Today I spent a few hours at our church with friends who make bed mats for people in Haiti. Many people there still need help after the 2010 disaster and we have the joy of making practical mats from colourful milk bags that would go on a dump if we do not use them.
They take a while to flatten cut into strips and loop into balls but we have great volunteers who come together each week to work at this Haiti project. And the added advantage is that we build friendships. The conversations are always lively and positive as well as helpful. After the preparation, some crochet the mats at Church and some take their balls home. It takes over 400 milk bags to make a three by six foot mat to use under a mattress. I have learned to crochet- a skill I never had before.
We start our mornings with a prayer time for half an hour and , then we go downstairs to work at various tasks. Two of my friends even have their husbands involved. One cuts and another helps sort the donations, we get, by collecting from churches and schools and, today, from a local auto repair shop! Our friend who started all this has also made bags for school children and we fill them with supplies before taking them to one business man who personally delivers them to places in Haiti. Through writing up a story for our church paper, we have had more donations and more churches are showing an interest in making mats. There is so much joy in doing something for others. We also have fun eating lunch together once a month and conversations just flow.
I find the same joy when I volunteer for our local Hospice. For 23 years I have been visiting oncology patients and more recently, doing more pastoral care work or recording their life stories. I am always buoyed up by meetings at Hospice where we seek to give hope to those who are very ill. All the volunteers, I meet through this work, love to help the sick. We support each other and find that our interests are similar. I find many volunteers have a strong personal faith that motivates them and strengthens their commitment. They are people with loving hearts who spend hours helping beyond the call of duty. It is great to be one of them.
We also learn so much from visiting the sick and come to realize how much courage people have when they face terminal illness. It’s amazing how cheerful some patients are and how they often ask about how we are as we visit. They really appreciate one on one time and often request prayer as they know I am only too willing to share with them. It is an honour to serve in this capacity of trust.
My own faith was recently bolstered by a patient’s wonderful story of how she received peace and joy from God. Before she came into the Hospice home, she went to church and that Sunday, she felt someone come to sit with her. While she listened to the Bible readings, she felt a holy presence. At the end of the sermon she was so overcome by joy that she rushed up and hugged the priest! He later told her that his eyes went off his usual text and he just felt the Holy Spirit giving him the words. They certainly were meant for this patient. She just kept saying, “Praise the Lord! Hallelujah!” Her joy is infectious and I received this because I volunteer. We were able to thank God together and sing songs . We had a wonderful time.
I will always recommend volunteering in whatever way you may be led. I’d love to hear your stories too. The world is a better place because we are prompted to volunteer and ,in so doing, the friends we make become so special.