In Voluntary Joy

March 01, 2007 | Fresh Start | Karl Haffner

One of my most vivid memories of Pathfinders is belting out the song, “… volunteers, volunteers, voooooooool—unnnnnnn—teeeeeers!” However, it wasn’t until I had grown up a bit that I experienced the significance of that song. The place was Mexico City. The stench of cigarette smoke lingered in our motel room. The windows were streaked. The bathroom sink was blanketed with grease. Menu items like you find on the TV show Fear Factor scurried under the beds.

"This place stinks," I grumbled. "OK, who gets the beds and who is sleeping on the floor with the cockroaches?"

After settling in, we went to the coliseum for the opening ceremonies. "Welcome to the International Youth Congress," some guy with a thick accent greeted us. "We’re delighted you’re..."

"It's impossible to hear in here," I complained to my buddy Roger.

"The echo is pretty bad," he agreed.

"And these chairs are like rocks."

"I say we bag this and sneak off to Acapulco," Roger quipped. “Besides, I really don’t want to go on all those service projects they have planned.”

Faster than we could say “Adios Amigos,” we were on a plane cruising to the cushy life of virgin piña coladas, parasailing and cliff diving.

"This sure beats boring meetings, humming sound systems and service projects!" I grinned as we relaxed on the beach.

"What a shame," Roger smirked sarcastically, "we’re missing Volunteer Day. We could be going door to door getting harassed by the locals. Cheers!" he said, raising a can of Sprite.

Our tour of pleasure was over quicker than Christmas and soon we rejoined our youth group at the Congress. Our roommates were the only ones who noticed our absence.

"Did you miss us?" I asked.

"Are you kidding? We were glad to take your beds—much softer than the floor."

"This whole week has been great," Alvin added. "Hardly enough time to sleep."

Nothing much was said about the Youth Congress until the flight home. Roger and I started to tell of our escapade to Acapulco. "We missed half the Congress because..."

"It’s too bad you missed Volunteer Day,” Barry said.

“Huh?” I thought he was joking.

"That was my favorite part too!" Troy exclaimed.

"Yeah, me too!" Everyone in our group agreed.

"Volunteer Day?" I was in shock.

"Yeah, you know—when we all volunteered on service projects to help the locals."

"Are you serious?"

"Oh, yeah," Nicole bubbled. "We visited the people whose homes were destroyed by the gas explosion."

"I helped a little girl who was scarred all over her body," Jim reported. “Her left eye was burned so badly it was swollen shut."

"When I saw the homes for the first time," Troy reflected, "I couldn't believe people still live like that. I'll never complain that my dorm room's too small again."

The faces of my friends sparkled as they shared stories. By watching their enthusiasm, you'd think they had all just won a cruise.

My thoughts drifted as I gazed at the clouds. I had nothing significant to share. Somehow I felt like I had missed out—especially on the opportunity to volunteer.

Ellen G. White writes, “Every duty performed, every sacrifice made in the name of Jesus, brings an exceeding great reward. In the very act of duty, God speaks and gives His blessing.”1

In the end, volunteering does a soul good.

1 Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 4, p. 145.