Giving and Receiving: The World of Volunteering

By Claudia (volunteer at TCM St. James Town)

When I was asked to write about “giving back”, I sat at my computer and stared at a blank page for a few minutes. I began to brainstorm about this topic. I searched the internet for “Bible Verses about Giving”. I even wrote out a few decent sentences. Yet the truth is, I was having difficulty writing about giving back at Toronto City Mission because I feel like I have not been giving… I have been receiving. Yes, I have given my time, energy, and heart to volunteering, but there is so much more that God has given me through TCM.

I started volunteering four years ago, when I first came to the big city for my studies at the University of Toronto. A friend from back home suggested that I look into Toronto City Mission — she had worked there herself as a summer intern many years back. I emailed the community worker at St. James Town and asked if there was anything I could do to help out. She responded right away asking if I was free to tutor two grade one girls every Monday night. 

So my journey began. I went on to work as a summer intern for the next two summers, volunteered at tutoring and Kids in Community during the week, and I can now be found hanging out with the Grade 7 girls at Junior Extreme. It’s not only my journey, though… it’s God’s journey, and a story of how He has been working in my life, in the community, and in the city itself. 

When I started volunteering at TCM, I was in a completely different spiritual mindset. I was lost, broken, defeated. Moving away from my friends and family into a city of 2 million people was overwhelming to say the least. I questioned God and blamed Him for my problems. I had lost all my joy and passion for Jesus. 

During these times, I distinctly recall the tangible love I felt at TCM. The kids, volunteers, and community workers all contributed to creating a feeling of intimacy and openness. In moments of prayer with the grade one girls, in sharing our struggles afterwards at debrief, and in the direct care of the workers, I felt God reaching out to me and jump starting my heart. I saw His kingdom and His glory right before my eyes. I saw His love not only for me, but for all of His children, and I learned how He cared for each and every one of them, including me.

By giving myself to volunteering, God gave me something even greater: a deeper relationship with Him. 

Have you considered what things God can do in your life if you give more? Have you thought about how richly and abundantly God blesses those who bless others? Think on and pray through the following verse:

One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered. — Proverbs 11:24-25

I realize now that in my moments of despair and being far from God, I was concerned only with myself. I focused on my life, on my problems, and not on the bigger picture. I was dry, and thirsty for God’s love.

Through TCM, through volunteering, developing relationships with kids, families, fellow volunteers, community workers, I took my eyes off myself and saw the bigger picture. I gave freely, I grew richer, and I was watered by God’s love.