Saturday, March 28, 2015

Don't Try to Change Lives

By Gabe Barrett, Executive Director of M25 Mission Camps

When I was living in Los Angeles, there was a moment when my entire perspective on missions changed. I was working in a homeless shelter, and I had been to Skid Row which is basically the mecca of homelessness in our country. I had met people in heartbreaking situations. I had smelled the rundown hotels and sidewalks where they slept. I had seen people passed out in the gutter. I had heard story after gut wrenching story of pain and loss and brokenness.

And I've got to be honest, the weight of those burdens was killing me.

A friend took me up to a high hill close to his house, and we looked out over the city. I could see the Hollywood sign. I could see the ocean and the beaches. I could see the airplanes as they circled the area and came in to land. I could see Santa Monica to Inglewood to Compton to Long Beach to everything in between. And I thought about how many millions and millions of people were in just the area I could see.

I wondered how many of them were struggling with some terrible situation. I wondered how many of them were hurting. I wondered how many of them were broken. I wondered how many of them were in desperate need of Jesus. And then I wondered how someone like me could ever hope to make an impact. Even if I spent the rest of my life devoted to the city, how many people would I ever be able to talk to? How many lives could I change compared to how many were in dire need?

I remember feeling very. very. small.

But then it happened. As I looked out over the city of Angels, a quiet voice sounded in the back of my head. 

"Just change a day," it said. "I'll change lives. You just change someone's day."

My burden was immediately lifted. It wasn't up to me to change someone's life. 

That's God's business. 

He was calling me to change a person's day. To make them laugh. To encourage them. To inspire them. And to do everything in my power to help make today better than the yesterday. God would take care of the rest. And it occurred to me that if enough people changed enough days, some absolutely amazing things would happen.

So, when M25 Mission Camp was founded and I was made the director, we started on a journey to change as many days as possible in the city of Atlanta. Whether we’re at a shelter, soup kitchen, or under a bridge, we just try to make somebody’s day a little better.

A while back, I was with a group of high school students downtown. We were making pancakes and inviting all of our residentially challenged friends in to join us for brunch. 

A tall, older man named Clark came in, and two of the students found out it was his birthday. So they ran into the kitchen, made a big stack of pancakes, and scrounged around for some birthday candles. The students lit the candles and brought the pancakes out to Clark. There were about seventy people in the room, and everyone stopped and sang "happy birthday."

Tears streamed down Clark's face. He blew out the candles and everyone clapped. 

A while later, when Clark got up to leave, I stopped him at the door and asked him how old he was that day. He said 60. 

Then I asked, "When's the last time someone sang you happy birthday?” 

He thought for a little bit and said, "I think I was 15 the last time someone did that for me."

45 years.

It had been 45 years since someone had said, "Clark, it's your day. And since it's your day, we're gonna light some candles and sing you happy birthday."

45 years.

Did those birthday pancakes change Clark's life? Probably not. Did they change Clark's day?


And it all started with two high school students seeing an opportunity to love someone. That’s what M25 Mission Camp is all about.

M25 is a mission-based camp program for youth and young adults based in Atlanta, GA. At the core of M25 is realizing that service is not about pity or obligation. It’s about compassion, love, and pursuing Jesus. Check out their website for more information on camps, as well as short-term staff opportunities

Photos courtesy of M25.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Individual Volunteer Opportunities

One of the practical ways of engaging in mission is through a short-term mission experience. If you would like to serve for a longer period, the Individual Volunteer Program sponsored by Global Ministries can help you accomplish that. The program offers opportunities for individuals and couples to serve in mission from two months to two years in a variety of placements around the world.

One placement site that is in need of a volunteer is Open Doors, Inc., a Church World Service agency that provides support for incoming refugees who were forced to leave their home countries. It is located in Sacramento, California.

Another placement site is Colegio Metodista Piracicabano in Brazil. They are seeking an English teacher for primary and secondary schools. The volunteer will assist in teaching, as well as promote and design cultural workshops. 

If you perhaps called to the Middle East, there is an urgent need at the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church in Mafraq, Jordan for volunteer school teachers. The students are children of Syrian refugees.

To learn more about these volunteer opportunities and many more, or to apply, please visit The next training will be held May 13-16, 2015 in Nashville, TN. Please contact Malcom Frazier at or call 212-870-3659.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

{Mission Highlight} Rhett Thompson in Panama + the Importance of UMVIM Teams

Panama is the little Latin American country that connects North America to South America. You could just about stand in the middle with your arms reached out and touch both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Famous for its canal, sure, but ask anyone connected to United Methodist missions, and they will immediately think of Rev. Rhett Thompson

Rhett has been serving in Panama since 1985 as a General Board of Global Ministries missionary, and we’d love to tell you a little more about some of the incredible projects he has implemented alongside his UMVIM partners.  

Public Health Training
One of Rhett’s goals in Panama was to establish a community-based health program, but he was having a slow go of it. Two nurses from the North Central Jurisdiction answered the call to collaborate, and the three of them designed and implemented a public health curriculum that they then taught to the locals. Given the literacy limitations of those with whom they were working, they used methods such as storytelling, games, and demonstrations rather than setting a textbook in front of their students. 

More than 2 dozen indigenous Ngabe have been trained through this program, where they have learned key public health practices such as first aid, sanitation and disease prevention, and sexual and reproductive health. More than half of their graduates remain active in their communities, teaching these relatively simple but essential skills to those around them.

Bridge to Dental Health
Rhett grew up at Canterbury UMC in Birmingham, Alabama, and his stateside congregation really rallied around him and his efforts to promote dental health to the Ngabe people. Church member Dr. Kevin Alexander recalls the first time they were in the remote village of Cienaguita in 1999, saying “the kids had to swim across the river to get to us. The dental office was the porch of a 3 room house and the dental chair was an old Adirondack-type chair with flashlights held to see. We had to purify our water, or bring it ourselves.” 
Nearly 16 years later, with the support of his UMVIM teams, there is a full-fledged dental clinic with modern day equipment, rather than a porch with flashlights. There is a even a bridge in place now, so no one has to swim across the water to maintain their dental health.

A Place to Call Home

For two solid decades, Trinity UMC in Homewood, AL has been in a covenant relationship with Rhett. In 2013, they worked with him to come up with a very specific and detailed plan for 6 houses to be built over the next 3 years. But rather than parachute in with hammers and nails, Trinity’s intentionality to work long-term with Rhett, the local Ngabe community, and the Panamanian government is why this initiative has been such a success. 

All of these initiatives embody a healthy mission model: short-term teams partner with a long-term missionary who understands the locals and their needs, they empower and educate while keeping native traditions in-tact, and all parties work with the government to achieve their goals.

To learn more about what it means to be involved in healthy, covenant relationships with long-term efforts, including opportunities with Rhett Thompson, please reach out to our office. UMVIM, SEJ harnesses the strong connectional nature of the United Methodist Church, connects teams to sustainable mission opportunities, provides in-depth leader training, and offers supplemental health insurance to short-term missioners. 

Special thanks to Jane Dunn, Dr. Kevin Alexander, and Nathan Carden for their contributions to this article. 

Words: Malinda Kay Nichols | Photos: Courtesy of GBGM, Jane Dunn, and Rhett Thompson