Monday, November 20, 2017

#KingdomConnection: International Leaders

Giving Tuesday 2017 is on November 28th, and we hope that you will partner with United Methodist Volunteers in Mission, Southeastern Jurisdiction to promote, encourage and enable people to exemplify "Christian Love in Action" through short-term mission service both at home and around the world! Please give generously by clicking here!

UMVIM's #KingdomConnection is purposed to connect the local church to on-going projects around the world. Projects are sustained by individuals who have answered the call to serve long-term internationally. One of these people is Brian Dubberly, the VIM Coordinator in El Salvador. Dubberly works with Salvadoran Mission Projects (SMP), a mission site that receives many UMVIM teams every year. Dubberly attests to the impact that UMVIM teams, and specifically their trained leadership, have on the work of the Methodist Church in El Salvador. Read below for more!





What work does your ministry do and how do UMVIM teams assist with that work?

Brian:  I serve as the VIM coordinator for the all of the Methodist churches in El Salvador. The programs that UMVIM teams help with are church construction, home building, medical and dental work, children's Bible school and a food bag/home visit ministry. These ministries are our focus, but we are open to other ideas as long as the team has a plan and it falls in lines with the church's goals and visions. We have had teams do targeted Bible studies for women and girls, Sewing classes, swimming lessons, and a variety of other forms of service. The Methodist church here also has a school with grades Kindergarten-6th grade and we plan on expanding a new grade each year.  In the last four years, enrollment has grown from 18 students the first year to just over 250 students this year.  Sometimes, UMVIM teams will help in English class or visit a short while to play with the children.

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

Brian: The big difference I notice with trained leaders is a sense of awareness that makes for productive mission work. Trained leaders seem to notice, without me mentioning it, when team members are struggling with group life, or when there needs to be a change in what the group is doing. That realize when it is appropriate to help or when it's best to just stand back and allow things to happen. There are almost always a lot of chiefs and very few Indians in groups that do not have a trained team leader.  Having a trained team leader typically leads to everyone having a better experience with less stress all around.

Share a brief story about the impact of volunteers!

Brian:  All UMVIM teams make some sort of impact on the people, communities and the church in which they are serving.  We try hard to have a ministry that is a give and take on both sides, thus cultivating open arms and not open hands.  While teams come here to work and serve in El Salvador it is also important that they stay open to the idea to being served. The people here are willing to give as well as being served.  We are all brothers and sisters of a loving God and one family in Christ, so it only makes sense that we work for a common goal. 

An example that comes to mind is a group that came a couple years ago to build a home for a family.  This was a family that had a small piece of property, but no resources to build. They had just recently been evicted from a family home.  The four of them were living in a shack made of bamboo and heavy black plastic.  When a team arrived to build this particular home, I think they were pleasantly surprised to find the family work right beside them, digging, sifting sand, and tying rebar.  In addition to literally being in the trenches with the group, the family would supply everyone with a mid-morning snack of fresh fruit and juice.  As is the custom, at around 2 in the afternoon the family would prepare coffee and sweet bread.  This was a way of not only creating a time of fellowship, it was a way in which the family could serve those who came so far to serve them.  While on the first day it may have been a little uncomfortable, by the end of the week everyone in the group was looking forward to being served by the family. For us that is mission, sharing the love of Christ through our deeds and actions. It's not just believing the gospel, it's living it out. Sometimes that means letting our guard down to allow the Master to wash our feet. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

#KingdomConnection: UMVIM Team Leaders

Giving Tuesday 2017 is on November 28th, and we hope that you will partner with United Methodist Volunteers in Mission, Southeastern Jurisdiction to promote, encourage and enable people to exemplify "Christian Love in Action" through short-term mission service both at home and around the world! Please give generously by clicking here!

One of UMVIM's most important functions is training individuals to lead mission teams of their own. This training is available for congregants and clergy alike! One person whose service has benefited from UMVIM Team Leader Training is Glenn Glover, a congregant at Auburn UMC in Auburn, AL! He has led multiple teams from his local congregation to Nicaragua.  Read below to check out how UMVIM has helped him find a #KingdomConnection to training and mission opportunity. Also, learn about his experiences with a student led team from the Auburn University Wesley Foundation!

1)  How has your team leader training impacted your mission work throughout the years?

Glenn: The Team Leader Training has made many positive impacts on my work and hopefully the mission experience of those on teams that I have led. Training provides many guidelines regarding logistics and how to develop a team to the point that their work is effective. The Training has encouraged me to be much more open minded and less ethnocentric, especially when I’m in the mission field. It reminds me that I am there to support the ministry with which I am serving. I am there to do what THEY need done and not what WE want to do. Too often, we go with an expectation of what we think constitutes a successful trip. I’ve learned from the UMVIM training to be open-minded and to support whatever those in the local community think is best. They have their reasons, and they know more than we do about what needs to be done. The UMVIM Team Leader training helps you recognize these truths.


2) What brought you to working with the Auburn Wesley Foundation’s Tanzania team?

Missioners From Auburn University's Wesley Foundation Teaching English
Glenn: David Goolsby (Auburn Wesley Foundation Director) has the philosophy that Wesley mission teams should be student led to build leadership skills and empower a new generation of missioners. These teams are theirs, not his. 

David was scheduled to go on the Tanzania trip, but had heart surgery one month before the trip.  Patricia Stevenson, Auburn Wesley’s Administrative Director, called me while David was on the operating table to ask if I could accompany the team as an experienced missioner.  I met with the team of students and immediately knew I would go with them if they would accept me!  Since it was their team, it was their decision if I joined the team.  I served as more of a guide, and not as a leader. I was there as support, giving suggestions and stepping in if significant situations arose. They were a GREAT team and had great leadership, though, that needed little help!

3) Where did you see God work through your team’s work?

Glenn: I saw God working daily through this team!  We worked in two communities in the country teaching how to build rocket stoves, bible school education, and laying block for a new church building, among other things. When we arrived in Tarime, we worked with a church whose building was essentially a pole shed made from salvaged materials. However, there was an influx of “street kids” who had left or been kicked out of their homes for various reasons and had come to Tarime, homeless, with no support, and little prospect for work.  Mwita, one of the leaders at the church, recognized a need and an opportunity as these young people began sleeping in the church building soon after it was built. The church started a ministry with these young people that focused on developing their faith, vocational skills, leadership, and other vital aspects of life.

When our team arrived, the students were asked to work with these young people by teaching them English! Thankfully we had brought several pages of Swahili-English word translation! The students did not hesitate. They developed a curriculum on the spot and jumped right in with 12-15 young men! During the English classes and other times, they got the chance to talk with these kids about their lives, their pasts, the opportunities ahead of them, and also had the chance to talk about faith! There were constant “God moments”, and this unexpected opportunity to serve and build relationships with kids in the area was one that we will always remember.


4)  From your perspective, what would you say the importance of global mission work is for the United Methodist Church?

Glenn: The physical aspects of global mission work are vital, whether it be medical, Bible school, disaster response, and all other important ministries. However, I think the most important ministry is the “ministry of presence.” I don’t know how many times I have been somewhere where people would come and hug you, shake your hand and simply say “Thank you for coming!” Missions truly is about making impacts that are both tangible and relational. Serving side by side with brothers and sisters across the world is important to both them and us. We laugh with them, cry with them, support them, and let each other know that we are important to each other and important to God. To me, the most important aspects of mission ministry in the UMC is support and love. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

#KingdomConnection: UMVIM Team Leaders

Giving Tuesday 2017 is on November 28th, and we hope that you will partner with United Methodist Volunteers in Mission, Southeastern Jurisdiction to promote, encourage and enable people to exemplify "Christian Love in Action" through short-term mission service both at home and around the world! Please give generously by clicking here!

One of UMVIM's most important functions is training individuals to lead mission teams of their own. This training is available for congregants and clergy alike! One person whose service has benefited from UMVIM Team Leader Training is Rev. Amanda Gordon of the Mississippi Annual Conference! Read below to check out how UMVIM has helped her find a #KingdomConnection to training and mission opportunity. 


How has your Team Leader training helped strengthen the mission work of your teams?

Sunday Worship in El Salvador


Amanda: Prior to Team Leader Training, I had not taken into consideration the imporantance of intentional spiritual preparation for the team.  It's easy for pre-trip meetings to focus on logistics of the trips and fundraising with a prayer likely being the only spiritual aspect of the meeting.  Since going through Team Leader Training, I have used the UMVIM resource, "Preparing for the Journey," and pre-trip meetings are about half logistics and half Bible Study.  I have had numerous team members share how important they feel these pre-trip meetings are for spiritual preparation and team building.  These times also allow for lots of conversation around focusing on building relationships while on the trip as opposed to "getting the job done" which is something that UMVIM stresses.  I think the mission work is strengthened because my teams have an idea of the bigger picture of why we are doing what we are doing.


How has the connection of the United Methodist church helped your efforts in mission?

Volunteers Outside a Methodist Church in El Salvador That They Helped Build
Amanda: For the last four years, I have had the privilege of leading a district-wide UMVIM trip to El Salvador to work with Salvadoran Misssion Projects (SMP), a ministry of the Evangelical Methodist Church of El Salvador.  When I was exploring possible mission trip opportunities for a district-wide trip, I contacted Paulette West who was Executive Director of UMVIM SEJ at the time.  She suggested a few places and shared some helpful information.  Without that initial connection, I may have never become familiar with SMP.  My teams and I also appreciate knowing that we are working with a ministry where the work is ongoing all year; we go and serve alongside the Evangelical Methodist Church in El Salvador for a week, but the clergy and laity who live there are working to grow disciples year round.  And, while we only serve for that week, we pray for them and they pray for us while we are apart; it's hard to put into words, but you really can "feel" a connection!  

Ultimately, I am thankful that when working with an UMVIM approved ministry, you are working with a ministry that is Methodist in doctrine and practice.  I addressed El Salvador above, but I have also led domestic and other international UMVIM trips.  As a United Methodist Pastor, it is very important to me that any mission trips taken by our church are under the umbrella of UMVIM.


Share a brief story about the impact of teams that you have led onto the mission field.

Mission Trip to North Dakota led by Rev. Gordon


Amanda: I have had the tremendous blessing of leading some people on their first international mission trip and some people on their first mission trip ever.  I have seen countless people's eyes opened to the fact that God and the church is bigger than they had originally realized; sometimes it takes getting away from home to see this.  To me the biggest impact has been seeing people go on a mission trip and then come home more aware of the ways they can serve locally.  In my local church, the folks who have gone on mission trips are now more involved in local missions and Bible Studies and service to the local church than they had been prior to the trip.  Their hearts also seem more open to reaching out and welcoming all people into the body of Christ. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

#KingdomConnection: Emerging Generation

Giving Tuesday 2017 is on November 28th, and we hope that you will partner with United Methodist Volunteers in Mission, Southeastern Jurisdiction to promote, encourage and enable people to exemplify "Christian Love in Action" through short-term mission service both at home and around the world! Please give generously by clicking here!

UMVIM's theme for this year's Giving Tuesday is #KingdomConnection. Through this, we will tell the stories of United Methodists who have been empowered to Live, Learn, and Love through connecting to mission opportunities throughout the Kingdom of God. 

UMVIM is passionate about connecting the emerging generation to a life of mission service! One young adult who has been enabled to serve through the UMC's #KingdomConnection is Allen Doyle, senior at Birmingham-Southern College and UMVIM, SEJ's 2017 Summer Intern. Through his internship, he went through UMVIM Team Leader Training and got the chance to serve with the North Carolina Annual Conference's Disaster Recovery program and Bahamas Methodist Habitat. Check out what he has to say about his experiences below! 

1) Tell us about the mission work that you partook in this summer.

Allen: The nature of my mission work this summer was centered around Environmental Hazards and the churches role in all phases of a disaster. UMCOR divides disaster response into 5 categories. Preparedness, Rescue, Relief, Recovery, Review. During my time in North Carolina we focused on the long term Recovery Phase of Hurricane Matthew in various communities (Princeville, Tarboro, Lumberton, Little Washington, and Fayetteville.) Most of this work involved case management and home repairs and reconstruction. In the Bahamas, my focus was entirely on the Review and Preparedness phases. I created Standard Operational Procedure for an Emergency Shelter, as well as a Disaster Response Manual for the organization.


2) How did you see the locals of Bahamas Methodist Habitat and North Carolina impacted by the work that your missions teams contributed to?


Allen: In North Carolina the impact of the volunteer work teams was immeasurable. The ability for a person to move back into their home after such a traumatic experience is so vital to their recovery process. It is also so empowering to see so much work being done in your neighborhood and community as you collectively work to create a new normal. Although there are major hesitations for a recovering community to allow large number of untrained volunteers, it creates a sense of support for persons during the loneliness created during loss. Similarly the work done in the Bahamas is so vital to the James Cistern community. The four greatest impacts to the community surrounding BMH is the jobs created for the staff, as well as the ability for Bahamian individuals to be involved with international communities. The work done by work teams is much needed in the community, and the impact that an international mission has on a person is life changing. 

3) Going off of your experience, how would you explain the value of United Methodist mission work to someone who had never been on a trip like this? How did UMVIM prepare you for your work?

Allen: Having any sort of experience in an international context is radical. It opens your mind in ways that no domestic experience. Any opportunity to go abroad is valuable and impactful. However going on a Pilgrimage to the Holy Places that exist in communities across the globe can change lives in ways that are radical in ways beyond comprehension. The connectional ministry that is the United Methodist Church and the Wesleyan Faith is broad and immense. Not only does it creates a sense of home for a traveler out of their context, it creates a commonality with persons as they attempt to work together for each other and for the kingdom of God. The Methodist church is not unique in its good works. The menagerie of faiths worldwide are all actively working for the common good. The thing that makes the Methodist Church stand out is the training, thoughtfulness, and nuance it approaches missions with. The UMVIM team leader training opened my eyes to the world of Missions and the unintended consequences that can occur on these trips. It also opened my eyes to the profound impact they can make in peoples lives. This training also allowed for me to understand the more business and leadership aspects of mission work to create and implement a meaningful trip that is a good use of money and time resources.  

Monday, November 6, 2017

#KingdomConnection: Emerging Generations

Giving Tuesday 2017 is on November 28th, and we hope that you will partner with United Methodist Volunteers in Mission, Southeastern Jurisdiction to promote, encourage and enable people to exemplify "Christian Love in Action" through short-term mission service both at home and around the world! Please give generously by clicking here!

UMVIM's theme for this year's Giving Tuesday is #KingdomConnection. Through this, we will tell the stories of United Methodists who have been empowered to Live, Learn, and Love through connecting to mission opportunities throughout the Kingdom of God. 

UMVIM is passionate about connecting the emerging generation to a life of mission service! One young adult who has found a #KingdomConnection to serve is Miles Hunt of St. Andrews UMC in Garner, North Carolina. With his church, he has had the chance to serve in Ahuachapan, El Salvador as part of a long-term commitment that the church has taken on. Miles is also familiar with the work of UMVIM, having worked with us on our youth and young adult initiatives in the past. 



Tell us about your local church's work in El Salvador.

Miles: For the past 13 years, Saint Andrew's UMC has had a missional partnership with the Iglesia Evangelica Metodista en El Salvador and the Salvadoran Mission Project. Our team has two ministry focuses; construction and sewing. The first focus is construction work. Within the construction project, our team works on local home building projects within the area of Ahuachapán. While the focus is often local home construction, our team has worked on various other building projects including schools and churches. The second focus is sewing. Our team started a sewing ministry several years ago. Several dedicated team members teach a one-week sewing intensive attended by Salvadorian citizens from various parts of the country. This course allows the students to learn sewing skills to benefit their family both through material productions as well as economically from the products made and sold at market.

How did you see the locals of El Salvador impacted by the work that your team contributed to?

Miles: The locals benefit from both the construction projects as well as the sewing course. With the construction projects, families gain a home they otherwise could not have obtained. Communities acquire much needed churches and schools where families can gather to worship and where children have a safe place to learn and grow their faith. The sewing course teaches a skill. The learning of this skill can provide both material and economic relief to the sewing students family. While these two missions provide benefits to the people of El Salvador, it is imperative to note, we the missionaries are also impacted and learn from the faith and dedication of the El Salvadorian people themselves. As missionaries, in addition to working to complete a specific task, we must always be vigilant to what people can teach us about our faith.


From your experience, how would you explain the value of United Methodist mission work to someone who had never been on a trip like this?

Miles:
We as Christians, and United Methodists, are obligated to serve others. Jesus even says "whatever is done to the least of these, you did for me.". As a United Methodist, one focus of our ministry as a global church is to engage in ministry with the poor. We are called, both as Christians, and United Methodists, to be in ministry to, and with, the marginalized, the least of these.   Having the opportunity to serve is a life changing experience. If you have the chance to do mission work, at home or abroad, short-term or long-term, take it. Your life will be changed. Mission work leads to several things of value: 1) it deepens your personal faith; 2) it builds relationships; 3) a difference is made.


Monday, October 30, 2017

"Thank You, my Jesus. Wherever I Am Now is Just For Your Grace."

Memphis Annual Conference 
Residence in Ministry Group: Tanzania 2017

Memphis Annual Conference Residence in Ministry Missioners With Their Friends in Tanzania


"Thank you, my Lord. Thank you, my Jesus. Wherever I am now is just for your grace."
(words sung by the youth choir during worship at Gamasara UMC)

Covenant life is central to the Residence in Ministry experience. Residents build trusting community as they journey together toward ordination, sharing retreat and learning experiences, and gathering frequently within their residency peer group. Often, groups will rotate peer group meeting locations to experience the wide variety of ministry contexts across our Annual Conference. What to do though, if one group member's Ministry setting is beyond the geographical bounds of the Conference?  Way beyond.

For the second-year residents (RIM2) of the Memphis Annual Conference, this reality became an opportunity to travel beyond our expectations, to trust God, to see God more clearly in one another, and to see God more clearly in new friends far away.

Rev. Eric Soard is a General Board of Global Missions missionary serving and living in Tanzania, Africa. When Eric was commissioned as a Deacon, he became part of a peer group with Rev. Janean Tinsley (Provisional Deacon), Rev. Amanda Crice (Provisional Elder), and Rev. Amanda Hartman Westmoreland (Provisional Elder). Group Leaders, Rev. Mary Beth Bernheisel and Rev. Eddie Bromley have worked creatively and intentionally to ensure Eric remains connected with his group - making good used of technology to do so. However, electronic connections have their limitations and the group celebrates each time they can meet fully in person. The idea of traveling to Tanzania began with some tentative, prayerful pondering. When Rev. Daphne Moses, UMVIM leader, caught the vision, the idea began to take shape. The bold and faithful support from our Board of Ordained Ministry moved us from idea to reality. The Board's abundant sharing of prayer and encouragement, and approval for MEF funds to help supplement the financial cost, made this journey possible. We are deeply grateful.



The relationships within this RIM group inspired the opportunity to build relationships stretching across our global Methodist connection. While in Tanzania we worshipped with students at Wesley College, with congregations in the urban city of Mwanza, with the growing faith community in Gamasara, and with congregations in the rural area of Tarime. In each setting, worship was rich and vibrant as the Word was proclaimed through music and preaching, and as we came to the Lord's Table together - sacred moments of community and Holy Communion.

God's Spirit was present in worship, and in the conversations that followed. What a gift to connect, really connect, with brothers and sisters - true family bound by our faith in Jesus and our shared Wesleyan heritage. What a gift also to have our conversation reveal just how much we hold in common - our joys and struggles in ministry remarkably the same.



We all give thanks for the opportunity to see God more clearly through God's people in Tanzania. As RIM group leader, Eddie Bromley reflected, "It was incredible to see the bonds of community deepened as the members of our RIM group participated in an international mission trip together.  The profound impact it had on these new pastors cannot be overstated.  I simply cannot think a better way to engage a group in the process of spiritual formation than to allow them such an immersive experience as we had in Africa."

Thanks be to God! Blessings!
Rev. Renee Dillard, Residence in Ministry Coordinator
Board of Ordained Ministry, Memphis Annual Conference







Hear From the Missioners!

Janean: "Before going to Tanzania, I had a preconceived idea of what it would be like - dirty, impoverished, needy. And yes, those adjectives can still be used. But what I found was so much more. It's a place full of people who are beautifully and wonderfully made by the same God who created me. We have much in common. And these commonalities far outweigh the differences. We each have very personal stories that need to be told. I met people of incredible faith and love for neighbor. The truth is, I fell in love with Jesus Christ all over again through every encounter with the Tanzanian people.... To see the connectionism with United Methodists on the other side of the world reinforces the importance of who we are as a church..... And to experience Eric's work will only deepen the covenant created in our RIM group. Now that we have experienced life in Eric's context, we can better understand how to support him in prayer, conversation, and accountability. Neema ne mungu."

Amanda H W: "During my time in Tanzania, I experienced God's grace through the relationships I made with the people we met in churches, schools, and homes. Though separated by a difference of language and life experiences from opposite sides of the world, we found common ground in dancing joyfully, singing praises to God, and having deep conversations about our faith and church. As a resident in ministry preparing for ordination, I am thankful for this international mission experience that opened my eyes to the fruitful and faithful potential for intentional partnerships with those living in developing nations across the globe."

Amanda C: "While in Tanzania we had the chance to meet other groups of pastors who were also understanding how to work together to cultivate kingdom work ... I believe pastors from both countries left our time together with a new depth of understanding of God's Kingdom and how we are each invited to participate in it.  We left better equipped to strengthen the connection of our United Methodist church locally and globally.  We understand more about healthy mission partnerships and disciple making.  And, I believe we see the fruit of a cooperative/team approach to ministry as opposed to ministry as "lone ranger" work.  I believe we will all be better for our time in Tanzania together.  I also believe an experience like this would grow and equip every pastor and I hope to see future RIM groups have similar opportunities."


Thursday, September 7, 2017

A Statement on Hurricane Irma from UMVIM, SEJ's Executive Director


While those in Texas and Louisiana are starting to plan for their recovery, Hurricane Irma barrels towards the Carribbean islands and the Southeast United States. Even if Irma does not make landfall, or weakens significantly before hitting the United States, it has already made a grave impact. Reports from the Barbuda government have indicated that it has destroyed or damaged 90% of the island’s infrastructure (link: http://abcnews.go.com/International/hurricane-irma-destroys-90-percent-structures-vehicles-barbuda/story?id=49665358 )

More than likely Irma will cause significant damage with whatever it comes in contact with. Currently it is one of the most powerful hurricanes in the Atlantic ever measured.
As soon as we hear of needs from areas affected by Hurricane Irma we will relay that information through the proper channels.

A couple of things to keep in mind for any disaster situation:

-Never self-deploy to an affected area without an invitation

-If you have questions about ERT training, please contact your local Annual Conference Disaster Response Coordinator ( http://umvim.org/go/disaster_response/disaster_response_coordinators.html )

-UMCOR ( http://www.umcor.org/ ) will be sure to promote any and all needs requested from areas affected

-The best way to help is to give through The Advance ( http://www.umcor.org/Search-for-Projects/Projects/901670 ). 100% of your funds go towards the project that you designate.

Thank You,
Matt Lacey
Executive Director
United Methodist Volunteers in Mission
Southeastern Jurisdiction