Friday, April 21, 2006

You're Thanking Me?

It happened at the end of the conference, just one of 20 such gatherings held in 2004. We had assembled on this particular October weekend at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. The conference had been rescheduled from its original date due to the hurricanes in Florida, but it still came at the end of a long conference season.

It should be noted that Seattle is a beautiful place and Safeco Field is a state-of-the-art baseball stadium, including a retractable roof over the natural grass playing surface. Still, it is an “open air” venue and the weather in late October in Seattle is predictably wet and cold. The temperature hovered at about 45 degrees throughout the weekend, and the wind coming off the Sound whipped through the concourse making it feel much colder. While the attendees shivered in their seats on the field and in the stands, the vast majority of our exhibitors and volunteers worked on this concourse level dealing with these adverse conditions. It was especially tough for those who were assigned to the retail outlets placed next to the large open air entrances.

It was my privilege to serve as the Event Volunteer Director for this conference. As is my custom, I like to get to know as many of the volunteers as possible during the course of the event. Among the first volunteers I met this weekend were two young ladies who attended a local Christian college. They showed up to help set up the retail area on Thursday, then worked from 8 AM to 10 PM on Friday in one of the coldest locations on the concourse. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they had decided not to return on Saturday, but they were there when we opened up Volunteer Check-In at 6:30 AM, and stayed until the close of the conference.

As it turned out, these college girls were two of the last volunteers I encountered that weekend. I ran into them one last time on the concourse as they were preparing to leave the stadium and head back to school, after helping us pack up and load the retail area. They approached me with huge smiles on their faces and gave me a warm hug! Then they “thanked” me for allowing them to serve, and asked if I would let them come back the next year!! I’m not sure what the expression was on my face at that particular moment, but I can assure you I was “shocked”. I told them, “You’ve been here working in the cold and the wind for the past 3 days from morning until night! We’ve done everything but give you IV’s of hot coffee to keep you alive. Yet you’ve served with a smile on your face and an upbeat attitude throughout the ordeal. And now you’re thanking me? You must be kidding!”

I’ve thought about those two young ladies many times since that encounter. I’ve told their story to volunteer groups in each of my conference cities in 2005 and 2006. To me they epitomize the type of volunteers who serve at each of our Promise Keepers events. The level of sacrifice and service rendered by our volunteer leaders and their teams never ceases to amaze me. Over 700 volunteers band together with a handful of staff members to make these incredible, life-changing conferences a reality. Without them Promise Keepers would not exist!

I’m not sure I understand all the reasons why so many men, women, and teenagers will commit themselves to this weekend of volunteer labor, but I think I’ve got a idea -- Promise Keepers allows them the opportunity to do that which God created them to do…..SERVE OTHERS! Whether theirs is a big job or a little job, they are serving from their heart, and God always honors that type of sacrifice. Perhaps this is your year to experience the joy of being a volunteer at a conference near you!! You can sign-up online or call the National Volunteer Hotline at 1-800-417-1878. We’ll look forward to seeing you proudly wearing that Volunteer T-Shirt in 2006!!

Larry Whittlesey is an Event Volunteer Director for Promise Keepers. He resides in Portland, OR.

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