They came streaming into the Nature Museum where I volunteer. One camp group after another. At first, it seemed overwhelming. How could I relate to all of these children and make them feel welcomed … along with their leaders?

I am a hospitality volunteer … kind of like a receptionist … but more sociable, warmer and engaging than business-like.

Neon green shirts. Neon yellow shirts. Neon orange shirts. Each bright color identified what camp group they were with and helped the leaders keep track of so many children. Energy, enthusiasm, curiosity and wonder seemed to ooze from their faces.

I couldn’t keep the smile from my face.

How I wished I could have given them all a hug as I welcomed them and helped them find what they were looking for. But there were too many for one-on-one encounters.

So, I engaged the ones who came closest answering their questions, letting them touch the sample of bear fur or hold the amethyst crystal. They were fascinated by the mold of a bear’s paw and measured their hands against it.

Usually, they were on the go; but, at one point one group hung around filling in the time before their bus left. It was then I was able to talk with several of them and share more information about the animals at Grandfather Mountain.

Every little bit of myself that I can share through gentleness, kindness, joy and patience hopefully touches each child or adult in a nurturing way. We want their experience to be the best it can be and know they are valued.

I have come to realize that volunteering is really giving oneself away.

It is done out of love and choosing to do so without any pressure. It is touching lives … even briefly … and trusting God to somehow use each encounter for his purposes as he works through a willing heart.

Jesus patiently waits for us to open the door of our hearts so he can say “Welcome.” He longs for us to enter into fellowship with him and know his joy and guidance.

So many times Jesus said, “Come.” Come to the children, come to all who are weary, come to those who are thirsty.

In turn, he has given us the gift of reconciliation so we could be part of his forever family and invite others to come as well. It says in 2 Corinthians 5:20 NLT, “So we are Christ’s ambassadors … we speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!”

He gave Himself so we would come.