The term “retirement” stirs thoughts of less activity. Roving Volunteers In Christ’s Service (RVICS) members put their motto, “Be Ye Doers of the Word,” into practice and disproving this passive notion. Three RVICS couples recently spent a week at Joy Ranch Home for Children helping with renovations to Leebrick Cottage.
These hearty volunteers have chosen to spend retirement traveling in their Recreational Vehicles (RVs) across the Continental United States and Canada as traveling missionaries. Typically the retired or partially retired volunteers furnish their own hand tools, safety equipment, and a self-contained RV.
They regularly commit to three (or as many as nine) projects a year, expecting nothing in return.
“This is part of what we’ve been called to do,” said team leader Al Allison. “Some people are the legs of God. Some the feet of God. Some the tongue of God. We’re kind of like the tools of God. We (he and his wife, Diane) didn’t know how to do all of the neat (construction) stuff so we were made the team leaders.”
The couple stressed the work they do, which can range from sewing, cleaning, filing and gardening to the construction arts, saves money for Christian organizations they travel to in their RVs. Qualified participants are self-supporting (with adequate accident and hospitalization coverage). Men work six hours per day for three and a half days weekly and women work three hours per day for four days a week (roughly working out to 33 hours a week per couple).
“We heard about this type of work years ago when a missionary came to our church,” said Al Allison, who has been with the volunteer group for three years. “He and his group were looking for volunteers for a ministry similar to what RVICS does today.” After retiring, Al and his wife Diane did their research and joined RVICS.
The Allisons were joined at Joy Ranch by fellow Pennsylvanians Jon and Bonna Ray and North Carolinians Jim and Rita Aquilano. Joy Ranch Director of Volunteer Services Carla Allen said a major part of their work at the former housing development (featuring “ranch” style homes) is updating Leebrick Cottage as a boys dorm.
Rita Aquilano pointed out the fellowship volunteers experience has its benefits, including picking up new skills. She said many of the volunteers begin with skill sets, such as building and repair. She observed “a handy man is usually married to a handy woman.”
“We were preparing for retirement and we’d went camping before and liked it and we didn’t just want to sit in a rocker on the front porch. We wanted to be involved.”
The duo saw an article about RVICS in a Christian magazine and it clicked. They looked up the group after retiring and have been volunteered full-time for more than a year.
“We didn’t know how to do all the neat stuff so we were made the team leaders for this project,” joked Allison. He explained another bond between volunteers follows from a sincere desire to serve after receiving Jesus Christ as their personal savior.
Allison said RVICS volunteers are serious about biblical teachings stressing first listening (to God), testifying to others and physically helping. All six said they feel their work saves Christian organizations money which in Joy Ranch’s case may be spent on children. Diane Allison said the reality is, every place they go every Christian organization needs every penny they have.
Reta Aquilano said she viewed the roaming life of service as “a privilege to serve the Lord.” Diane Allison said she found humor in volunteers going to be a blessing to the groups they help and finding out they are the ones blessed. Jon Ray said RVICS, like volunteer rescue squads and fire departments nationally, are running thin on volunteers. He said RVICS currently has 16 projects unmanned.
“Whether it’s the economy is so bad or what I don’t know,” said Jon Ray. He and Bonna agreed that they are seeing more teens willing to volunteer to help their communities with those in their twenties and forties remaining self-absorbed, which has contributed to a gap in the volunteer pipeline.
The six said they get to choose which projects they will participate in and they also help families. They all agreed another important benefit is getting to know fellow volunteers. “Newbies” become good friends by the end of a project.
“We pray together, work together and eat together. We become lifelong friends,” said Al Allison. “It seems odd but we’ll meet both of these couples in the fall. It is always good to meet up again.”
According to Allen, Joy Ranch currently serves eight boys and eight girls. The renovations to the cottage will allow an additional four children to be served, with the Ranch already dealing with a waiting list. She said they welcome the public to tour the facility.
“We’d love for the public to come and see, to participate even more,” said Allen. “We are seeing kids in some kind of crisis. Think of them not being bad kids but sad kids – suffering from neglect, abandonment and the imprisonment of parents.” Persons may contact the Ranch to arrange a tour by calling 276-236-5578. Allen’s extension is 308.
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave.