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



Monday, August 28, 2017

Hurricane Harvey: A Message from UMVIM, SEJ's Executive Director


Hurricane Harvey has left its mark on Louisiana and Texas.
Sadly, the disaster is on-going and more than likely will get worse
over the next few days.

Here are a couple of ways you can help right now:

- Give to the UMCOR Domestic Disaster Response Advance
#901670. The Advance is a great tool we have as United
Methodists to show our support. 100% of what you give will go
to the relief effort.
- If you are ERT trained and certified, put down your car keys
and organize with other ERT trained individuals in your local
church and community to be ready when the call comes for
teams. It may be weeks, or even months, before the request
for teams comes in. The pain and loss that victims feel will
continue long after the camera crews have left—and that’s
when we are needed most.

Here are a couple of things that are NOT helpful:

-Letting your need to help draw the attention away from the
needs of victims in the affected areas.
-Repeatedly calling or emailing the Rio Texas Conference or other
affected areas in the next few days and letting them know you
want to help. The disaster is on-going and their resources right
now should be focused on managing the disaster—not phone
calls of potential volunteers. They will let us know what they
need, I promise.
-Getting in your car and going to the affected areas, or donating
used clothes and other items that may not be needed.
We will be updating our website with new information as it comes
in.

The Rio Texas Conference has a webpage set up at riotexas.org/
harvey for you to stay informed.

Thank You,

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

Thursday, August 17, 2017

UMVIM, SEJ Announces New Communications/Development Director

Recent University of Mississippi graduate, Billy Rainey, now serves as the Director of Communications and Development for UMVIM, SEJ. In this position, Rainey will develop and coordinate external communications for the office, while also cultivating relationships with local churches throughout the Southeastern Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church. A lifelong United Methodist, Rainey brings with him a deep appreciation for what the connection of the UMC can do to help followers of Christ make a profound impact on the world. "The United Methodist Church has a long history of breaking down barriers for the sake of extending the love of Christ to a hurting world," Rainey said. "The connection that the UMC offers, through organizations such as UMVIM, SEJ, continues to enable the body of Christ to serve all around the world with efficiency and love."

Rainey recently moved to Birmingham from Oxford, MS, where he graduated from the University of Mississippi with a degree in Integrated Marketing Communications in May of 2017. During his college years, Rainey served as a leader at the Ole Miss Wesley Foundation, an intern at Oxford-University UMC, a delegate on the Mississippi Conference’s Young Adult Delegation to South Korea, and as a Design Team member for SEJ’s Young People in Mission conference at Lake Junaluska, NC. Rainey also has a track record in the field of marketing and communications, having worked as a Marketing Assistant for the Ole Miss Department of Student Housing, a Public Relations Intern for the University of Mississippi Foundation, and having planned and implemented multiple communications campaigns while in college.
.

Rainey is excited to do his part to serve UMVIM, SEJ and its vision of transforming the world through "Christian love in action." "I thank God for the opportunity to tell the story of this movement that mobilizes Christians to make much of the name of Christ by serving the needs of this world," Rainey said. "Jesus tells us that we will be known as his disciples by how we love one another. UMVIM is working to help people follow this model, and it's an honor to be a part of that effort."


The UMVIM, SEJ staff and Board of Directors is excited to welcome Billy to the team. United Methodists can expect to see Rainey around the jurisdiction promoting UMVIM, SEJ and partnering with local congregations to strengthen the impact of mission work in the United Methodist Church. If you are interested in speaking with Rainey or having him visit your congregation, he would love to hear from you! He can be reached by emailing billy_rainey@umvim.org by calling 205.453.9480


Monday, August 7, 2017

Better, Not Best: A Reflection from Allen Doyle, 2017 Summer Intern

         

In life, I rarely seek input from others about a major decision. I like to think of myself as an individualistic and spontaneous person; yet on this March afternoon I found myself frantically seeking advice from any person that would listen. I was just offered an Internship from the United Methodist Volunteers in Mission, Southeastern Jurisdiction and despite any and all conscious efforts to make a decision independently, I needed help. Although I was unaware of it at the time, this indecision was a symptom of the internal challenges I wrestled with throughout the summer.

I met with my Chaplain, called my parents, sister, and grandfathers. I stopped random people on the streets of Birmingham (unbiased opinions are sometimes the most valuable), and still I couldn’t make a decision. Upon reflection at the end of this Internship program, I realize that this struggle was not of my desire to serve in this position or not but of a grander discourse involving my relationship with the church itself.

Having been raised by United Methodist ministers, (both of which are also preacher’s kids), I have always been actively involved in the church and its various ministries. Whether it was in a local congregation, Annual Conferences, during my time at Lakeshore UMA, Carolina Cross Connection, Birmingham-Southern College or the myriad of Methodist organizations in which I have become affiliated, I think of them all as a blessing. These amazing experiences, and the persons I have met through the years, have shaped my identity, my faith, and the ways in which I interact with the world.

I was struggling with my relationship with the church. This stemmed not from a discontent for my past but from a desire to experience “other”, and so I ran away from it. Just as Jonah ran away from Nineveh, I was running away from God (unlike Jonah however, I had people waiting for me in Nineveh with open arms).

I accepted the internship, and soon my summer began at North Alabama Annual Conference gathering in Huntsville, Alabama. This time was spent hearing and sharing stories with old and new friends, family, and complete strangers. It allowed me an opportunity to center myself and focus my heart. During the ordination service I sensed a feeling I had been missing for sometime (but after an hour or so, I decided to pass it off as indigestion). The next morning I found myself sitting next to my grandfather, listening to the words spoken by the Bishop James R. King Jr. during his message entitled, “Better… Not the Best”. It resonated on many levels. I have always had struggles and frustrations as a perfectionist and held the constant misconception that I have to do everything by myself. These issues have only been exasperated by my time as an undergraduate. But in that moment surrounded by familiar faces of “beautiful people” I felt this weight lift off my shoulders. My fears and regrets, though still present, began to transition from stains on my heart into opportunities for growth.

I spent the next several days in Birmingham at the UMVIM, SEJ office, diving into its ministries, the organizational structures and beliefs of the United Methodist Church, and the details of the International and Domestic components of my internship, all the while delving into my own thoughts as to my future vocation and next steps after graduation.

I have always been drawn to environmental hazards and the disasters that they cause. The chaos and tragedies that occur create vulnerabilities, losses, and pains that we as Christians are called to relieve. After many conversations with the UMVIM, SEJ staff, it was decided that my time in this program would be focused upon faith based disaster recovery and relief. After going through UMCOR Early-Response Team Training, UMVIM Team leader training, and heading up to North Alabama Disaster Relief Warehouse, it was time for me to head out into the field.

I spent the first 3 weeks of the program traveling all over the coastal plains and inner banks of North Carolina, working with the North Carolina Conference Disaster Recovery program. Every day I found myself surrounded by people more knowledgeable, more dedicated, and more skilled than me. I spent my days learning as much as possible and being of as much use as possible. This journey was one of the most humbling yet empowering experiences. I went into this knowing I knew very little, and came out thinking I knew even less. But I left North Carolina thankful and praising God for the amazing people I met and all they meant to me. But even more importantly, I praised God for all they meant to everyone else.

I travelled and arrived at the Bahamas Methodist Habitat [BMH] for the next portion of my internship. I immediately got put to work in a familiar yet foreign context. The ‘camping ministry’ setting was familiar; yet the ‘international’ component was new to me. After coming off of my intensive crash course in faith-based disaster relief in North Carolina, I knew nothing about the environmental, political, and infrastructural conditions that contribute to the Bahamas’ unique needs and challenges experienced during a disaster. I struggled with this unfamiliarity, yet I was able to become fully immersed in the ministries of BMH. I was allowed to serve in many different capacities, getting to participate in all the various components of the organization. My specific task, however, was to work alongside the Executive Director and Board of Directors to create programming, policy, and procedures for BMH to more efficiently and effectively implement their mission as a disaster relief organization. At the end of three weeks, it was far from finished. But instead of being frustrated I began to thank God. I thanked God that the written policy is now “better”. I thanked God that my knowledge of NGO’s, international relief, and struggles of many Bahamians got “better”. And I pray that my work there can make persons affected by disaster a sense of comfort and relief so that they can begin the process of getting “better”.

This summer provided so many unique and diverse experiences that allowed for personal and vocational decantation. Although I am not any closer to determining what to do after graduation, I am not worried because I know that I am not alone. Am I over my obsessions with perfection? Not even close. But I have a renewed comfort in knowing and experiencing God’s prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace. We are called to serve God in missions, not because we have everything figured out, but because we are called to be “better”… not the best.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Overflowing with Thankfulness

It’s difficult to think that I will no longer be working in the UMVIM, SEJ office - a place to which I love coming and to work that I love doing. As I walked through the office Friday, my last day before retirement, so many thoughts and memories came to me. I thought of the many places I have traveled and the people I have meant. How do I thank them for their hospitality and friendship?

I thought about the pioneers of UMVIM who gave so much to make this grassroots movement an organized ministry of the United Methodist Church. How do I thank them for their efforts in creating a way for hundreds of thousands to serve God by serving others?

I thought about those involved in UMVIM before me but especially those who served as the Executive Director for UMVIM, SEJ. How do I thank them for the foundation they built that has allowed me to engage in a ministry that I love and am so passionate about?

I thought about all the UMVIM, SEJ board members who have provided vision and oversight to continue the work of this ministry. I especially thought of each board member who has served since I became Executive Director. How do I thank them for their support and encouragement?

I thought about the Conference UMVIM Coordinators who with little or no pay offer assistant and guidance to their local churches and team leaders. How do I thank them for the leadership they have provided their annual conferences?

I thought about our partner church and project leaders and the struggles and hardships they face daily. How do I thank them for hosting the countless volunteers that they house and feed?

I thought about team leaders who agreed to accept the responsibility and challenge of preparing their teams to serve. How do I thank them for providing the vital connection between their team, the host, and UMVIM?

I thought about the volunteers who God has called to use their gifts, talents, and resources in serving a broken, hurting world. How do I thank them for the sacrifices they have made to be able to go and serve?

I thought about those UMVIM, SEJ employees who willingly worked for less pay and benefits then they would have received somewhere else. How do I thank them for the dedication and integrity with which they preformed their jobs?

I thought about God and the ultimate sacrifice that He made for me and for all of us. How do I thank Him for all He has done?


Thank you – these words are not enough to express the appreciation I feel. These words from Colossians 2:7 hopefully express my feelings better: “Rooted and built up in Christ, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness”. Yes, I am overflowing with thankfulness for UMVIM!  

Friday, June 16, 2017

2017 Summer Intern

A rising senior at Birmingham Southern College studying Urban Environmental Studies and Asian Studies, Allen Doyle, will serve as the 2017 UMVIM, SEJ Summer Intern. From the Tennessee Annual Conference, he has dedicated thousands of hours to organizations in the Southern Jurisdiction becoming fully immersed in inner-city and rural communities. Haywood Street Congregation in Asheville, NC was one of the ministries with which Allen served. For three months, not only did he work alongside persons experiencing homelessness, but he also lived on the streets with them. “A person can stand behind a counter at a soup kitchen, and that is great,” he said. “Personally, however, I know that there are more meaningful ways to do service - by building relationships and tearing down societal constructs.  It takes living on the streets with your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to even begin to understand what their experience is all about. But even then, I will never truly understand their experiences, for my time with them was still from a place of privilege.”

Allen admits that he was wary of “mission trips” because of the numerous needs he saw and encountered in his local community and surrounding areas.  Another issue that Allen had was a fear of developing a “savior complex”. So why travel? His experience has shaped him drastically in seeing dynamic cultural and theological sensitivities necessary in new contexts so when he had an opportunity to go to Cuba with Birmingham-Southern College in January, he was hesitant. It was also his first time outside of the United States. Allen soon discovered that people of faith across Cuba were extremely passionate, accepting and loving. Perhaps because he spoke little Spanish and also because of the unique way in which he was able to be in Cuba when so many from the United States have been unable to travel there due to the embargo, he felt invasive. As he played soccer, shared meals, worshiped together and had conversations about mutual interests, friendships were formed. Before long, these acquaintances felt like life-long friends and the churches began to feel like home. “The cultural differences are vast, but the common thread of faith ties us all together, as one family in Christ.  Our ability to dig dirt was not special; the relationships we built along the way, as we worked together, were,” he recalls. “The Holy Spirit was present as we worshipped together. These were our gift to share.”

Allen has completed his orientation time at the UMVIM, SEJ office where he completed Team Leader training, competed Early Response Team training, learned about the organization of the United Methodist Church and its connectional structure, and assisted with some of the daily responsibilities.  In addition, he attended the North Alabama annual conference June 4-6 where he also represented UMVIM, SEJ at its mission display.
Over the next three weeks, Allen will serve with the North Carolina Conference Disaster Recovery Ministry under the supervision of Ann Huffman, North Carolina Conference Call Center Volunteer Coordinator and Disaster Readiness Coordinator.  While there, he will be learning all aspects of how an annual conference responds following a disaster; as well as, working with volunteer teams coming to serve.  He will also have the opportunity to visit Robeson County Community Center, a conference UMVIM project and learn how they were affected and what they are doing in disaster recovery.

Afterwards, Allen will travel to Eleuthera Island to serve with Bahamas Methodist Habitat, a disaster outreach ministry of the Bahamas Conference of the Methodist Church.  An UMVIM project, BHM, is also dealing with disaster recovery following Hurricane Matthew October, 2016. When not responding to disaster, BMH organizes and facilitates about 500 volunteers annually. Volunteer teams serve on projects that address substandard housing and promote community. Alicia Sands, the new BHM Executive Director, indicated that he would also be serving with teams coming during July at Camp Symonette, the base of BMH operations.  Allen will serve on home repair projects with these teams but will also have community building opportunities.


Following his domestic and international assignments, Allen will return to the UMVIM, SEJ office for debriefing and evaluation. “The United Methodist Church and its missions have simultaneously served as the anchor and the inspiration forward in my life.  I believe it is our mission to serve in the world with each other, not for each other.”

Monday, May 29, 2017

Gray Miller Named UMVIM, SEJ Assistant Director

Gray Miller now serves as the UMVIM, SEJ Assistant Director.  As the Assistant Director, Gray will assume more administrative duties for the ministry including team registrations.  She would also assume the position of interim Director if needed.  One of the major reasons that Gray enjoys working at UMVIM, SEJ is the connectional nature of the United Methodist Church.  “I enjoy the relationships and connections that I have been able to make over my time working here, whether it is a new team leader excited about taking their first team, a person calling looking for a place to serve in disaster response, those that work in the Annual Conferences. It is so funny to me how large the United Methodist Church is but how “small world” it can be when you see the Connection that is the UMC,” she indicated.

Since October 2, 2014, Gray has been the Disaster Liaison, a role she will continue, serving as the contact between SEJ Conference Disaster Response Coordinators and UMVIM, SEJ.  Her role is primarily communicating the need for volunteers in disaster affected area and as part of the planning team for the annual SEJ Disaster Academy. Gray shares the importance of the SEJ Disaster Academy, “The SEJ Disaster Academy is not just for those who have already involved in disaster response. It is for anyone who has an interest in serving after a disaster and long into recovery. We forget sometimes that a disaster can effect a community long after the actual event is over, and the Disaster Academy is a great place to start learning about how the UMC is involved in disaster response and where you can fit it. It is also a training tool for those who are already involved. The Disaster world is changing, and we are always working to make our responses better. This is a great academy for any and every one to attend.”

She is an Early Response Team Trainer and at times assists UMCOR with SEJ ERT Trainer evaluations.  She is also responsible for making Early Response Team badges.  Gray began a quarterly SEJ Disaster Newsletter last Fall and attended the last two National Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) meetings.

As a graduate of Auburn University with a Bachelors of Science in Human Development and Family Studies and Asbury Theological Seminary with a Masters of Arts in Intercultural Studies, Gray utilized her studies as well as her passion for mission to go through Individual Volunteer training (now known as Mission Volunteers).  She lived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil during 2011-2013 teaching English as a Second Language.  Gray attended St. James UMC in Montgomery, AL and is now attends First United Methodist Church, Birmingham, AL.  She is also on the UAB Wesley Foundation Board of Directors.


The UMVIM, SEJ Board is proud to have Gray move into this leadership role allowing her to interact more closely with team leaders and church members.    She puts it bests herself, “I wish that everyone knew what a resource UMVIM, SEJ can be for local churches and volunteers. I believe our office and our staff really are a hub of information that can be so beneficial when planning a team or trying to get your church involved in missions.”

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Reading and Sunglasses for Your Mission

Reading glasses can be one of the easiest, most  inexpensive ways of making people more productive (our estimate is 20% greater income capacity) and promoting economic growth in the developing world. RestoringVision is a nonprofit dedicated to distributing new reading glasses and sunglasses to groups and organizations helping those in need. Since 2003, we have built a network of partners that have collectively served over 5 million people around the world. We offer a simple solution to one of the greatest global health problems. 

RestoringVision series, “Stories of Hope from Around the World,” raises awareness about the need for and impact that reading glasses and sunglasses have on people’s lives by featuring the work of our partners. 
Restoring Vision is the largest non-profit provider of new, brand name readers and sunglasses(not for resale). Please take a look at the following video:


It is amazing how many people benefit from a simple pair of reading glasses which restores their ability to focus close up. This can make the difference between holding a job and being a fully functioning member of a family or community. The problem is massive (500 million worldwide) but the solution is easy. 

Some additional benefits include:
  • Easy to implement for the novice, student, spouse-we provide dispensing tips and tools to make experience easy and rewarding.  Our readers are sorted by power in 25 pair bags, a standard box would contain 400 low, medium, and high powers. However, we provide anything from 100 to tens of thousands of glasses to various partners.
  • Minimal Cost-these not for resale new, brand name glasses that we provide for 35-50 cents per pair.
For more information, go to the RestoringVision website or contact Steven Hancock at stevehancock@gmail.com

Friday, March 10, 2017

UMVIM, SEJ Seeking Church Relations/Communications Director

United Methodist Volunteers in Mission, SEJ is the short-term mission sending agency of the Southeastern Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church. UMVIM exists to promote, encourage and enable Christians to exemplify “Christian Love in Action” through short-term mission service at home and abroad. UMVIM provides opportunities for service by developing and nurturing relationships with domestic and international leaders. We continually nurture our contacts with these leaders to respond to the needs of local communities and provide comprehensive training resources for team leaders to help them prepare their teams for the mission field.

Church Relations/Communications Director        $35,000 annual starting salary
UMVIM, SEJ is seeking a Church Relations/Communications Director to create and implement communications and development plans for the organization. The office is based in Birmingham, Alabama.` In addition to salary, monthly health insurance reimbursement and pension will be provided.

Responsibilities include:
  • Develop and coordinate external communications
  • Promote the ministries/programs of the organization through Constant Contact, social media (FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram), and website
  •  Visit (as an exhibitor or speaker) local churches, annual conferences and events
  • Develop and coordinate donor strategies and annual plan for fund-raising
  • Maintain records of donors and send acknowledgements
  • Develop a measuring system for determining the success of each communication and development campaign
  • Maintain editorial control of all communications on behalf of the organization creating a communication plan

Successful candidates should have:
  • Experience in marketing, communications or public relations
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing, Public Relations, Journalism or a related field
  • Exceptional communication skills
  • Must be available to travel at least one to two weeks each month throughout the Southeastern Jurisdiction
  • Skills in marketing, social media, Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, donor software (GiftWorks), and graphic design

 To apply, applicants should send the following to sejinfo@umvim.org by Tuesday, April 18, 2017:
  • Resume
  • Cover lettering outlining how you meet the specific requirements of the position
  • Three (3) Reference letters

While we sincerely appreciate all applications, only those candidates selected for interview will be contacted.  Please note that the selected candidate will be required to submit to a background check.

Friday, February 10, 2017

UMVIM, SEJ Announces New Executive Director

United Methodist Volunteers in Mission, Southeastern Jurisdiction (UMVIM, SEJ) is pleased to announce that Rev. Matt Lacey has been named Executive Director. As a member of the UMVIM, SEJ Board of Directors and previous employee, Matt comes with a comprehensive knowledge of the ministry. He also has vast experience training and leading UMVIM teams.

An ordained elder in the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church, Matt is currently serving as the Senior Pastor at Church of the Reconciler UMC in Birmingham, AL and as North Alabama Conference Director of Missions and Advocacy. He also served as the Senior Pastor at Woodlawn UMC in Birmingham, AL from 2009 until 2012.

Matt was the Minister in Residence at UMVIM, SEJ from 2005-2009. During that time, he was responsible for team leader/missioner training, revising the Team Leader Handbook, working with supporting churches, developing UMVIM social media presence and updating project lists. He has been a member of the UMVIM, SEJ Board of Directors since 2009 and currently serves as the Communication Team Chair.

Other connectional involvement includes serving as the elected Representative of the Southeast Jurisdiction Conference Secretary of Global Ministries as a member of Global Ministries Advance Committee and as a delegate to the 2011 World Methodist Council, in Durbin, South Africa.
A graduate of Birmingham Southern College with a Bachelor in Religion, Matt’s call to ministry led him to pursue a Master of Divinity at Candler School of Theology at Emory University where he met his wife, Rev. Katie Gilbert. Katie, an ordained Cooperative Baptist Fellowship clergy, is on staff at Birmingham FUMC. Matt and Katie have one daughter, Harper.

The UMVIM, SEJ staff and Board of Directors is excited to welcome Matt to the position of Executive Director which he will begin early June 2017 following North Alabama’s Annual Conference Meetings, June 4-6.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Prayer Requests for Haiti

From Una Jones / Mission Volunteer Office

We, the UMVIM community, are sadden by the sudden death of Lauren James, UMCOR Field staff, in Haiti. Our prayers go out to Lauren’s family and then the many friends and colleague who had the opportunity to work with Lauren either in Haiti or on prior Mission Journeys. Here is an additional statement from the General Secretary of Global Ministries/UMCOR, Thomas Kemper. From UMCOR/Facebook https://www.facebook.com/UMCOR:

It is with deep sorrow that we ask for prayers and condolences for the family of Lauren James, UMCOR church liaison, Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Lauren died suddenly from a heart attack January 11. Lauren became part of UMCOR's staff in Haiti in 2010, responsible for supervising and coordinating integrated and sustainable development activities in Eglise Methodiste d’Haiti (EMH) communities across Haiti. We are grateful for her years of service to the people of Haiti and to UMCOR. May the peace of Christ surround Lauren's family and friends during this time of mourning and grief.

Furthermore, we are grateful and thankful to Tom Vencuss, his wife Wendy, whose supporting the EMH Guest House and Brulan Jean-Michel with the hosting of UMVIM teams. What a blessing to have these leaders around with Lauren’s death and we prayer for them too. And besides grieving they also faced some challenges last week which we would like the UMVIM community to be aware of.  Here is an extract from Tom and Brulan:

This past week has been a difficult one for the UMVIM and UMCOR communities. Last week, the Methodist Guest House in Jeremie was attacked by a large group protesting the arrest and extradition of Guy Philippe, a Haitian senator and former rebel leader, by the DEA on drug trafficking charges. They were targeting Americans. However, by the Grace of God, everything worked out well at the end.

We keep Lauren's family, and the entire UMCOR-UMVIM community in our prayers. 

Finally, an additional logistical Update will follow next week for UMVIM teams but in the interim as Tom gets ready to depart from Haiti this week-end Mike Willis will arrive in Haiti on January 24, and would further support GH/Brulan. We know mission is challenging but I am grateful to all leadership and the support of the UMVIM Jurisdiction offices to communicate how important UMVIM’s role is not only for our local churches but our partners around the world. Please remember and live by our motto:  UMVIM - Christian Love in Action.