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Heart Matters: Volunteer's Heart

She's not a paid minister. She's had no formal training. In fact, she isn't even on our official volunteer schedule. But the impact Rose has had on our volunteer team isn't something we'll forget soon.

You see, I think our volunteers may never have truly understood what ministry was until they met Rose. I don't say that lightly...and here's why.

I'd asked Rose to speak at our volunteer appreciation breakfast. I'd met her earlier in the summer soon after she began attending our church. She'd called, requesting a meeting with me to discuss a special ministry she'd started. There she shared her incredible story. Feeling led by God, Rose had left her full-time job to minister to underprivileged children in her neighborhood. The stories she shared broke my heart...stories of poverty, neglect, abuse.

On a daily basis, Rose provides a stable, safe environment of hope for her neighborhood kids. Some days that means feeding an entire family because food stamps have run out. Many days, it means picking up a kindergartner from school because a father lost his license. Once, it meant taking in a 6-year-old when the child was left to sleep in the apartment hallway.

But Rose's ministry isn't only meeting the kids' immediate needs: Rose always finds a way to get them to church -- even if it means calling on a friend to help get them all there. She knocks on doors weekly and invites all the kids to come with her to church.

So you see, that's why I asked Rose to come and be the guest of honor at our All-Star Breakfast. I wanted our team to hear about Rose's ministry. Many volunteers recognized Rose, but they had no idea that this woman was only a neighbor -- not family -- to all the children she brought to our ministry each week. As I introduced Rose and her ministry, you could've heard a pin drop in the room. And as God spoke through Rose that morning, tears streamed down the cheeks of the nearly 100 volunteers present. How could this be? Right in our own ministry? Volunteers who'd been working with Rose's kids for months suddenly realized just how broken their lives truly were. No wonder that little boy is so angry. No wonder that little girl won't even look me in the eyes.

As Rose finished her story, all of us rose to our feet in applause. We were all touched by Rose's words...but we got chills by what happened next.

Sitting at Rose's table that morning were seven other people Rose didn't know well. To her left was a woman named Cathy, who'd generously donated a surprise week away in a condo in Florida for our appreciation breakfast. One lucky volunteer would walk away with a Florida vacation. Before our breakfast, our leadership team had prayed that God would bless just the right person with the trip. Only he knew who that would be.

Cathy came onstage and drew a name from the bucket. The winner was Andrea, a woman also sitting at Rose's table. Everyone was thrilled. As Andrea came up to claim her gift, she asked for the microphone. Barely able to get the words out, Andrea turned to Rose and said quietly and tearfully, "I want Rose to go in my spot."

What a moment! What a moment for Rose, whose ministry and heart were validated. What a moment for Andrea, who graciously gave up a wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime gift. What a moment for all of us who got a glimpse of this volunteer's heart -- and what ministry is truly all about.

Linda Hutchinson is a family life director for her church in Lawrenceburg, Indiana.

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