One of the busiest days for volunteers at Baptist World Aid was Boxing Day in 2004.
Australians awoke to the news that a tsunami along the coast of the Indian Ocean had claimed 227,898 lives and displaced millions of people. At that time, Graham Shute (pictured above, on the left) and Allan Smith (pictured above, on the right) served as Baptist World Aid volunteers. Even though the office was closed, the phone started ringing as news of the tsunami spread, and it didn’t stop for days.
‘We had to open the office instead of having a vacation because there were so many people phoning up to give donations,’ Graham said.
‘People just wanted to give,’ Allan added. ‘After the first few days, people even turned up at the office, saying they wanted to volunteer. It was fantastic to see so many people concerned about what was happening in these countries, and wanting to help.’
Friendship Through Service
While some things have changed at Baptist World Aid since 2004, the spirit of volunteers like Graham and Allan has remained the same.
The retirees have been friends for 32 years and serving Baptist World Aid since the early 90s—back when the office was in a small basement, all correspondence was by mail, and electronic banking didn’t exist.
Graham was a TAFE teacher, and initially volunteered with his wife, Hazel, during his semester breaks as a way of ‘supporting God’s work’. Their daughters, Mel and Jules, also volunteered in their school holidays and eventually joined Baptist World Aid as long-term staff members. ‘For a number of years, all four of us were in the office together!’ Graham said.
When he retired in 1999, Graham followed the example of his mother who served people until the age of 93. He became a regular volunteer, joining a large team of people who did jobs like checking children’s letters, sending mail to supporters, and taking donations to the local bank.
Ten years later, Allan joined Graham as a volunteer. He had been Baptist World Aid’s business manager since 1993, and his family lived in the house which served as the organisation’s headquarters. When Allan retired at the age of 65, he decided to volunteer one day a week as a way of continuing to use the gifts God has given him.
‘It was a really exciting time—even the first computing system was built by a volunteer,’ Graham said. ‘We were proud to be volunteers at Baptist World Aid.’
A Second Retirement
Allan agreed. ‘I’ve loved meeting wonderful Christian people all over the world and seeing their generosity in action, just as much as we’ve been able to be generous to others,’ he said. ‘I’ve never doubted that this is part of God’s work’.
‘I enjoyed the fellowship we have as a faith-based organisation,’ Graham said. ‘Helping people is a fulfilling way of staying active. It’s a way of expressing my faith, so I encourage other people to go for it! There’s plenty of support.’
I’ve never doubted that this is part of God’s work.
Volunteering has evolved over the years, especially as technology changes the way we work. For Graham and Allan, this has been an opportunity to enjoy learning new skills. ‘We’ve learnt new computer systems, and kept up with changing technology,’ Graham said. ‘The support is good, and we’re never left on our own.’
At the end of last year, Allan and Graham celebrated a major milestone together—their second retirement, this time from their valuable years of service at Baptist World Aid. Graham is continuing to serve as an ESL teacher at his church, while Allan is leaving to spend more time caring for his wife. Along with Hazel, who volunteered at Baptist World Aid for 25 years, both men leave a rich legacy of faithful, joyous service behind them.
Baptist World Aid has a long history of committed volunteers who have a vision to end poverty, and who continue to bless us with their time and talents. Find out more about how to volunteer with us.