Friday, February 10, 2017

UMVIM, SEJ Announces New Executive Director

United Methodist Volunteers in Mission, Southeastern Jurisdiction (UMVIM, SEJ) is pleased to announce that Rev. Matt Lacey has been named Executive Director. As a member of the UMVIM, SEJ Board of Directors and previous employee, Matt comes with a comprehensive knowledge of the ministry. He also has vast experience training and leading UMVIM teams.

An ordained elder in the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church, Matt is currently serving as the Senior Pastor at Church of the Reconciler UMC in Birmingham, AL and as North Alabama Conference Director of Missions and Advocacy. He also served as the Senior Pastor at Woodlawn UMC in Birmingham, AL from 2009 until 2012.

Matt was the Minister in Residence at UMVIM, SEJ from 2005-2009. During that time, he was responsible for team leader/missioner training, revising the Team Leader Handbook, working with supporting churches, developing UMVIM social media presence and updating project lists. He has been a member of the UMVIM, SEJ Board of Directors since 2009 and currently serves as the Communication Team Chair.

Other connectional involvement includes serving as the elected Representative of the Southeast Jurisdiction Conference Secretary of Global Ministries as a member of Global Ministries Advance Committee and as a delegate to the 2011 World Methodist Council, in Durbin, South Africa.
A graduate of Birmingham Southern College with a Bachelor in Religion, Matt’s call to ministry led him to pursue a Master of Divinity at Candler School of Theology at Emory University where he met his wife, Rev. Katie Gilbert. Katie, an ordained Cooperative Baptist Fellowship clergy, is on staff at Birmingham FUMC. Matt and Katie have one daughter, Harper.

The UMVIM, SEJ staff and Board of Directors is excited to welcome Matt to the position of Executive Director which he will begin early June 2017 following North Alabama’s Annual Conference Meetings, June 4-6.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Prayer Requests for Haiti

From Una Jones / Mission Volunteer Office

We, the UMVIM community, are sadden by the sudden death of Lauren James, UMCOR Field staff, in Haiti. Our prayers go out to Lauren’s family and then the many friends and colleague who had the opportunity to work with Lauren either in Haiti or on prior Mission Journeys. Here is an additional statement from the General Secretary of Global Ministries/UMCOR, Thomas Kemper. From UMCOR/Facebook https://www.facebook.com/UMCOR:

It is with deep sorrow that we ask for prayers and condolences for the family of Lauren James, UMCOR church liaison, Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Lauren died suddenly from a heart attack January 11. Lauren became part of UMCOR's staff in Haiti in 2010, responsible for supervising and coordinating integrated and sustainable development activities in Eglise Methodiste d’Haiti (EMH) communities across Haiti. We are grateful for her years of service to the people of Haiti and to UMCOR. May the peace of Christ surround Lauren's family and friends during this time of mourning and grief.

Furthermore, we are grateful and thankful to Tom Vencuss, his wife Wendy, whose supporting the EMH Guest House and Brulan Jean-Michel with the hosting of UMVIM teams. What a blessing to have these leaders around with Lauren’s death and we prayer for them too. And besides grieving they also faced some challenges last week which we would like the UMVIM community to be aware of.  Here is an extract from Tom and Brulan:

This past week has been a difficult one for the UMVIM and UMCOR communities. Last week, the Methodist Guest House in Jeremie was attacked by a large group protesting the arrest and extradition of Guy Philippe, a Haitian senator and former rebel leader, by the DEA on drug trafficking charges. They were targeting Americans. However, by the Grace of God, everything worked out well at the end.

We keep Lauren's family, and the entire UMCOR-UMVIM community in our prayers. 

Finally, an additional logistical Update will follow next week for UMVIM teams but in the interim as Tom gets ready to depart from Haiti this week-end Mike Willis will arrive in Haiti on January 24, and would further support GH/Brulan. We know mission is challenging but I am grateful to all leadership and the support of the UMVIM Jurisdiction offices to communicate how important UMVIM’s role is not only for our local churches but our partners around the world. Please remember and live by our motto:  UMVIM - Christian Love in Action.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

{#GivingTuesday 2016} The Local Church

November 29: #GivingTuesday 2016 is here! The UMVIM, SEJ Staff and Board have come together and pledged $12,000 that will be matched, dollar for dollar, for every generous donation that is given today. We believe our mission is big, and we also believe that we can't send trained, equipped volunteers into the field to show Christian Love in Action without the support of our community. 
This year, learn more from those who have personally experienced the impact of all UMVIM has to offer. Hollis Crowder, Team Leader and Mississippi Conference UMVIM Coordinator, shares about UMVIM and the ways his team served in Zimbabwe. 


How do volunteers help you carry out God’s mission in Zimbabwe?

As team leader, God has connected me with the volunteers who served the people in Zimbabwe through dentistry, medical care, construction, Bible School, water well drilling, clothing for orphans, and the gospel of Christ. I often say that I am the appointed team leader for God's mission trip but really HE is.  From five different states, the volunteers on the team to Zimbabwe provided the services and worked alongside our country partners, who are a vital part of our team ministry. Advance travel to Zimbabwe was made to assess the needs of the hospital and surrounding communities. The team members brought the needed identified resources for this and future trips.  Additionally, individuals and various church small groups prayed daily for the team and the ministry with which they were engaged. With a relationship established with our Zimbabwe partners by the team leader and all the other support behind us, the team went to serve with confidence in me as the team leader and trust in God to do the work that only they could do. It takes a team to minister to a village and they did.

What differences do you see in teams whose leaders have been trained by UMVIM, SEJ?

Team leader training provides valuable information to prepare team leaders about how to, whom to and where to go to. It included needed documents that help the team get insurance and valuable travel tips. Most of the training helps the team leader prepare team members for a mission trip with standard operating procedures and practices that are applicable on most missions. The training handbook has helpful checklist of things to remember as well as “do's and don’ts.” The training is an opportunity to connect with other persons in missions and to learn from some of their practical experiences but mainly to keep God first in all we do. Valuable resources are shared to help support missions. As a Vietnam veteran, I refer sometimes to our team headquarters as UMVIM, SEJ, the Mississippi Conference and our local church. All of these supports made the team’s mission to Zimbabwe possible.

Share a brief story about the impact of volunteers

Serving God through missions can be fun and a special bond develops with the team members. Our well team was a little nervous about finding water and hoping that we would have enough money to cover the cost if we had to drill very deep. A pre-drilling report estimated a 69% chance of finding water at the hospital. Water surfaced at a far less depth than expected, and the existing water tank was usable which left enough money to drill a second water well for the orphanage. We had set a small goal; but God multiplied what we asked making us realize how much greater God’s plan is. Each team member wrote reflections about the mission in Zimbabwe. Dr. Valda Crowder shared in her reflection, “I felt with the structure of Methodist missions, there was a foundation to build upon that allowed us to go in and create lasting change.”


#GivingTuesday 2016 - today donations will be matched, dollar for dollar, up to $12,000. Please give generously to Advance #901875.

Monday, November 28, 2016

{#GivingTuesday 2016} The Local Church

This year, the UMVIM, SEJ Staff and Board have come together and pledged $12,000 that will be matched, dollar for dollar, for every generous donation that is given on November 29: #GivingTuesday 2016. We believe our mission is big, and we also believe that we can't send trained, equipped volunteers into the field to show Christian Love in Action without the support of our community. 
This year, learn more from those who have personally experienced the impact of all UMVIM has to offer. Rachel Estes, Canterbury UMC Director of Mission and Outreach, was asked to share what UMVIM means to her.


How do volunteers help you carry out God’s mission?

Taking teams to Panamá is one of the blessings of my job. Starting with taking care of logistics and details so that families can focus on each other and this journey ahead, a mission week is time to explore a brand new path together in faith as a family. What a gift! As a team leader, I am able to witness children teaching parents, Panamanians teaching Alabamians, young asking old, stranger helping stranger…and that is why I came into this work…to see boundaries blur and lines erased.

What differences do you see in teams whose leaders have been trained by UMVIM, SEJ?

The team leader training is critical for the success of a team.  Making sure that a team knows that they are traveling TOGETHER…that we are there to step gently on holy ground…that we are there to serve an institution, the Methodist Church, which was there so long before us and will continue to be there long after us. Team training reiterates the need for preparation before, reflection during and connection afterwards…that the time spent on those three can’t be too much or too long…it can only strengthen God’s work in front of all of us.

Share a brief story about the impact of volunteers.

Three Impacts of an UMVIM team: On the community where the teams serve I have seen houses built, food disseminated, immunizations given and prayers shared. The impact on the team member I see shoulders come down in rest, I see connections between scripture read and hands on ministry, and I see a shift in understanding the world from perspectives dramatically different from their own. The impact on me by an UMVIM team Every single team I’ve travelled with has shown me the strength of community, of letting go of judgement, of watching a team connect with each other and others and feel empowered. The impact of a team on me is watching each person’s gifts blossom into near fullness as they become immersed in faith and heart work.


On November 29: #GivingTuesday 2016, donations will be matched, dollar for dollar, up to $12,000. Please give generously to Advance #901875.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

{#GivingTuesday 2016} UMVIM, SEJ Board Member

This year, the UMVIM, SEJ Staff and Board has come together and pledged $12,000 of funds that will be matched, dollar for dollar, for every generous donation that is given on November 29: #GivingTuesday 2016. We believe our mission is big, and we also believe that we can't send trained, equipped volunteers into the field to show Christian Love in Action without the support of our community. 
This year, learn more from those who have personally experienced the impact of all UMVIM has to offer. Jane Dunn, UMVIM, SEJ Board of Directors Medical Chair was asked to share what UMVIM means to her. 


What challenges do volunteers have serving in Panama?

Coming from a culture with material wealth and many education opportunities, it is often a challenge for UMVIM Volunteers to listen and learn from those living in poor societies.  One such place exists in the jungle society of the primitive Ngabe people of Panama.

What differences do you see in teams whose leaders have been trained by UMVIM, SEJ?

As a trained UMVIM Team Leader that had been taught about cultural diversity and collaboration and returning to Panama for several consecutive years to partner with the Ngabe people, my first inclination was to decide on OUR plan for them and only provide short-term clinic services.  We soon learned through the input of our missionary host, Rev. Rhett Thompson, and local leaders that a partnership where Ngabe goals and needs were identified worked best. 

Share a brief story about the impact of volunteers

A three-part health promoter curriculum was developed to address issues of sanitation, disease transmission and maternal/sexual health.  Students volunteered or were selected by their communities to pariticipate.  Most of the students had marginal reading skills from either zero to up to 3rd grade level.  None had successfully completed a formal education program until they “graduated” from this 3 week course.

Through the formation of friendships and collaboration, over 22 Ngabe students have completed the course, of which over half continue to serve in their communities.  One trained health promoter who was explaining the program to visitors said, “Most people in our country just think we are dirty and ignorant, but…you (UMVIM Team) believed in us!”   What a blessing for our UMVIM group to be partners in a successful program that has blossomed under the direction of our Panama brothers and sisters.  God is Good…. All the Time!

On November 29: #GivingTuesday 2016, donations will be matched, dollar for dollar, up to $12,000. Please give generously to Advance #901875.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

{#GivingTuesday 2016} UMVIM, SEJ Board Member

Since The Advance will not be offering any matching funds for Giving Tuesday this year, the UMVIM, SEJ Staff and Board has come together and pledged $12,000 to be used as matching fund. So, on November 29: #GivingTuesday 2016, donations will be matched, dollar for dollar, up to $12,000. We believe our mission is big, and we also believe that we can't send trained, equipped volunteers into the field to show Christian Love in Action without the support of our community. 
This year, learn more from those who have personally experienced the impact of all UMVIM has to offer. Rev. Matt Lacey, UMVIM, SEJ Board Communication Committee Chair and North Alabama Conference UMVIM Coordinator, shares about what UMVIM means to him. 

How do volunteers help you carry out God’s mission?

My first mission experience was, and is, a fundamental experience in my faith journey. I saw new things, and asked many new questions about myself, the world, and God. One of the blessings of helping coordinate mission teams is to see that faith transformation in volunteers that you have helped train and connect them to the mission field.

What differences do you see in teams whose leaders have been trained by UMVIM, SEJ?

The team leader training is an important part of that--it helps cultivate that spiritual growth in each team leader, and then to the whole team as they prepare, serve, and process their work in helping to build God's kingdom.

Share a brief story about the impact of volunteers.

The impact that UMVIM teams make is incredible. Not just the physical work, but the time spent entertaining kids on the job site, or the connections and friendships that are made which last for years and years. When I first started training team leaders, I helped a team coordinate a trip to Haiti for a congregation who hadn't been engaged in the mission field in a while. Since that initial trip at least one team each year goes--sometimes two--to strengthen that partnership and to be a part of the body of Christ. It's an incredibly moving thing to see how God works.

On November 29: #GivingTuesday 2016, donations will be matched, dollar for dollar, up to $12,000. Please give generously to Advance #901875.

L’Eglise Methodiste d’Haiti (EMH /Methodist Church in Haiti) Plans for the Future of UMVIM Teams

Hurricane Mathew caused much devastation in Haiti on October 4th, 2017. UMCOR’s quick response provided emergency supplies and other assistance. See the links for UMCOR articles: UMCOR Quick Response and Going the Extra Mile

Also, given UMVIM’s tremendous history with EMH there have been several requests to send teams to support their partners and friends in the recovery area. However, from the 2010 earthquake experience we realized the best way to approach team involvement would be to allow EMH and UMCOR to do their assessments first. So, with that in mind UMCOR and the Mission Volunteer (MV) office encourages all interested teams to be patient and hold off from going, just yet.               

On October 17th, 2017, we had a conference call with several folks and out of that discussion we launched a strategic process. Mike Willis (first consultant from the Haiti Response Plan (HRP) of 2010 Earthquake) went to Haiti to explore EMH’s plans and assessment especially for UMVIM teams. The MV office continued to have several conversations with Haiti Partners and they too explored their own research and sent folks into Haiti.

Mike returned with some valuable information and now, Tom Vencuss (second consultant from the HRP) is in Haiti now addressing the second phase. Mike and Tom had discussions with Bishop Paul, the Guest House Manager Brulan Jean-Michel, and other EMH leaders. And, the conversations are continuing as there is much to organize so teams can have the most productive experience, and be as effective as possible, in Haiti. It’s been confirmed that EMH sees this great opportunity to rebuild the partnership with the wider UMVIM community.

We understand some have been frustrated with waiting but “all things work together for the good…” Romans 8:28

Here are the results and some recommendations are still being negotiated:
  • We encourage UMVIM Teams to start their planning as EMH will be ready to receive teams starting in January 2017.   
  • Each Team leader must have been to Haiti before; please know this would be extremely helpful because knowing and understanding the context is vital.
  • Each Team should be encouraged to be smaller, e.g. 5 to 8 in total, giving EMH the capacity to possibly host 3 to 4 teams at a time, for now. Please note, this will expand down the road.
  • Teams are strongly recommended to have 50% of the team members with some experience of Haiti.  
  • Funding recommendation to EMH and UMVIM Teams:  

1.     Each Team raises $2500 for Project Funds and this amount is subject to EMH’s 5% Admin fee.
2.     Second suggested recommendation: Each team cultivates an additional $2500 from interested donors to match their initial $2500 and amount is not subject to Admin fees.  
3.     These collective funds for Projects could also support the 2:1 ratio (ration e.g. a team of 5 results in recruiting 10 Haitians) developing ownership by the Haitian and the team working “WITH” them and not “FOR” them.    
4.     Teams will be engaged with EMH Projects and local communities.   

The MV office in collaboration with the UMVIM Jurisdiction offices are going to be, for now, the key communication network for the wider UMVIM community. We are pledging to support the initial process until EMH can take over the full communication.   

Please note, moving forward we are committed to support EMH. Therefore, Tom Vencuss agreed to return to Haiti sometime in January 2017 to support Brulan with the management of teams. Then too, Mike will follow up sometime the end of January and early into February2017. In the meantime, the MV office is soliciting names of individuals or couples interested in being MV in Haiti for approximately 2 to 3 months at a time. Please forward potential names and emails to the MV office; email:  mv@umcmission.org  

If you have any further questions which I am sure you will have, redirect your request to the UMVIM Jurisdiction offices and jointly we can address your questions. The second Update is scheduled for December 1, 2016.  

Mission Volunteers Director, Una Jones