Tuesday, January 16, 2018

From The Director's Desk: Mission Voluntourism

Mission Voluntourism: Yes, it is Still Worth Going.
Rev. Matt Lacey
UMVIM, SEJ Executive Director

Voluntourism is a word that has been getting some buzz in the last several years. If you
haven’t heard it before, type it into your favorite search engine. Some use it as a pejorative to describe Christians who go on “mission” trips as an excuse to add another stamp in their passport.

I have been guilty of that, as well as thinking that travel makes you a more interesting person. Critics of the term—and some critics of mission trips in general—have rightly pointed out that sometimes the most economically effective way to help a community in need would be to take all that money you pour into a plane ticket, visas, travel adapters, etc. and instead use it to make a long term impact: pay for community based medical staff, make a donation to an already established and trusted NGO, or designate it for training for community members. Economically speaking, they are correct. Most of the time the expense of getting on a plane, getting a visa, and making a mission trip t-shirt with your church’s logo on it pales in comparison to the cost of community-based sustainable aid.

I have led mission teams that seemed more interested in taking photos than serving with those
they came to visit. I’ve seen team members rushed to foreign clinics and given treatment for
dehydration while a pregnant woman who was afraid she would lose her baby continue to wait
in line. We should never prioritize our experience at the expense of another person.
All of us do need to ask: why are we going and what do we hope to get out of it?

My very first international mission trip was when I was 20. My primary motivators were the
romanticism of a foreign country, the great photos I would take, and the cute girls on the team I
wanted to talk to. Oh, and because I wanted to evangelize. I went for almost all the wrong

God took my flawed and arrogant motivations and turned them into something else: a life-
changing experience. Some of us go on mission trips expecting to “save souls,” and in reality the only soul that gets saved is our own. I know from experience.

God really messed up my life because of that trip. I started understanding a little more of what
it meant to serve (I still haven’t fully figured it out). After returning home, I started noticing
needs and opportunities all around me that I hadn’t seen—or that I ignored—before. I started
reading scripture in a different way, and I started to feel God calling me to do more.
Mission trips may not be economically effective, but it was effective in how I started
understanding the message of Jesus. Much like farm land that has to be scorched in order to
set the stage for future growth, God sees right through our misguided intentions and
completely destroys them in order to make way for growth in one’s faith journey.

Yes, mission trips are still worth going on, because no matter where we go or why we go, we
will eventually see God in a new way, and learn that the trip really isn’t about us but instead
about how we see and interact with the rest of God’s children. However, we should not learn
that lesson at the expense of those we are serving with.

To all the friends I have met all over the world during a mission journey: thank you for putting
up with my arrogant intentions and expectations in order to let God work in my life.

May we all go forth and serve one another by listening more than we talk, learning more than
we teach, and seeing God in each and every person we meet.

Monday, January 8, 2018

UMCOR Shares Process for Volunteering in Puerto Rico

Below you will find a letter regarding volunteering in Puerto Rico from Cathy Earl, the Director of Disaster Response and US Partner Relations with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR)

UMCOR Shares Process for Volunteering for Puerto Rico

Thank you for your interest in volunteering for UMCOR’s efforts to support its partner, the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico, as they work to rebuild after Hurricane Maria.

UMCOR has received a formal invitation from Bishop Hector Ortiz of the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico (MCPR) requesting volunteers to support reconstruction following Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

We know that many have been anxiously awaiting this invitation and we anticipate an outstanding response on the part of volunteers. UMCOR affirms Bishop Ortiz’s request that volunteers refrain from making formal travel plans or deploying without invitation.

At the invitation of UMCOR’s U.S. Disaster Response leadership, UMVIM-NCJ has cooperatively engaged in supporting UMCOR’s partnership with the MCPR to collaborate, establish, and implement a centralized volunteer coordination mechanism for Puerto Rico.

UMVIM-NCJ is pleased to announce that Jason Frazer has stepped into the new position as Puerto Rico Volunteer Coordinator – Mainland. Jason’s expertise in disaster response provides an easy stepping stone for team leaders seeking to serve to Puerto Rico. The uniqueness of the recovery efforts requires an additional awareness of the way God moves through us in the most challenging of places.

Letty Damian, who speaks both English and Spanish, will serve as the Assistant Volunteer Coordinator. Jason and Letty will work collaboratively with UMCOR, UMVIM, and the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico’s (MCPR) Volunteer Coordinator.

If you are interested in scheduling a volunteer team to Puerto Rico to help with their reconstruction efforts, please visit the following link:


(UMCOR Early Response Teams will signal their availability through their conference disaster response coordinators. A list of which can be found by clicking here.)

Thank you again for helping UMCOR and the people of The United Methodist Church support our neighbors in Puerto Rico.

Stay updated as more information comes at UMCOR's Puerto Rico Volunteers page.