhood dream to be a volunteer. He showed me that even though we go through difficult experiences, the purpose of our lives is to show God’s love and care for us. I am doing that by being a volunteer, and it has really been the experience of a lifetime. It is an experience related to being loved by God and sharing this love in whatever I do. By allowing me to become a volunteer, God took me from my sadness and turned it into the happiest time of my life. He did this because He knows me perfectly and He knows what I needed and longed for – to share Him with others!
*Quote taken from Steps to Christ, chapter 11
Eduardo Folster Eli, originally from Brazil, wrote from Norway, where he served as an Assistant Boys’ Dean at the Norwegian Junior College from in August 2011 to July 2012. Eduardo feels that his experiences leading up to his volunteer assignment have been really important in helping him realize God’s hand in his life. He believes that being able to live abroad and serve others is the ultimate example of Jesus.
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