When You Volunteer, We All Grow
At Agua Viva Serves, Nancy Potter and George Gull witnessed four generations from age one to 95 have year-round potable water at their homes for the first time. Photo: Nancy Potter
By Katlyn Zulinke
April 30, 2019 | Atlanta, Ga.
With more than 100 long-term volunteers recruited, trained and placed each year, the Global Ministries’ Mission Volunteer program empowers individuals and couples to engage in God’s mission throughout the world. Mission Volunteers facilitates a wide variety of partnerships, giving volunteers opportunities to utilize their existing skills and passions while also learning from and being shaped by the communities they serve.
Prior to being placed, each volunteer attends a three- to four-day training event focused on Bible study and immersive learning activities. By the end of the training, each participant is better prepared to engage in mission with an expanded cultural awareness and a deeper understanding of our United Methodist theology of mission. In addition, volunteers receive an in-depth look into the resources available to them through the Mission Volunteers network, which begins as they form relationships with their peers through role playing, small group activities and shared meals.
“The training helped me prepare for the Czech Republic. I learned a lot about cross-cultural service and was equipped to respond to situations often encountered while serving internationally,” says Laurel Thoreson, a mission volunteer currently serving 10 weeks in the Czech Republic as an assistant teacher and intern at English-Speaking United Methodist Church (ESUMC).
So far in 2019, Global Ministries has trained 22 volunteers. They will serve in eight different countries and join 37 ongoing volunteers who engage in mission with local churches, mission initiatives, and nonprofits globally. Mission volunteers take on congregational, agricultural and educational roles that build capacity and empower communities.
Nancy Potter and George Gull have served annually with Agua Viva Serves (AVS) in Costa Rica as mission volunteers since their training in 2014. They believe their experience has offered “a unique opportunity for tapping into local resources to benefit the AVS mission and has deepened relationships among various community systems, building on previous projects.” Potter says, “My spiritual take away from this most recent mission-volunteer experience is to never underestimate the power of God to use our presence, gifts and talents to do more than we could ever imagine. Listening and being a witness for the potential and possibilities of a community’s dream is a very real form of being in mission with its residents.”
In addition to existing partnerships, the Mission Volunteers program accompanies individuals and couples already engaged in mission to expand their impact in the communities they serve. Ray and Cathy Ake are mission volunteers in Harrisburg, Liberia, who serve alongside Farmer-to-Farmer, an organization that partners with farmers in implementing methods of sustainable agriculture. Prior to being mission volunteers, Cathy and Ray participated in several short-term mission experiences in Liberia and felt called to serve long-term. They applied to be a part of the Mission Volunteer program and discovered the support they needed to continue and expand their service.
“What we found when we came to the Mission Volunteer training was a wonderful existing structure that we could plug into for guidance, support and assistance. The blessing of this was how it opened up needed avenues for us. We were trained on living in other cultural settings, health insurance, and the Advance, which allowed us to raise support. Our work was legitimized by the partnership with The United Methodist Church and Global Ministries,” Ray and Cathy explained.
Joining the Mission Volunteer program means joining a network of dedicated volunteers and partners who believe not only in personal spiritual development but also in the shared journey of engaging in God’s mission as a community in order to see the restoration of dignity, growth of local projects and distribution of sustainable strategy and resources.
If you are feeling drawn to engage in God’s mission in the world through long-term service, the Mission Volunteer Program may be right for you. Attend an upcoming Mission Volunteer training: July 17-20, 2019, in Farmington, MN, or October 2-5, 2019, in Hudson, NY. To apply, visit https://archive.umcmission.org/serve-with-us/mission-volunteers. And for more information, contact, MV@umcmission.org.
Katlyn Zulinke is a consultant with the Mission Volunteers program.