We just bid adieu to a wonderful set of volunteers who came to New York to serve the King: 17-year-old Mary Beth Akin, and 17-year-old twins, Chris and Matt Byrd (see accompanying photo).
The word volunteer comes from the Latin for "willing." A volunteer is a person who hears of a need that must be met, a duty that ought to be performed, an opportunity to serve, and says, "I will!" Volunteers who come to serve here get wide experience because their responsibilities include doing just about everything. If something comes up, and you’re there, you’re volunteered!
We’ve been involved with employing volunteers since our days in the Christian Reformed Church. The CRC runs one of the best volunteer programs going (and it started way before Democrats [of both parties] tried to co-opt the idea of volunteerism). Dubbed SWIM (Summer Workshop In Ministry), young people from around North America apply to do service in far-flung locations. A beautifully coordinated program, SWIM candidates are screened and prepared before venturing onto the field. The churches then benefit from the services of the young people and the young people benefit big-time from having hands-on experience in evangelism, mercy and service.
We so loved participating in SWIM that when we were separated from the CRC we thought about creating a mirror program called DROWN (Disciples Reclaiming Our World Now - 1 Cor. 3:21-23). Though never formalized, we continue to recruit and employ volunteers as much as possible, even though space to house them is extremely limited. (You might pray about that, for space limitations forced us to turn down the help of several excellent candidates this year. We get a lot more offers of help than we can accommodate.)
This year’s Kingdom Volunteers were dear to us before their arrival. The Byrd boys are sons of Rev. and Mrs. Isaac Byrd. Isaac is a good friend, a faithful Reformed minister pressing Christ’s every claim in South Jersey. We’ve known the Akins (from Carbondale, IL) for some years now. Mary Beth’s Mom was lost to Leukemia shortly after we had met. A time later, her Dad, Mark, was graced by God with another life-partner, Jane. (Jane’s first husband, a PCA minister, had died in a tragic accident.) Mark had seven children, Jane had four. They’ve since added one "of their own." It’s a happening household.
The Akins were one of the first homeschooling families we had known, and were we ever impressed with their brood! We were able to get closer to the family when Callie, Mary Beth’s older sister, came twice to New York as a volunteer servant of the King. An interesting providence came about this year when Callie married Peter Lindstrom (son of Paul of Christian Liberty Academy fame), for Peter, too, had been a volunteer at Urban Nations.
Come to think of it, ‘seems plenty of "I will’s" are followed by "I do’s" around here. SWIMer Carol DeVries married one of our congregants, Artie Shulman. They now live in Grand Rapids with their four covenant children. SWIMer Lori Bruins married our summer ministerial intern, James Graveling, now a faithful pastor at a Reformed church in North Jersey (they have two children). And Greetje Huisman came from the Netherlands to volunteer at Urban Nations, only to end up marrying congregant Patrick Edouard. They now live in Illinois with their son, Jeremy, while Patrick studies for his M. Div at Mid-America Reformed Seminary.
Hey! Isn’t it just like God? When we’re faithful in one area, He blesses us in another! "I will" becomes "I do."
You just never know which direction grace will come at you.
2662 East 24th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11235
E-mail: [email protected]
- Steve M. Schlissel
Steve Schlissel has served as pastor of Messiah's Congregation in Brooklyn, New York, since 1979. Born and raised in New York City, Schlissel became a Christian by reading the Bible. He and Jeanne homeschooled their five children and also helped raise several foster children (mostly Vietnamese). In 2003, they adopted Anna (who was born in Hong Kong in 1988, but is now a U.S. citizen). They have eight foster grandchildren and fourteen "natural" grandchildren.