“I certainly would recommend volunteering. It has enriched our lives and given us a focus and lots of happiness. Volunteering is like a relationship—the more you give, the more you get.”
By Nathan Brown

Cliff Morgan “officially” retired in 1989. Twelve years later saw Cliff “beginning to retire” again. The beginning of 2002 sees Cliff and his wife, Val, scaling back their involvement in volunteer mission projects in the South Pacific Division—an involvement that has been a focus of their lives for the past 15 years.

As founders and directors of Volunteers in Action, they have been involved in fundraising and coordinating volunteers in a variety of volunteer projects.

A history of volunteering
Prior to his first retirement, Cliff had been a government school teacher and, having declined offers to teach in church schools, promised himself that when he retired he would serve the mission of the church at his own expense. In 1986 and 1988, Cliff was involved in fly’n’build projects to Vanuatu and Fiji.

Upon retirement, the Morgans spent a year as volunteers teaching at Pacific Adventist University in Papua New Guinea. Two years later, they again worked as volunteers supervising the distribution of funding and building churches in the Euro-Asia Division, based in Moscow, Russia. When asked about his best memories of volunteering, Cliff admits it’s difficult to choose one, but settles on the year in Russia.

“Things there were so different,” he recalls. “Learning the language was a challenge, coping with the cold, enjoying four distinct seasons, traveling the Metro were great experiences.”

“However, the most significant memories are making a significant contribution in the growth of SDA church buildings; experiencing the warmth of the Russian people and seeing how God rewarded their simple faith so often. It helped me to grow spiritually.”

Identifying the need
Upon their return to Australia, Cliff began looking for ways he could best serve the mission of the church. He settled upon helping organize fly’n’build projects. “However, a visit to the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea in 1995 to meet mission administrators and find their most pressing needs surprised me,” Cliff reports. “Their greatest need was not fly’n’builds, but to sponsor national volunteer missionaries to grow churches in isolated areas of their missions.”

Since 1995, Cliff has continued to organize and lead fly’n’build teams. “But most of my time and energy has been spent on supervising the national volunteer program,” he says.

Volunteers in Action
This tour saw the beginnings of Volunteers in Action. In the five years since that time, Cliff and Val have coordinated a variety of projects across the South Pacific Division.

“Our focus is to help people in developing countries, specifically by supporting national volunteers to share Jesus with people in isolated areas of the mission fields of the South Pacific Division,” he says. “Right now, more than 50 different sponsors financially support 320 national volunteers in 16 missions.”

Wider involvement is also vital to the work of Volunteers in Action. Sponsors include pensioners, homemakers, businesses, trades and professional people, Adventurers, Pathfinders, Sabbath school classes, families and eight different churches.

“Mission administrators are involved to hire, fire, train, pay and supervise the 320 volunteers,” Cliff adds. “Volunteers and their families are also dependent on much support from their local congregations.”

Funds have also been provided to put iron roofing on 209 bush churches. “We provide the funds for roofing churches and the local congregations do the building. This is good for teamwork and unity.” And there is still an interest in encouraging or leading fly’n’build visits—with over 100 participants in the past five years.

Cliff is also grateful to the South Queensland Conference for their support. “Present and past officers at the SQ Conference provide motivation,” Cliff reports. “While they aren’t beneficiaries of the volunteer or roofing program, they have a big vision of mission. They provide office space, pay for my telephone calls and postage at the office, and provide a petrol allowance and encouragement.”

“Many leaders object to people in their conference collecting funds to send outside their conference. But since the volunteer sponsorship program began, more than $A1 million has been sent to overseas missions, yet the SQ Conference tithe, mission offerings and involvement continue to increase.”

He adds that all these components—sponsors, administrators, coordinators and volunteers—have worked together with God’s blessing to produce some real impact in the missions of the South Pacific Division (see “Volunteers in Action, since 1996”).

Papua New Guinea Union Mission secretary Pastor Thomas Davai, a former president of the Western Highlands Mission, has had first-hand experience of the impact of Volunteers in Action’s work. “We could not have done much without Cliff Morgan’s support with volunteer stipends,” says Pastor Davai. “This has helped many of our volunteer ministers, and we had big baptisms as the result of this great work.

“Thanks to those who have donated money to pay for volunteers, and build churches, in Papua New Guinea. Missions work is the only answer to this dilemma.”

Pastor Davai also appreciates greatly Cliff’s personal contribution to the church in Papua New Guinea: “Cliff has the energy, zeal, drive and vision to do this work. He has done a tremendous work in Papua New Guinea.”

Of course, there are frustrations and stresses associated with the work of Volunteers in Action. “During last year Val and I were under stress just managing 300 volunteers and the roofing of 143 churches,” Cliff reports. “My doctor told me to back off. Our work with Volunteers in Action has been a team effort with Val working alongside me, and Val also wishes to scale back our working, so we are in the process of reducing the stress levels and looking for helpers.”

So the plans for retirement are not immediate, but more related to finding others to take over some of the administration of the various projects. “We are committed to a full program of volunteers for 2002 with a reduced roofing program. We couldn’t retire yet, even if we wanted to! We plan to have others carry on the program when we need to quit.”

The blessings of volunteering
Naturally, Cliff is a strong proponent of the concept of volunteering: “I certainly would recommend volunteering. It has enriched our lives and given us a focus and lots of happiness. Volunteering is like a relationship—the more you give, the more you get. I would recommend that people plan some volunteering while fully employed and prepare themselves to be more involved and effective volunteers when they have more time available.

“The best qualification for a volunteer is a willingness and commitment to help others. Jobs can usually be found to match one’s skills, talents and interest. However, more important is the need to develop a trust and dependence on God. Prayer and mateship with Jesus are great qualifications for volunteering.”

Cliff also credits his volunteering experience with growing his relationship with God. “Our work in Russia did wonders for our trust in God. Each week we saw or heard of a miracle God performed. I learned first-hand just how good God is.”

Cliff is quick to give the glory to God for the accomplishments of Volunteers in Action. In a recent report, he writes, “It is God who inspires the coordinators of Volunteers in Action, who touches the hearts of sponsors to give, national men to volunteer, church members and mission administrators to support the volunteers. And it is God’s Spirit that brings baptisms.”

Summarizing his work over the past few years, Cliff comments, “Only God can touch hearts, and it’s very humbling to see the way He works.”

Reprinted with permission from the SPD RECORD.

Nathan Brown is a regular reporter for RECORD. He is currently working on his doctorate in literature at James Cook University in Townsville, Qld.


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