Friday, July 18, 2014

{Mission Highlight} Holston United Methodist Conference

"God envisions bold, passionate, and joyful communities of faith where the spiritual hunger to worship God and to serve Christ sets disciples on fire with Spirit-filled, risk-taking love for all God's children until Holston Conference reflects the saving grace and redeeming justice of our Lord Jesus Christ." -Holston Vision Statement 

Spanning from a tiny section of North Georgia, all the way up Eastern Tennessee, and reaching into the south of Virginia, you will find the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church. Currently under the direction of Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor, Holston is home to four mission organizations on the UMVIM, SEJ Project List. Read on to learn more about what they are doing to be a light of hope and love in this region of our country and how you can be part of the good work yourself. 


Appalachian Service Project
This beloved mission institution reaches across 5 states, and has been the destination of both faith and secular groups since 1969. It was then United Methodist preacher Glenn "Tex" Evans realized he could utilize the energy and spirit of young people to meet desperate needs in poverty-stricken Appalachia. Their goal is to eliminate the region's inadequate housing while ultimately enriching the lives of both those they serve, and those who serve. They can accommodate volunteer group of up to 65 at a time and have workcamp opportunities all year long.

Project Crossroads 
Project Crossroads provides a Christian presence in the region around Marion, Virginia.They strive to cover a wide variety of needs, such as providing firewood for warmth during brutally cold winters, educating locals to grow their own food in sustainable gardens, and they even build new homes for those who need it most. Needs are as simple as splitting firewood or donating seeds, but to learn how you could be of more service, please contact their office directly. 

Jubilee Project 
Jubilee's powerful mission statement declares "In the name of Jesus Christ, helping the people of our region meet their spiritual, economic, social and physical needs." Indeed, true mission service cannot service just one type of need. To holistically care for a person involves addressing all of these, which is what makes Jubilee Mission such a wonderful place to volunteer. Teams can expect to do construction, home repair or other types of community service, and they can accommodate teams of virtually any size for however long they are able to serve.

Bethlehem Center 

Located in Chattanooga, "The Beth," as it is commonly called, seeks to empower and educate local youth who are at a high risk of dropping out of school and becoming involved in substance abuse, crime and sexual activity. They also encourage parents to spend a greater amount of quality time with their children in hopes of fostering stronger families and thus, tighter, safer communities. As with many mission opportunities, there is a need for volunteers who are able to perform repairs, but The Beth also needs people who can engage in academic activities, such as classroom, computer lab and recreational assistance.

All of these wonderful mission organizations depend on the cheerful and willing service of volunteers like you. So why not pull a team together a spend a few days showing Christian love in action? UMVIM, SEJ is here to serve you by offering resources such as Team Leading Training, developed over the last 3 decades of our organization's work in the short-term mission field. Let us empower you to make the most of your service opportunity for you, your team and those you are serving. We also offer incredible team health insurance coverage for a nominal price. Check out our website for more info on how to get started, or call our office and talk to anyone on our staff to learn more. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Have You Met Laura?

If you haven't, you're missing out. Meet Laura Kigweba: 

After establishing her spiritual roots in the youth ministry at Collierville UMC in the Memphis Conference, Laura moved across the state to attend college at UT-Chattanooga. Knowing completely that her calling was to missions, she then set out for Washington, DC, where she is now working towards her Masters of Divinity at Wesley Theological Seminary.

We are so happy to have Laura Kigweba with us for UMVIM SEJ’s Summer Internship Program. Our program encompasses both domestic and international placements, as well as time here in our office. Her domestic placement has her serving with Rev. R.G. Lyons at the 
Community Church Without Walls, part of Urban Ministry, a mission institution of the North Alabama Conference. She was an incredibly important part of the puzzle during our recent Young People in Mission event, where she has served in years past as a member of the Design Team and recently as a young adult representative.

As we speak, Laura is representing the Southeastern Jurisdiction at the General Board of Discipleship’s Global Young People’s Convocation and Legislative Assembly in the Philippines. As you probably know, a strong typhoon hit the country just as the delegates were arriving. We are so happy to report that everyone is accounted for, safe, and they have moved to new location so that they can continue the important work they have before them. (Check out 
GBOD’s update to learn more about the Convocation and to watch a short video about their experience with Typhoon Rammasun.)

When Laura finishes her summer of service, we will be telling you more about what she experienced this year while in the South and in Asia, so please be on the lookout for a follow-up 
blog post. In the meantime, we would like to ask you to pray for Laura as she works towards completing her internship and her time in seminary. We know the Lord has incredible plans for this bright young woman, and we here at UMVIM, SEJ are honored to be a part of them.

If YOU have a heart for missions and could see yourself as a candidate for our Summer Internship Program, please visit our
Internship Page and take a moment to download the application to learn a little more about the requirements. If you have any questions or would like to speak to us about this opportunity, please contact Executive Director Paulette West.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Travel Health Warnings

Please be advised of some health warnings we have been made aware of recently. Regardless of destination, we highly encourage teams and individuals traveling for mission purposes to take advantage of our health insurance coverage. More information can be found on our Insurance FAQ page. It is also important to check with your in-country project leader, the Center for Disease Control and/or the US State Department for vaccination requirements or any other warning before you travel.

AfricaTeams are suspended for the foreseeable future to Sierra Leone due to an outbreak of Ebola, and the countries of Liberia and Guinea are also affected. 

AUGUST 4, 2014 UPDATE: CDC urges all US residents to avoid nonessential travel to Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia because of an unprecedented outbreak of Ebola. Please read these articles for more information: Ebola in Sierra LeoneOutbreak of Ebola in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone

Central America/South American/Caribbean
If traveling to the Caribbean, El Salvador, Guyana, French Guyana or Suriname, please be aware that cases of Chikungunya and Dengue, two mosquito-born illnesses, have been reported in the United States.  Please click HERE to visit the UMVIM, SEJ website, where you can download a release from the Texas State Department of Health. Here you will find more information regarding these illnesses, including symptoms and precautionary measures. 

UMVIM, SEJ keeps a running list of resources as you and your team prepare to travel. Please check with our Travel page frequently for the last information. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Volunteer Training: It Matters to Disaster Survivors

A survivor of the catastrophic 2010 earthquake in Haiti was visiting the Dominican Republic. He was greeted by some young missionaries and accompanied by a friend, Rev. Michael Dunbar, pastor at New Covenant United Methodist Church in Douglasville, Georgia.

"The missionaries were putting together bags of beans and rice to donate to the Haitian earthquake survivors," recalled Dunbar. As a devotion, they began discussing a verse from Matthew 25:40: "The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'"

This particular verse has a timeless message that has moved many people over thousands of years. But for the Haitian man, having recently experienced the trauma of a disaster, the verse became a source of personal stress.
The man sharply questioned the group: "Who are you to call my people 'the least?'"

The missionaries certainly did not intend for their devotion to cause offense. And, in the end, the group prayed together in a spirit of love and friendship.

But the moment illustrated an important message for Rev. Dunbar, who has volunteered at disaster sites many times. "We enter into that post-disaster arena thinking that these people are 'the least.' They are not. Ultimately, we are not going to simply fix a house. We're going to walk alongside a person."

Learning to Walk Again
Walking alongside a disaster survivor is not one-hundred percent intuitive. It takes training. It takes learning from the experience of other volunteers and from the honest feedback of disaster survivors themselves.

United Methodist Volunteers In Mission (UMVIM), through trainings offered via Disaster Academies and other outlets, has helped thousands of volunteers learn how to respond safely and with sensitivity. A crucial aspect of UMVIM's training philosophy is to train long-term recovery volunteer leaders who can then train others. After a large disaster strikes and swift action is necessary, UMVIM assists by deploying trained early response teams into the affected area as quickly as possible.

How Can YOU Help?

First, connect with a training opportunity. The Southeastern Jurisdiction is especially vulnerable to hurricanes and tornadoes. Get trained now, before a storm strikes. Please visit our Disaster Response page for more information, or reach out to your Conference UMVIM Coordinator

Second, please donate to help support training that makes a world of difference to disaster survivors everywhere. With your help, we can all learn to walk beside each other with hope and love. Please prayerfully consider a donation to Advance #901875, or by mailing a check to:UMVIM SEJ, 100 Centerview Drive, Suite210, Birmingham, AL 35216. 

As always, your gift and faithfulness to build God's Kingdom is greatly appreciated by countless people.

Thank you for your generosity and continued prayers.

Grace and peace,

Paulette S. West
Executive Director