Friday, September 11, 2009

Seasons of Volunteers

Volunteers take a break during the loading of a shipment to Armenia.

Well, it’s official. Summer is over. That’s ok because I love fall. It’s my favorite season. The anticipation of both kids and parents as a new school year begins and what opportunities it might hold. The statistics and strategies of football teams begin to fill conversations. New and different activities begin.

Fall in the deep South has taken me a little time to get used to. There are no colors changing from shades of green to yellow, reds, and browns. Daytime temperatures don’t drop below seventy degrees until Christmas or beyond. In fact, shorts and flip-flops are a year round uniform for some folks down here.

Changes of seasons remind us that time is passing but also keep us looking forward to what future blessings may be in store for us. Although the climate of southern Louisiana doesn’t provide us with many clues to the changes of the seasons, the volunteers who come to Baldwin, La., do. After living here for four years, I’ve begun to see the changes in seasons through the volunteers who schedule their UMCOR Sager Brown mission trips to fit into their own routines and seasons.

The new year starts off with the month or so of winter we get in the deep south. Mission teams from Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, and other northern states flock to Sager Brown during those first three months. Many of those northern volunteers have served here regularly for over 15 years. As we move into Spring, college teams accent the weeks as they choose to spend their spring breaks serving those in need. A regular team of college students from Shippensburg, PA, has spawned numerous new mission teams as the students have graduated, moved on to new communities, and inspired new volunteers.

Summer always brings the enthusiasm and energy of high school and middle school youth teams. I think the decibel level in the cafeteria goes up by about 50 points during June and July! The “No-Talent Talent Show”, an added event during the summer months, has become a favorite for many. Songs sung during Vespers often switch from familiar hymns to newer praise songs. Guitars during worship are the norm during the summer!

And that brings us to Fall. For some, Fall brings a bit of a slower schedule, a slower pace. That is far from fact at Sager Brown. August, with its heat and humidity and school schedule in the south, tends to be a little slower paced here. But September signals the resurgence of mostly adult teams again. This year, we will average 50 volunteers a week until mid-December.

One of the great things about living and serving at UMCOR Sager Brown is making new friends each week. But one of the things I really treasure is having the opportunity to be reunited with them as they become “old friends” and return each year. Just like the changes of seasons, I look forward to the blessings each team brings. With about 2,500 volunteers a year, my life is richly blessed!

By Kathy Kraiza, Executive Director, UMCOR Relief Supplies

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