Volunteers think they come to Magdala to have an interesting and enriching life experience in the Holy Land, but their real purpose and involvement consists of leaving their footprints at Magdala. There is something special about Magdala that makes people want to leave behind their family and friends, work, studies, and many other comforts to donate their time and talents to Magdala. This year, Magdala volunteers left their mark countless times –too many to list here!
Over the course of 2015, the volunteer program took on a new focus, allowing for more specific attention to visitors. Nearly all of the volunteers were trained to give tours of the archaeology and brand-new spiritual center. The Visitor’s Center expanded with a more formal gift shop and a small coffee shop, both of which volunteers tend to daily. Each day the goal is to leave a footprint on the heart of each visitor by giving them a big, warm smile and welcome as they arrive. Many visitors enter as tourists and leave as friends thanks to the dedication of the volunteers. Leaving footprints by making a visit to Magdala enjoyable is an invisible result of hard work.
There have also been many visible results of the volunteer’s efforts. The archaeological park is completely set up for use and under constant maintenance by volunteers. This year they worked tirelessly to varnish wood beams, weed the gardens, and hand-pick olives fallen from the olive trees. Their daily contributions result in a beautiful site ready to be appreciated by visitors.
The volunteer house and lunch area have also received hours of TLC by volunteers, making them more enjoyable places to live, work, rest, and fellowship. Volunteers have done numerous maintenance projects including installing windows to condition for winter, painting, constructing a grill, restoring a foosball table, and renovating the terrace at the volunteer house. The volunteers involved in these projects leave a long-lasting mark, preparing the house and Magdala for the use of many volunteers in the future.
The most profound footprints continue to be those that volunteers leave on each other’s lives, as a result of living and working as a team to achieve the transcendental goal of serving others. While it is not always easy to live and work in such close proximity with others, the memory that remains with the volunteers is one of joy in knowing that they have friends from all over the world. At the end of each volunteer’s commitment, everyone shares how and why their life has been touched by that volunteer. In these touching moments, it is clear that the friendships forged as volunteers are ones that last a lifetime. Inevitably, each volunteer leaves with life-long footprints on their heart, and leaves their footprints on others. In the end, a volunteer´s journey of friendship, service and spiritual growth marks them for life and they leave the project not only as lifetime ambassadors of Magdala but of the Holy Land.