I got my first taste of volunteering in 2009 following the Australian bushfires that destroyed countless homes in the community of Kinglake. Three days spent boxing up clothes, toiletries, towels, and other essentials which were then loaded up on trucks and sent to those in need ended up being my favorite experience in the first two and a half years of ministry.
Being able to help the needy was awesome of course, but what made that opportunity so special was the friendships made with other Aussies volunteering there, and opportunities I had to talk with them about the Gospel. These conversations about God while stacking boxes (Australians ask every question they can about God once they learn I am a Baptist Minister) easily outweighed the opportunities I had to share the Gospel with unbelievers at Church services. One challenge of being a missionary in Australia and most other Countries is the unsaved will not come to us, so it’s our responsibility to meet them where they are with the good news of Christ.
That week of volunteering was a turning point in my ministry because it revealed these kinds of ministries give many opportunities to not only explain, but live the Gospel. Suddenly there was a hunger to find other volunteering openings that would allow me to reach the Australian people. This eventually led me to get more volunteering experience in the States during a furlough in late 2009 while preparing to make it a focal point of my ministry when returning in 2010.
While it did take some time to find opportunities, in May 2010 I became involved in the Hume Volunteer Gateway, a division of the local Government that places individuals into volunteering opportunities. Becoming part of the volunteer gateway eventually opened up doors that I never dreamed of.
1. Like teaching English to Deepak, a young man with special needs
2. Like teaching Religious Education classes twice a week in the Public School system; once for fifth and sixth graders, once for eighteen kindergarteners
3. Like making coffee and having a chat with patients in a local dialysis ward…individuals whose physical situation made them very open to the Gospel
4. Like being a volunteer teachers aid in a school for children from low income housing and difficult family backgrounds
5. Like tutoring people with computers an hour a week for a four week period
6. Like leading a conversational English group that had five different religions in it other than Christian
7. Like helping Muslim children with their homework at a local community center
None of these volunteering opportunities replace the ministry of the local Church obviously, but these outreaches allow me to personally interact with the unsaved where they are. My ministry presentation has pictures and names of people who have been affected by the Gospel through the Lords work in Melbourne..each one came through a volunteering opportunity.
There is a desperate need for outreaches from the Church which meets the needs of the unsaved around us; which is why upon returning to Australia I plan to plant English teaching and Computer tutoring ministries in local Churches. However we must not neglect the many opportunities for the Gospel that can be found by volunteering.