Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Volunteer Work

Recently, many people have asked me about our volunteer work. Here is your answer, thank you for being so patient!!

A quick note… I am a Christian, so I do mention God and church. If you are not a Christian, there are still tons of camps to volunteer at. We were going to go to one in southern Nebraska. We just ran out of time last fall and couldn’t make it. Please keep reading if you are not a Christian. I have a lot to say about volunteering.

One of the main reasons we did this trip was to serve the Lord. For us, our volunteer work usually deals with helping a church somewhere. But, we do not limit ourselves to that. I believe volunteerism is a life style. It is something we should do every day, everywhere we are. It is an attitude of the heart, a constant wanting to make the world a better place for no other reason than it is the right thing to do. I believe we should teach our children young, even one year old. I have had our second youngest sweeping, mopping, dusting, picking up limbs in a trail, giving money to a homeless people, and more. Just like we teach our children to talk, we must also teach them to think of others. Selfishness is the root of so much evil. It must be dealt with young.

Sometimes we volunteer at great camps, by lakes and rivers, in the mountains, where there are pools and playgrounds. That is great fun for our family. But, I think it is also important to volunteer at those places where there is nothing to do, nowhere to sight see, and no one that appreciates it. I would like to share a few stories with you. I want to tell you about RVMaps, a volunteer group we are in, but will do that in the next post.

We used our ATV to pull their trailer and pick up garbage.
We all had fun trying the great obstacle course.
My husband got laid off last fall, for three months. We weren't scared or terribly upset. We knew God would take care of us, He always does. We called up the RVMaps office and asked them if there was anywhere nearby that we could go serve the Lord and be in His presence. We had a lot of praying to do and planning. They told us about a camp in Honea Path, SC. We stayed there for three weeks. My son and husband built a boardwalk and we cleaned the garbage on huge portions of the 60 acre camp. We helped with the airsoft and paintball games. We cleaned cabins and the playground. We volunteered about 30 hrs a week total. While there we were able to go fishing in the private lake, kayaking on the river, enjoy the obstacle course, play basketball in the huge gymnasium, and meet some incredible people. It was an amazing experience. The campground hosts were so friendly. We enjoyed going to their church. My kids also made friends with the kids from the church. We were the only ones camping there. On the weekends we went to Greenville, into the mountains hiking, to historic sites, and to beautiful waterfalls. It was such a blessing to serve the Lord and be at such a great place. We still keep in touch with the people there. My kids made lifelong friends with the youth at the church and talk a lot of Facebook.

Fishing on the private lake at the camp.

The guys built a boardwalk for a cabin at the camp.
We also went to Lusk, WY to help a church out there. We were getting ready to leave the Custer, SD area when I felt the Lord tell me we needed to serve Him. We had a great time in southwest South Dakota, and I just felt like we needed some balance in our life. We do not want our kids to become “fun/self” centered. We had a lot of fun and did everything we wanted. Too much of that and we could become spoiled. We have to constantly think of others and what God has entrusted us with. I got an email from RVMaps and it had Lusk, WY as a place to volunteer. I called the pastor and told him, “All we do is clean. We are not skilled laborers. I am not sure if you can use us. We are not regular volunteers; we do it as a family.” His response was amazing. He told me that is exactly what they needed. They had just finished the project and needed someone to come clean up. His wife and sister were going to do it, but were pretty worn out already, so they would be so happy we were coming.

We drove from Custer to Lusk, not too far of a drive. We had never even heard of Lusk, so we weren't sure what to expect. As we pulled into town, we weren't too impressed. It was a little town, with not many sights to see, no fancy museums, and a little tiny grocery store. We made our way to the other end of town and pulled into the parking lot of the church. From the outside, the church looked so tiny. The building used to be a restaurant/bar that was remodeled. No park, no slides, no river, pond or even a mud puddle. No atv trails, no kayaking. I told the kids, “You have to serve the Lord when there is nothing in it for you.” We parked and met some other volunteers there. They were just getting ready to leave. Later, the pastor came over. As he walked up I began to get excited. He had a big cowboy hat and cowboy boots. Oh…it felt good to be out of the big city. He was so nice! He didn’t talk a lot, just said what he had to say. Gabriel about freaked out when Pastor Dale walked up. Gabriel is our cowboy, so he was so impressed with Pastor Dale. We got a tour of the church. It really was a nice little church. It had a great kitchen that I hoped to be able to use the ovens in. I sure miss baking bread. My oven in the camper is not the easiest to bake in. I wasn't sure what needed to be cleaned, everything looked so good already! But, sure enough, there was drywall dust over everything, it needed to be wiped down, mopped, and vacuumed. Shae and Cody helped take out an old furnace, and haul other heavy items. We worked over 60 hours in 3 days, between Shae, Cody, Hanna, and I. RVMaps likes you to put in 30 hours a week, so we had surpassed that easily.
Hanna and Cody washed the churches windows.
It was fun to change the letters on their sign.

Some great people broke down during the Sturgis Bike Rally.  They were awesome brothers and sisters in Christ.

We absolutely fell in love with the people there, and even the town. It is amazing to me how God can take a place that we thought was wanting in the entertainment area, and make it one of our best experiences. My kids made friends with some of the youth at the church. We still keep in touch with them. They took us out for pizza, to their ranch to ride atvs and to their 4H animals in town. They were so great.

They even brought their racing lawn mower to the church where Shae, Cody, and Hanna got to drive it. They all had a great time cruzing around the parking lot.

A family at the church had a huge ranch outside of town. We were invited to go four wheeling around their 5000 acre ranch. It was so beautiful. The sun on my face, wind in my hair, the dry air in my lungs. We saw the old homestead, ponds, windmills, and cattle. We made it back to the house and had a wonderful cookout followed by riding their horse “Fatty”. It was such a wonderful experience for all of us and we truly appreciated their hospitality. Gabriel followed Pastor Dale around like a shadow. He just walked about 3 steps behind him and did everything he did. It was so cute. Gabriel told us, “I want to be a cowboy pastor like Pastor Dale!” We enjoyed playing country worship music with them. The “cowboy” beat on the guitar is much harder than I thought! We left Lusk wanting to come back next year for a month! It is one of our favorite places.

These are just two stories of many about our great experiences volunteering.

Some of our favorite memories are of the times we volunteer. Working and serving with others brings rewards that cannot compare even to mountains and deserts, rivers and oceans. Now, we do love to go to those places, also.

I do believe that volunteerism is a lifestyle. I think it is something we can do every day, everywhere.

When we go to a campground, we try to leave it cleaner than when we came. We pick up our garbage and the garbage that was there when we arrived. We help people when they need someone to carry something or open a door for them. It is the little things in life that really make a difference, not just the huge volunteer/missions trips.

We wanted to serve somewhere in Montana. I got on the phone and internet and began contacting church camps around the state. We are members of RVMaps, which is Assembly of God, but we don’t limit ourselves to just serving with them. I found a camp outside of Bozeman, MT, Yellowstone Alliance Adventures. It is a camp owned by Missionary Alliance churches. I had never heard of that denomination before, so I called my mother-in-law to see what she knew about it. She thought they are pretty main stream churches, so we asked if we could come wash their windows. They weren’t quite sure what to do with us. They were very friendly and welcoming. They really need help there. It was a great camp. We have a professional window washing business that we have made almost no money on, but have done free all over the place. They loved having their windows done and Cody got to help make some benches.
The views in Bozeman were gorgeous.

Cody and Hanna got to sing and play with a church camp.

Everyone worked hard to wash windows.

I also found all sorts of camps south of Glacier National Park that were extremely interested in having us come stay and work. I just got on line and started calling camps I found. I usually just Google with these key words:

Kids camp

Bible camp

Church camp

Youth camp


Followed by the name of the state, city, or area we are going to.

Usually we stay for free with full hook ups. We do not expect them to feed us although some camps do. I prefer to feed my family in our camper.

We try to do all of our volunteer work for free. Even though they pay for our utilities, we give them a check upon leaving. I usually make it for $5 a night. That covers all electric and such. If we use a lot of electric I will give $7 a night. We try to let them know before we come what kind of work we will do and how many hours. It is important to let them know these things up front.  If we stay long term and work exceptionally hard, we do not always leave a check for our utilities.  The camps are always more than happy to have the help and don't really care about the small cost to them.

We usually offer to wash windows, pick up garbage, clean, and do any grunt work so they have time to do their jobs only they can do.

I had to work on my wrong belief that any kind of missions/volunteer work has to be difficult and we must suffer a little. I have found that we have such a great time volunteering. Not only are we helping them, but we are benefiting also.

• It builds great character in us and our children.

• We help people that desperately need help and a break.

• We usually get to use wonderful facilities and have a lot of fun.

• We stay for free, or in our case, we give enough to cover our expenses which are way less than what we would pay at a campground.

We do not volunteer full time, though. I find that unless I specify certain hours, they tend to expect us to be there all week. I usually tell them we will work Monday thru Wednesday, six hours a day. Or maybe Shae and Cody will work 30 hrs between the two of them in a week. It kind of depends on our situation. If we have a lot of school to do, we tend to have different hours, maybe Monday thru Thursday, 3pm – 5pm.

It does take a lot of time and we do not have the freedom to take off and sight see as we do when at a campground.

We do have to really watch our kids. We are there to serve, not just use the facilities. We always ask if we can use their playground or lake, river, or obstacle courses. Do not just assume you get to.

It is important to have the right motivation of the heart. We are there to help, serve, work, and clean. That is primary. Secondary is playing around. My kids have found that working together is a lot of fun! We went for a walk yesterday by the church we are working at here in the Phoenix area. We walked by the building and my kids said, “Hey mom, look at all that garbage! Let’s go clean it up!” So, we went in and picked up construction garbage and used the magnet wand to get screws and such on the ground. One of my children went by an electric breaker. I told him to stop and he didn’t. I grabbed him and we walked right out the door. That child cried and cried because he wanted to keep cleaning. I told him that he cannot go by any cords and since he didn’t obey the first time we have to leave. A construction site is no place for children who don’t obey to be in. If they don’t obey the first time, do not bring them in. I never, never, never let them play in a construction site. It is not a playground.

Usually kids are not allowed on construction sites. Do not bring your kids there. Don’t let your kids run rampant around the camp. If you set a good example they will tell you to use their facilities.

There have been a few times that we wanted to stay at a camp, but didn’t want to do volunteer work there. We just wanted to get out of the cramped campgrounds. Usually they will just rent us a spot.

My next post is going to be specifically on RVMaps and other organizations you can volunteer through. Let me know if you have any questions!!!!

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