I had a memory pop up on Facebook this week, reminding me that it was nine years ago that I headed to the library to volunteer. A short four months later, I was running the joint!
I wasn’t really going for that purpose. We had just returned a year earlier from the mission field. Twenty years is a long time to live outside the country, and I wasn’t sure what to do with myself upon return. The boys were in school, and Raouf was happy in his woodworking shop. I needed a challenge. I thought about a part-time job, but, again, it had been twenty years since I did anything besides life overseas. I needed baby steps.
Racking my brain about what I could do, I thought of the library. I grew up around the library. My mother had worked there. I had studied library science and worked in libraries throughout my school years and even overseas. I went with an open mind and prayerful heart, asking the Lord to show me if this was the right direction for me.
Well, it must have been, because by January 3, I was working full-time as the Branch Librarian. That was a shock to my system, but an answer to prayer. Looking back on it now, I see how God used that first step of volunteering to help me test the waters and ultimately find my calling.
He actually did the same thing with my call to overseas service. I volunteered with the ministry to Laotian refugees in the 1980s and went on short-term mission trips with our youth group, that eventually led to a two-year commitment to serve in West Africa. Each of these steps, growing with intensity and commitment, led to a wonderful twenty years in the Middle East and North Africa.
We don’t always get it right the first time. John Mark tried serving with Paul and Barnabas, but ended up bailing out along the way. It didn’t mean he wouldn’t later prove to be useful for the Lord’s work, but maybe he had some growing up to do. I know I did, but am thankful for the Lord’s patience.
Sometimes our attempts reveal that we’re serving in an area where we’re really not gifted. I see this in the church. In their desperation to fill positions, we volunteer, but if it’s not the right fit, we burn out and sometimes can do more damage than help. It’s alright to admit that we’re not in the right place, we’d do better serving with a different age group or in a different capacity. The important thing is to keep trying, keep stepping up to the plate.
Are you at peace where you’re working or serving? Are you at a crossroads and are not sure which way to go?
Volunteer and see what God does. I’m glad I did.
Grace and Peace