It was in serving others and in sharing hope that I found meaning and purpose during the most difficult years of my life.” This statement and others similar to it are sent again and again from thousands of volunteers around the world to the office of Adventist Volunteer Service (AVS), headquartered at the General Conference office in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States. AVS exists to provide service opportunities for Seventh-day Adventists who want to share in the joy of taking the gospel to the world, matching their talents, gifts, resources, and professional expertise with defined needs.
AVS draws a variety of volunteers—college students, professionals, trades people, and academics— to sign up for either short-term or long-term mission opportunities. Short-term assignments can range from one day to two months; long-term programs may last up to two years or longer.
Areas of service include medical/ dental, administration, pastoral/ evangelism, education, construction, and orphanage work, to name a few. Volunteers can either serve in a country within their home division or be stationed in another division.
ONE VOLUNTEER’S STORY
Matheus, an AVS volunteer, wasn’t sure what career he wanted to pursue until he signed up with AVS to conduct evangelistic meetings and teach the Bible to students living on the banks of the Amazon. He says that through acts of service and sharing hope with the people there, he became convinced that God was calling him to ministerial work. Matheus now studies at the Paraná Adventist College in Brazil, preparing to become a full-time missionary.
“The experience of going out of my comfort zone was not easy,” Matheus says. “I needed to develop resilience, perseverance, flexibility—but most of all, a deep communion with God through prayer and Bible study. I thought I was going to save and change the world; but in the end, the world that changed was mine.”
A GROWING EXPERIENCE
Ellen White wrote: “The spirit of unselfish labor for others gives depth, stability, and Christlike loveliness to the character and brings peace and happiness to its possessor. . . . Those who exercise the Christian graces will grow. They will have spiritual sinew and muscle, and will be strong to work for God. They will have clear spiritual perceptions, a steady, increasing faith, and prevailing power in prayer.”*
The volunteer experience develops leadership and boosts professional careers. It shapes character and adjusts priorities. It helps fulfill the commission to take the gospel message to all nations. Most of all, it draws those who accept God’s call to mission service into a closer relationship with their Lord.