Tuesday, November 15, 2016

{#GivingTuesday 2016} International Leaders

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 that UMVIM has made. The National Coordinator for UMVIM-Cuba, Aldo Gonzalez, shares how UMVIM volunteers have built relationships with the church and people of Cuba. 

How do volunteers help you carry out your mission with the Cuban Methodist Church?

25 years ago, a group of UMVIM representatives went to Cuba and established a relationship between the Church in Cuba, the government in Cuba and UMVIM whereby groups of volunteers could go and assist the church in Cuba to rebuild their churches and parsonages.
Ever since that time, every month groups of United Methodist Volunteers in Mission have traveled to Cuba and have participated in rebuilding the infrastructure of the church there.  They assisted in the building of Camp Canaan, a place large enough where the church in Cuba can meet for their annual conferences and educational opportunities.  We have assisted in building a Methodist Seminary in Havana that has offered the opportunity for 100s of pastors to get their credentials and degrees to better do the work of the church.  Hundreds of churches have been refurbished and many more have been built.  Volunteers have not only traveled and worked alongside our Cuban Methodists brothers and sisters, but have also assisted the church with needed funds to be able to do their work.

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

The work in Cuba is different than many others places where UMVIM works.  So it has been extremely important that one of the prerequisites of leading a team to Cuba is to be trained through UMVIM training programs.  It is through this program that many leaders learn, among other things, how to establish relationships with our hosts, and how to deal with the cultural differences we encounter.

Share a brief story about the impact of volunteers.

The true impact of our volunteer teams is often seen in the pure simple gifts a team member offers.  Let me tell you a story about one of our volunteers during a trip to Cuba.  We were helping to build a new church and parsonage in a town where there had never been a Methodist church before. The new church had been meeting under a tree and enjoying very lively and upbeat worship.  Strained relations had developed with their neighbors who weren’t happy to have a church built next door or with the noise from their very lively services.  All of this was unknown to our volunteer friend, who every morning when we arrived at the worksite, proceeded to greet the neighbors and to share with them her affections. She would join them on their porch for coffee and conversation, even though she did not speak Spanish!  Eventually the whole team joined her every morning for this ritual.  By the end of the week we had made new friends, the pastor of the church was able to talk directly with the neighbors, hear their complaints, mitigate some of their concerns and invite them to church!  This is just one of many surprising ways that grace manifests itself in our volunteer teams, through each person with their particular gifts offered for the healing of the world.

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

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