Hands of Service

Driving home from the office the other day while stopped at a traffic signal, I noticed a bumper sticker. The large words read, “VOLUNTEERING.” I eased a little closer to the other car to read the bottom line. It said, “All Work and No Pay.” Enjoying the humor of that message got me thinking about all the people it takes to make our churches work.

The treasurer is a key leader in every church. Week after week he or she faithfully gets out the receipts, keeps the records, pays the bills and prepares reports.

Agnes Colvin has given 40 years of untiring service as the Grand Ronde Church treasurer. She became the treasurer of the 60-member church in 1963. For those 40 years, she kept the church financial records in a ledger book. “They liked my work and wanted me to keep on doing it,” she says.

A busy wife of a logger and farmer, mother of three and an office worker for the Union Oil distributor in Willamina, Oregon, Agnes was also the home missionary secretary, head deaconess and the “flower girl,” often bringing flowers from her home.

“Her work has blessed us in so many ways,” says Ron Wearner, Grand Ronde and Sheridan Church pastor. “Yet how often does this essential member of the leadership team get recognition for all her efforts?”

Harley Bagley is a building contractor, specializing in remodeling houses. He is also an elder of the 850-member Walla Walla City Church. He says his role is to support the pastor. Under the leadership of the pastor, the elders visit members, help coordinate the many church activities, attend the church board meetings and perform many other tasks.

Harley believes that the elders are spiritual leaders who lead more by example than by preaching. What is his example of servant leadership?

He has taught an adult Sabbath School class for more than 10 years, and says he has been involved in teaching one Sabbath School class or another since his freshman days at Walla Walla College.

Every Sabbath, Harley visits and delivers church bulletins to members of his Sabbath School class that can no longer attend. He visits the Washington State Penitentiary on a monthly basis to study with some of the inmates.

His pastor, Mark Etchell, told me that Harley heard about a member who needed a new roof on his home. He quickly organized a team of volunteers, and within a few hours had the new shingles installed. He is constantly helping whenever he hears of a need.

Harley’s business allows him the opportunity to talk to a lot of people. He feels that the Holy Spirit prepares people so that he can interact with them, have prayer with them, or just listen. “I’ve come to the realization that you really don’t have to do a lot when you visit with people. Basically, you just have to listen. They will tell you what the problem is and how you can help. It takes the fear out of getting into situations."

He says, “You never know where God can use you, and I am convinced that the Lord will give a lot of direction if we are willing to listen. I get a lot of joy out of doing what I do.”

DianeVyskocil is the children’s ministries/youth coordinator for the Bellingham (Washington) Church. She retired two years ago at the age of 68 from 29 years as a classroom teacher in the Blaine public schools, located just below the Canadian border.

Although retired, she still supervises teachers for their professional teacher certification from City University in Seattle and supervises Western Washington University (WWU) graduating seniors doing their student teaching in surrounding school districts.

Through the years, her work as a teacher and administrator has been with at-risk students. She has seen what happens to kids when they are not involved in a positive Christian experience that includes their social as well as their spiritual needs. “If you provide for their social needs, you will see them in church. I have not seen that to fail,” she says.

Her ministry to the youth of the Bellingham area began when she and her late husband Charles moved there about 30 years ago. They invited area youth, including Canadians, to their home on Friday evenings for tea and toast, singing and Bible discussions. These evolved into soup and salad suppers, then Sabbath dinners with conversations around the fireplace, mountain hikes, or cycling. Weekly gym nights and monthly family nights have grown in popularity with the six local churches and community members as well. Annual bus trips to conference rallies at Auburn and Sunset Lake are social and spiritual highlights for the youth.

Today, the ministry for the collegiate and career group at WWU may not involve large numbers but it is still important. On any given Sabbath, you will find young people from all levels participating in the church service. The Bellingham Church offers training for youth, including deacons, deaconesses and AV technicians.

The church members translate the “No Child Left Behind” motto to be equally important in the spiritual arena. There is a new Pathfinder program involving nearly 80 adults and children, ages four through the teens. “These kids need to have good role models,” Diane says. “It is very important for them to be exposed to character-building programs. Once you give them a chance, they really blossom and grow.”

The countless volunteers who fill positions of responsibility in our churches are essential to the mission of their churches. They testify that their service is really a lifestyle, not just an assignment.

For more information on Bellingham's youth ministry, go to: www.myopendoor.org

December 01, 2005 / Feature