What is United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) and where did it come from?
Volunteers in Mission began with Jesus calling the disciples and sending them into the world to teach, preach, heal, and serve. People of faith have answered Jesus’ call ever since, and for decades now, members of local churches have gone individually and in teams to serve as short term volunteers in the USA and around the world. The movement called UMVIM arose spontaneously out of the local church, and in time, conferences and jurisdictions organized to recruit, support, and coordinate projects for those wanting to make a loving difference in the world. In 1980 the General Conference officially recognized UMVIM and directed the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) to “affirm Volunteers in Mission as an authentic form of personal missionary involvement and devise appropriate structure to interpret and implement opportunities for mission volunteers in the global community.”
Today, tens of thousands of United Methodists serve each year as Volunteers in Mission. Most serve from one to two weeks, although this can vary from a few hours to a year. Most serve at their own expense, often with support from their local churches. Teams usually contribute to the cost of materials for the projects they undertake. UMVIM works closely with UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) by providing teams to assist in recovery from natural disasters. Whatever the task of an UMVIM team, their purpose is to share the love of God, lifting up Jesus Christ in all they do.
What is an UMVIM team?
An UMVIM team is one that serves, with an invitation, locally, nationally, or internationally; works in a ministry endorsed by the host Methodist church, partner church or agency, or nongovernment organization, and serves in cooperation with the local host group. Teams may be as diverse as specially trained Early Response Teams working in the aftermath of a flood, a medical team providing health care in Guatemala, a confirmation class working across town with Habitat for Humanity or helping set up a Christmas shop at the local mission, or a group helping conduct a Vacation Bible School where help has been requested. The optimal characteristics of each UMVIM team include: has an UMVIM trained leader, who can then provide training, leadership, and spiritual direction for the team; knows and follows Safe Sanctuary guidelines; provides appropriate insurance coverage for all individuals on the team; maintains appropriate communication with the host church or agency; and has communication with annual conference and jurisdictional UMVIM leadership. An UMVIM experience is always spiritually transforming for those participating, and often proves transformational for the congregations from which they come.
What is UNYVIM and who is involved?
UNYVIM is the Upper New York Annual Conference Volunteers in Mission structure, which exists to encourage and enable local congregations, subdistricts, and districts within the Annual Conference to effectively engage in mission, being God’s love to our neighbors in all places. Donna and Roger Cullen, retired from university administrative positions, are the Conference VIM Co-Coordinators. They work closely with Dave Woodcock, our Conference Disaster Coordinator, and Deacon Nick Nicholas, the Northeastern Jurisdiction UMVIM Coordinator. Working with them is a steering committee with representatives from each District who work with their District Superintendents to facilitate mission activity at the District level. A list of these steering committee members can be found at http://www.unyumc.org/mission/vim-steering-committee. You are involved if you have led, participated in, or supported an UMVIM team!
What can UNYVIM do for you?
Experienced VIM leaders provide Team Leader Training several times each year in locations around the Annual Conference. These trainings not only provide team leaders with information, support, and encouragement, but are useful for all team members who wish to become more effective in mission. The conference steering team also has members who can provide specialized training to teams who request it, such as Early Response, “how to” lay flooring, hang wall board, cook for a crowd, organize medical teams, prepare for international mission, and other topics. They are also available to assist churches in establishing a VIM team for the first time. If you wish to set up such training, contact Roger and Donna at UNYvim@unyumc.org or your district steering team member.
The UNYVIM web site also has a list of future teams – go to http://www.unyumc.org/mission/future-vim-teams. Here you will find information about teams being formed, so that if you or a few people in your congregation would like to experience UMVIM before taking the plunge into forming your own team, this will give an opportunity to “hop onto” a team. The coordinator can help prospective teams to find a project which meets their skills and abilities – youth, intergenerational, domestic, international.
Publicity, recruitment, and prayer support
UNYVIM will post team openings on the UNYUMC – UMVIM site, send directed emails about forming teams, post new teams on Facebook, and encourage the Districts to publish teams in their newsletters. In order to do this, Roger and Donna need to know the dates of your mission, where you are going, type of team (construction, relationship, recovery, education, medical), approximate cost, and contact information for the team leader. This may help in recruiting team members, and lets others know what mission work is happening around the conference. A prayer support request for each team is also sent out just prior to the mission – there is never too much prayer!
Each of the steering team members is also available to come to local churches and provide information about UMVIM and how a church begins to get involved, or becomes more involved. They will attend worship, Sunday School, UMYF, UMW, UMM groups – just set a date!
Very good insurance for teams is available through the Northeastern Jurisdiction UMVIM office. Information and applications are available at http://umvimnej.org/. You need to apply for insurance at least three weeks prior to your trip. It is important to note that the GBGM no longer offers insurance to UMVIM teams. The property and liability insurance provided by your church through the Upper New York Conference, does not include medical/accident coverage. It does not apply to international teams. Your team members relying on NY State medical coverage might not have coverage outside NYS. Finally, teams are required to provide medical/accident insurance for the whole team in order to be eligible to apply for UNY VIM grants or scholarships.
UNYVIM offers financial assistance in three ways. The criteria for receiving this assistance is the same for all three: that the team leader has had UMVIM or similar training, registers with the conference coordinator, is open to members outside the local church, if a church sponsored team, serves with a project appoved by UMVIM, and has appropriate insurance for all members. Given these criteria, the following are offered:
Team grants – a team leader may apply for a grant for the team, to be used however it is most needed. These requests will be reviewed by a subcommittee of the AC Steering Team for implementation. The grants will be for a maximum of $200 for domestic teams (within the USA) or $500 for international teams. Application for the grant must be received 6 weeks prior to the beginning of the mission to allow for review and check request. Application forms may be found on the UMVIM website: www.unyumc.org/pages/detail/1023 or by contacting Roger or Donna Cullen.
Individual scholarships – Scholarships are: for domestic teams, the greater of $100 or 20 percent of the cost of the mission; for international teams, the greater of $200 or 20 percent of the cost of the mission. Preference will continue to be given to youth or first time Volunteers-in-Mission; preference will be a maximum of two scholarships/team. Team leaders may also, on application, be granted 20 percent of their mission cost.
Emergency funds – there are times when a team runs into difficulty through circumstances not under their control, such as the occurrence of a natural disaster, accident, or political instability. At these times it may be necessary to spend additional time in a hotel, get emergency medical care, or rearrange flights, for example. Although team leaders are encouraged to carry extra funds for such a contingency, sometimes the expenses override the contingency fund. In such cases, if the team has registered with the conference coordinator and requests such assistance, additional emergency funds can be wire transferred to a local bank from the conference treasurer. It is anticipated that such funds will be repaid after return home, but funds will not be withheld if this is not possible.
What you can do for UNYVIM?
Offer prayer support for your conference steering team and for teams in the mission field.
Contribute to the Conference Advance Special # 3707 which provides scholarship assistance.
Let your district and/or conference UMVIM coordinators know about your mission teams, district or local mission events, or opportunities for mission in your area.
Send stories and pictures of your team in mission to Roger and Donna or to the UNY Communications office.
Schedule and support UMVIM training events.
Hold an UMVIM Awareness Sunday (or mission fair) at your local church – material is available to help you and the steering team is also ready to help.
Consider becoming a part of the AC steering team.