I’ve volunteered at Spring of Hope for around three and half years, and have been a Duty Manager for almost two.
I’d been volunteering on nights for 18 months when Val asked if I’d be a Duty Manager. I ummed and ahhed about it for a little bit, and eventually thought that, other than having to take the lead on things and sometimes do a bit of quick decision-making, it wasn’t really that different to what I was currently doing!
I’ve always had something on my heart about serving the poor, since I became a Christian. A few years before I moved to Bristol, I’d had a strange dream involving homeless women. I wrote it down and forgot about it. Years later, I was praying and asking God what to do. And God reminded me of all the points in Scripture about serving the poor. So I said, ‘Okay, what do you want me to do?’ And God said to just get on and do something!
So I got in contact with Crisis Centre Ministries, thinking I’d just do a bit of washing up. And then I met Val. Hearing what she was doing at Spring of Hope, I knew it fitted more with what I was passionate about. I remembered my dream and thought, ‘I could do this.’
I started volunteering every other week, just to see how it went. It can sound big and scary when you think about it, but when you’re doing it, you just get on with it really. And it’s a lot of fun. There’s often a lot more joy there than you’d think possible, and a massive sense of community.
One of the biggest highlights is the privilege of when the women share things with you – good and bad. When they share really tough things, you think, ‘You barely know me, and you trust me with this, and that is such a privilege.’
There have been times where one of the women has approached me and said, ‘We need to pray for this person,’ and I think, ‘Great, you lead!’ It’s a privilege to see how God works through the project, to see the way he fights for them, how he blesses them. Even in small, practical ways, in how he makes it possible for them to come to us and be safe from really hideous situations and circumstances. That’s a real privilege – seeing God move in that way.
And there are the silly things! Like the time two women who spoke completely different languages were trying on shoes and it turned into a ridiculous fashion show! Things like that are a massive highlight. There’s something really beautiful about it.
One of the biggest surprises about volunteering there is feeling completely out of your depth, but at the same time feeling completely confident about what you’re doing. It’s taught me to trust God in these things. It’s taught me I’m able to do more than I thought I could. It’s taught me a lot about what love is. And it’s made me aware of quite a few of my own shortcomings!
If anyone was thinking about volunteering, I’d say give it a go! When you first volunteer, you’re not committing your life away for years and years. Come along, do a taster session, see how you feel. It’s not going to be for everyone, and that’s okay! Val’s always on the end of the phone if needed – perhaps more than she should be! But if there’s anything you’re uncertain about, you always have someone you can call on.
You get to see God do amazing things. You get to meet really amazing people. Just give it a go.
If you’re interested in volunteering at Spring of Hope, please contact our Volunteers Coordinator Steve Smith. You can reach him on 0117 405 7112 or at [email protected].