Larry and Janet Wagstaff: Why we volunteer

Motivated by love and compassion, Thrivent members find strength in serving others

Thrivent members Larry and Janet Wagstaff share what motivates them to serve

How do you volunteer?

We are builders, so often our service comes in the form of building or fixing. We find many projects through our church, Living Savior Lutheran in Charlotte, North Carolina. The groups and organizations we work with through the church are well-vetted, ensuring a wise use of time, money and resources. Working on a project often reveals new or different needs elsewhere.

Why have you made volunteering a priority in your lives, and how do you make time for it?

Everyone needs a helping hand sometime in their life – rich or poor, healthy or sick, young or old. As we work to help others, our own needs, problems and desires become less. Striving and working for goals outside of ourselves develops our faith, love and inner joy. These values strengthen our family.

Finding time to volunteer becomes easier when we do it together. Time volunteering is enjoyable time spent with each other.

Who inspires you to volunteer?

Jesus and his love for us and all people. We are fortunate to be involved in a church full of willing and joyful volunteers. It is wonderful being around a group of folks who are also inspired by the love Jesus taught us to give.

What would you tell others who are hesitant to volunteer?

Begin by working with organizations or groups known for planning and working efficiently. If you are project-oriented, begin with a task you can see through from start to finish. It's easy to feel lost in some long-term projects. Remember to give yourself time to understand and grow as a volunteer and servant of God.

Share some lessons you learned through your work as volunteers.

Giving 100% and leaving the final outcome in God's hands usually equals feelings of joy, satisfaction and completion. We may never see or know what effects our work may have – and that's OK. It is only when we work with the idea that we are "fixing" a situation or person that we fall short and are disappointed.

Tell us about a memorable or touching moment as a volunteer.

We led a group of youth from church to do community service and cultural projects in Cherokee, North Carolina. The kids worked hard for two days cleaning and stocking food pantry shelves, mending fences and learning about the Cherokee culture. One of the projects was to host a sleepover with some of the community youth to give the kids an opportunity to get to know one another. That night they shared games, food, conversation and stories. They learned about cultural differences, but they also learned that we are all the same. They took home photos and addresses of new friends, as well as memories and stories to share.

Did you ever have an epiphany that changed your mindset about giving?

Yes. Ours came while working on a sanctuary addition in Cherokee, North Carolina. Volunteers spent their vacation weeks and weekends working on this six-month project. The relationships between the volunteers grew strong. We saw God working within each other and we felt free to share our growth and feelings. We became good friends with many from the congregation, who treated us to traditional native meals. We worshipped together and shared our struggles and concerns. As the project reached completion, we celebrated our accomplishment and the strong bonds we forged. This experience set the foundation for why we volunteer – it's the connections we make with people.

Jump into volunteering

Thrivent offers many ways you can make a difference for others, from leading Thrivent Action Teams, to directing Choice Dollars® to participating on Thrivent Builds Worldwide trips. Sound like something you'd like to try? Learn more about our programs.

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