1 Corinthians 4:7 For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
When most people hear the words "West County," they picture large homes, manicured lawns, and new shopping centers. But to Faith that Works (FTW) and our volunteers, "West County" means a place of mission to isolated families. To a community of 300, this is now where volunteers are breaking down cultural barriers through offering practical help to a trailer park community. As the community need became more defined in 2012 FTW purchased one trailer to accommodate a family in need, soon after a second trailer to serve families on a regular basis. With what started as a small summer reading program at our trailer, the grass roots effort was a practical way to gain trust while building relationships and literacy within the tight knit community. By offering children some form of continuous learning throughout summer- with a focus on retention- was the most obvious way we could begin offering help, alleviating poverty, and breaking down the language barrier within the Hispanic community. As a non-profit organization with a focus on the "volunteer" we developed an outreach tutoring program where volunteers could develop their talents and learn to assist those in need with the utmost passion and concern. There was no doubt that God granted us favor in this community as the attendance of children nearly tripled and our relationship with the Rockwood School District became a necessity. Our trailer quickly transitioned into a fully functional tutoring center- whether we were prepared or not. Our volunteers have allowed us to offer a loving learning environment for children, a place for parents to strengthen their language skills, and a place to experience the joy in serving. In the midst of a broken community, there is an obvious need for hope and love which has been displayed every week due to our faithful volunteers. From a small summer reading program to free summer camp, donated meals, field trips, and a the purchase of a third trailer, we look forward to summer 2014. Personally, I came into serving wondering "what can I offer these people that will make the biggest impact?" I quickly learned that it wasn't about what I had to offer but what they would offer ME. As the FTW mission states, "seeing the impact your good deeds create in the world, volunteers affirm the remarkable difference one individual can make in service to another; they become personally transformed and spiritually enriched." For me, "Personally transformed" describes it perfectly because "transform" means to change in character and that is exactly what happened. I have seen children smile ear- to- ear because of a simple hug, kids sprawled out on the floor at movie night eating popcorn and icing cookies at a Valentines Day party. What really transformed me was the day I overheard a teacher explaining how her students returned to school and began sharing Spring Break stories. The majority of the children elaborated on lavish vacations but the one thing the children shared from the trailer park was how much fun they had at our movie night. A last minute effort thrown together by 5 volunteers, offering popcorn and "Chronicles of Narnia" was what did it for those kids. This is one small example of what has taught me the impact of serving, to humble yourself and give of your own time is something we all have access too. How will serving transform you? - Blair Dobson