At the beginning of this year we launched a new feature here at The Touring Camper that highlights ways campers, RVers, hikers, backpackers, or outdoor enthusiasts can get involved in service opportunities and give back to their communities. January’s spotlight was on ACMNP and February followed with a profile about NOMADS. This month we are showcasing SOWERS (Servants On Wheels Ever Ready). SOWER trustees Ken Oliver and Nancy Ragatz shared a little bit about this RV ministry and provided pictures of the volunteers at work.
Tell me a little bit about the history of SOWER; when and why did it start? This volunteer ministry of Christian RV couples began as founders Frank and Kathy Varga traveled throughout the country assisting travelers in need. While serving with other “helps” organizations, they began to see the need for a distinctive ministry for Christian RVers who could come alongside Christ-centered ministries, providing their talents and services. This led to the incorporation of the SOWER ministry, “Servants On Wheels Ever Ready,” on Aug. 10, 1984, as a nonprofit ministry governed by a board of trustees.
Where do volunteers with the SOWER ministry work and serve? All around the U.S. or in particular regions? There are 170 Christian ministries (called projects) we serve throughout the United States and four in Canada. Christian camps, conference centers, children and youth homes, Christian schools, mission training, and churches are a few of the types of ministries we serve.
Who can volunteer with the SOWER ministry? Are there certain requirements? In order to volunteer with SOWERs a married couple (man and woman), fills out an application for membership, which includes their personal salvation testimony, a letter of recommendation from their pastor, fingerprinting for FBI background check, and a phone interview.
If a full-time RVing family with children wanted to be part of SOWERS, would there be opportunities for the whole family to serve? Not at this time. This ministry is designed for couples only.
How much time must volunteers commit to serve? There is no requirement; one month or up to 12 months in a year, or none at all. Some SOWERs are full time. Projects usually start the first Monday of the month. They run three weeks at a time, four days a week, Monday through Thursday. Men work six hours a day and women three hours a day if they are able, although women are not required to work.
What type of work do SOWER volunteers usually do? Are there projects for all skill levels and health restrictions? There are many, many different types of work. For men, carpentry, auto repair, drywall, construction, painting, handyman, maintenance, electrical, plumbing, remodeling, even farm work in some cases. For women, kitchen help, baking, landscaping, office work, cleaning, sewing, painting, crafts, tutoring, etc. Each project is different. We are there to serve the ministry, in whatever need that may be.
Skill levels vary from professionals to self-taught handyman to those with simply a willing heart and hand who work under the direction of the group leader. When a couple apply for membership, they fill out a “skill sheet,” which has a place to list any physical limitations. Men especially need to be able to do the work required of them. Women are not required to work, so if there are restrictions for them, that is taken into consideration.
Where do SOWER team members live and park their camper during the projects? The SOWER projects provide full RV hookups (water, electric and sewer), usually right at the project, although a few are off site.
Can you share a highlight or special moment from the work SOWERs did this past year? There are many special moments at each project; each is unique. This didn’t happen last year, but a few years back we worked at America’s Keswick in New Jersey. It is an addiction and recovery program for men of all ages. It is also a Bible conference center. The highlight for us was going to a worship service with the men and hearing not only their testimonies of changed lives, but hearing them worship. It’s always rewarding to get a glimpse of what these ministries do that we are serving.
Thank you Ken and Nancy for sharing about the work SOWER volunteers are doing! If you are interested in finding out more about this ministry, please visit the SOWER website.