Monday, October 17, 2016

UMCOR’s Disaster Response Plan for Haiti

Below is a letter we received from the United Methodist Committee on Relief regarding assistance from international teams to Haiti in response to Hurricane Matthew. UMVIM, SEJ will communicate the needs for teams to deploy or send resources as soon as we have word from UMCOR that it is appropriate to do so.  

Azim Akhtar, UMCOR Haiti’s Head of Mission is experienced in humanitarian assistance. He and the rest of the UMCOR Haiti staff are already at work responding to this current disaster through an UMCOR grant that will provide emergency water and food rations, cooking pots, and other emergency supplies as needed.

One of our primary partners in Haiti over the last six years has been EMH, the Eglise Methodist d’Haiti (Methodist Church of Haiti). Through UMCOR’s support, EMH has already begun to provide food to the survivors of the hurricane. In the coming weeks, UMCOR will continue to explore and develop with EMH additional humanitarian responses.

One of our important attributes of mission in the United Methodist Church is our fervent willingness to volunteer. Local volunteerism is key to connecting the church and the community. The Volunteers in Mission program provides opportunities for volunteers to assist with long-term development, building projects, medical missions, and other activities. In Haiti, volunteer teams from throughout the US have helped build the infrastructure of the church there for decades. 

Because of the strong commitment these partner churches and annual conferences have with specific churches, communities, and districts in Haiti, their hearts have been broken as they have watched reports of damage and loss in the communities to which they have given so much time, energy, and resources. Because of this commitment, many of these partners have selflessly declared their willingness to go now to Haiti to assess damage and discover how they can help. While this level of dedication is admirable, UMCOR is strongly advising that such groups wait until Haiti has fully transitioned from the relief phase to the recovery phase.

In the meantime, visits by teams, even individuals or small teams, would run the risk of doing more harm than good. Well-intentioned volunteers generally and unknowingly take energy and resources from host organizations which they would otherwise use to manage or support humanitarian assistance activities. From a support and logistics standpoint, volunteering in the US is very different from volunteering in other countries. Finally, one of the side benefits of many disaster response activities is that local people are hired and materials, as much as possible are procured locally. For the reasons stated above, and because we have full confidence in our staff on the ground, visiting Haiti at this time would be inappropriate.

When recovery projects for volunteers become appropriate and available, UMVIM teams will be informed through the jurisdictional UMVIM Coordinators, under the guidance of Una Jones, Global Ministries’ Director of Mission Volunteers.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Summer of Service: 2016 Intern Rives Worsham

In 2012, UMVIM, SEJ rolled out an internship program for college students who display strong leadership skills and value the importance of mission work. We believe that empowering the next generation of the UMC is one of the best ways to keep our mission going strong for years to come. We were so fortunate to welcome Rives Worsham as our intern for 2016. Continue reading below to learn the valuable roles Rives played across the UMC connection, and how this experience has helped shape him as a leader.

UMVIM, SEJ HQ in Birmingham, Alabama
All of our interns kick off their summer at our office in Birmingham. They get to know our staff, our structure, and our mission, while also going through UMVIM team leader training and ERT Disaster Response training.

"It was interesting to learn about the structure of the entire United Methodist Church. I knew very little about the structure of the church when I got there, but by the time I left, I felt capable of having legitimate conversations about it. I also loved receiving all of the UMVIM and ERT training. It made me feel like I would be able to help others whenever and wherever I am needed."

Domestic Placement: Obion County, Tennessee
Our interns spend the next couple weeks of their summer in their domestic placements, usually within the Southeastern Jurisdiction. Rives served alongside ReelFoot Rural Ministries in Obion, Tennessee.

"I was really surprised by how much I fell in love with the small community. One of the biggest things I learned there was that there is plenty of work to be done here at home, you don’t have to travel abroad to find people in need. Obion County seemed to be overlooked and forgotten by the rest of the county, but they were such a welcoming community and they just needed a little help. RRM was awesome because they are involved in so much. I was able to work with elderly citizens, do construction in the community, supply food to those in need, pick up furniture for the thrift shop, do manual labor around the property, and work some with youth groups who volunteered there. I saw God in the staff who worked constantly to help those who seemed to have been forgotten by everyone else, and I hope that I can work with them again in the future."

International Placement: San Isidro, Costa Rica
Rives' final stop saw his return to Costa Rica to work again with Costa Rica Mission Projects. Rives traveled there in 2013 with his youth group, and enjoyed getting his hands dirty once again!

"This was an amazing experience for me. A big thing I took away from this part of the internship is that the body of Christ doesn’t just live in America. We have brothers and sisters in Christ taking communion with us and worshiping with us all over the world. Short-term mission teams are meant to connect us with our Christian family, they aren’t just about the work. It is important for Christians to send out mission teams not just to do labor but to live out what it means to be part of an international body of Christ. I really enjoyed the work I did there, from making sidewalks to building bathrooms, but what I enjoyed the most was the lasting friendships I made with the people down there."

Looking Ahead
Rives just began his sophomore year at Virginia Military Institute, and continues to play soccer for them. He has already been able to take his experiences from the summer and have meaningful conversations with people back home, and has plans to be an UMVIM team leader in the future, and possibly even more.

"My new knowledge about the church also opens up a variety of paths from long term missionary to pastor. I feel like a lot of doors were opened for me and I look forward to exploring a lot of different paths over the next few years. It was definitely a life changing experience."

Please join our staff as we continue to pray for Rives, that the Lord will continue to make his path straight and clear. We know this young man has an incredibly bright future serving Christ and the world around him.