First published in February 2011, we repost Kristen's words in honor of all the volunteers who have blessed Inheritance of Hope families through the years. You have been the hands and feet of Jesus as you serve wholeheartedly with love.
“We love because He first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19
Last month, I was honored to participate in the most recent Legacy Retreat held at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Because my body was not strong enough to participate as fully as in the past, I found myself doing a lot more sitting quietly and observing what was going on around me, and something struck me as incredibly beautiful. If you have never been a part of a Legacy Retreat, it is difficult to explain, so I will try to paint you a picture …
Children are laughing and playing and tumbling and talking. Parents are talking with dear friends who were strangers just days before, and children are clinging to new friends who understand their fears and their struggles when life-long friends have failed to understand in the past. Special times are set aside for all the children to be together without their parents, during which they explore the serious situations in their lives through playtime with a counselor and fun volunteers. At the same time, parents are able to encourage one another in an adult environment, with the advice and guidance of a counselor of their own. Children are holding their parents’ hands as they excitedly head into the Disney theme parks … precious family time that is often so difficult when your life is usually dominated by doctors, chemotherapy, bills, and worries.
To be honest, there is so much to see in just four days, it overwhelms the senses. The knowledge that this group is full of families with a parent who is fighting a life-threatening illness might suggest sadness or an environment of darkness, but that is rarely the case. During this recent Legacy Retreat, I was reminded of one important reason why these groups are so full of joy … they are being served by a volunteer staff that is truly amazing.
In my description of what I see when I observe a retreat, the volunteers are barely mentioned; but, this is not because their role is unimportant. On the contrary, they are vital because Inheritance of Hope volunteers know it is not about them. Our volunteers do not attend Legacy Retreats because they want to spend a few days at a theme park. They do not attend because they love the food or they hope for an inexpensive vacation. In fact, our volunteers pay their own expenses, and the jobs they do are far from glamorous. They work long hours, and they work hard. Their hearts are burdened for the families they serve, and they are willing to do whatever needs to be done for the families to have a memorable weekend. The volunteers work not to be the center of attention, but to provide time for parents to enjoy their children without stress or worry, and to provide a child with fun and friendship. Perhaps they serve for the strong relationships that are built during these short weekends. They watch as bonds are strengthened between parents and children, among families with other families, and between family members and themselves. Our volunteers love these families long after Inheritance of Hope Legacy Retreats are over, and they are blessed by knowing each person at each retreat. Inheritance of Hope families are fighting through a very difficult time in their lives, and yet they always take the time to share encouragement and gratitude with our volunteers, which blesses our staff greatly. Our volunteers work tirelessly to bless these families, and in turn, they insist that they are greatly blessed by the opportunity to serve.
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God…. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. ~ 1 John 4: 7-11
We love because He first loved us. That is truly why Inheritance of Hope volunteers serve.