You qualify to be an Adventist Volunteer if you are:
- Between 18 and 79 years of age (you must complete your service by your 80th birthday).
- A baptized member of the Seventh-day Adventist® Church and have been in regular standing with the church for at least one year.
- Financially able to serve without expectation of reward or compensation other than (possibly) a small stipend.
Things to Think About
Ask yourself the following questions, in light of the comments provided:
Do I adapt quickly (within approximately a month or so) to major changes in my life or does it take me a long period of time? How stressful is it for me to make adjustments? Living in a new culture requires major adjustments with food, housing, pace of life, entertainment, language, lifestyle, companionship and worship. Expect that you will need to make some adjustments in these and other areas, and ask the Lord to help you prepare for them. Do not expect the culture to conform to you. Ask the local people or your Receiving Organization Supervisor questions to better understand the culture.
Do I take initiative in my work and life? Or do I prefer having a prescribed plan and direction? There is no guarantee that your duties will be exactly as outlined. You may find that many decisions rest on you or that there is a set plan with little room for innovation. Be prepared to be flexible in order to deal with whatever comes your way in a specific assignment.
Could the following factors substantially affect my state of mind or performance: physical discomfort, constant rain, insects, unvaried diet, lack of sleep or privacy? Wherever you are, the comforts of home will probably not be there. And when the comforts of home are taken away, it may exacerbate other, smaller problems that you might have during your assignment. Make sure to do research on all countries where you are interested in serving to see if your physical and emotional needs will likely be met well enough for you to effectively serve there. For example, if you are vegan, there are some countries where you may have a very hard time finding food you can eat. Other countries may have local diets that are ideal for vegan eaters. Another example: if you are not the camping type, you probably should not serve at Bere Adventist Hospital in Chad, where some of our past volunteers have lived in mud huts! Take time to check these things out! To do your research, you may ask your Sending Division Volunteer Coordinator for information about a country, as well as look on the Internet or in the library. Once you have been accepted for a position, you may also contact your Receiving Organization Supervisor for more information about the local environment, weather, etc.
How do I react to co-workers who are weak in their performance? Co-workers in your new culture will have varied backgrounds and a system of values different from yours. Learning to understand other’s perspectives is a necessary trait which you will need to develop. You will find that you get along with people better when you try to understand them.
Is our marriage stable? Do we thrive when together for a long time or are we happier living largely independently from the other? Sound relationships usually grow stronger in the mission field, but unstable relationships can fall apart under the stress and demands of a new environment. Before thinking about going on a volunteer assignment, it is a good idea for you and your spouse to do some soul-searching about your relationship and, of course, to pray about whether this is what God wants for the two of you.
How rigid am I in expectations for myself and others? Being able to accept other people and their different ways is vital – dealing with changes in yourself is just as important.
Can I cope with the unknown? Life is full of surprises, especially in foreign settings. Be prepared to encounter many and varied surprises and be willing to go with the flow.
Do I have to succeed in everything? Dealing with failure is more important than you think. If this is your first time abroad or your first time serving in a certain type of position (i.e. teaching), don’t expect to do everything perfectly at first. Give yourself room for improvement. Volunteer service is a learning experience.
Am I independent enough to live on my own and with others I don’t know? Make sure to look at the Lodging section of the Service Requests you are interested in. If you like a lot of privacy, you may want to steer clear of an assignment where you’ll be living in one room with other volunteers. If you crave company, on the other hand, you may be unhappy serving in place where you will be the only volunteer and will be living by yourself.
What are my physical limitations (allergies, sicknesses, etc.)? Someone with mold allergies should think twice before serving in a rainforest environment where there may be lots of mold. Along the same lines, people with severe asthma may want to avoid serving in South Korea, where there is heavy air pollution in the cities. If you are sick all the time during your volunteer service, you will be miserable and you probably won’t be as effective a volunteer as you’d wish to be. Volunteers with more serious health conditions will want to be very careful when choosing a country in which to serve. They should find out whether “their” country has the medical facilities to care for them should something go wrong. This is another reason why it is important to do research on the countries where you are interested in serving. To do your research, you may ask your Sending Division Volunteer Coordinator for information about a country, as well as look on the Internet or in the library. Once you have been accepted for a position, you may also contact your Receiving Organization Supervisor for more information.
Volunteering isn’t for everyone. The following situations could affect your ability to serve internationally:
- Specific Health Problems
- Medical provision in the field may be inadequate for people with conditions such as unstable asthma, heart conditions, cancer, insulin dependent diabetes, uncontrolled epilepsy and/or chronic psychiatric conditions. Please raise any concerns about your health early in the application process.
- Criminal Record
- Most AVS positions require a visa, which sometimes entails the obtaining of a national police clearance from the police department in your country. Should you have a criminal record, it may be unlikely a visa will be issued.
- Major Financial Commitments
- All your financial obligations in your home country must be taken care of before your departure. This includes student loans, credit card bills, etc. You will most likely need to pay these bills while you are volunteering, so you will need to make sure that the stipend you will earn from your position is enough to cover your bills. If you are not able to pay your bills from your location abroad, you will need to make arrangements for someone at home to pay them for you while you are serving.
- Marriage and Children
- If a volunteer will not be accompanied by his/her spouse on assignment, he/she may not serve longer than three months. Volunteers who serve at the SDA Language Institute (SDALI) in South Korea may only serve one term of two months if unaccompanied by their spouse.
- It is more difficult for married volunteers to find positions than for singles—even if both spouses would like to volunteer. Lack of appropriate housing and small (if any) stipends for living expenses narrows the list of possibilities available for married couples. The possibilities will be even more diminished for couples if one of them will be a dependent spouse.
- Lack of appropriate housing and small (if any) stipends for living expenses make it very difficult for families with children to find volunteer opportunities. In the field, child care and educational opportunities for children may also be difficult to find.
- Short Time Period
- For many positions, volunteers may need up to six months to become productive. Orientation and adaptation to a new culture can take a lot of time.