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Following God's Call: Individual Volunteers in Mission

by Michael DeBorja

New York, Nov. 7, 2008--This captivating book, written by Rev. Walter Whitehurst and Dr. Betty Whitehurst on the experiences, impressions and reflections of individual volunteers as they served in mission, has been published by Abingdon Press and is now available.

Walt and Betty served for four years as Director and Associate Director of the Southeastern Jurisdiction United Methodist Volunteers in Mission Office, and then managed for five and a half years the Individual Volunteer program in the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM), recruiting, training, and sending out individual volunteers.

Following God's Call: IVsBefore these tours of duty they served as GBGM missionaries in Chile, and Betty had served as a short term missionary in Cuba. Walt is a retired clergy member of the Virginia Conference, and Betty, who has a Ph.D. in Spanish from the University of Virginia, is a retired professor of Spanish. Among their many activities, they have also been part of the translation services team in several General Conferences, though in the most recent Betty was a delegate.

Walt and Betty kept copies of the emails and letters that individual volunteers wrote during their nine and a half years in UMVIM from 1995 through 2006, and selected excerpts from those writings which they wove into a narrative.

In the Introduction, they explain who will benefit from the book - potential individual volunteers, former individual volunteers, laypersons who would like to learn the global work of the church, and pastors who may find some good sermon illustrations.

They then discuss the Individual Volunteer program: the motto of UMVIM, which is Christian love and faith in action; a short historical background, with John Wesley being a volunteer missionary in Georgia in the early 1700s; the inception of the program in the Southeastern Jurisdiction and its subsequent sponsorship by GBGM; the reasons people become individual volunteers; the categories of individual volunteers; and the process of preparation for volunteer service.

The book goes into the ways volunteers serve - pastoral work, education, library work, office work, computer and other technical work, medical work, working with children, community development and agricultural work, UMCOR rehabilitation work, construction and repairs, and hosting volunteer teams.

IV-Whitehursts&guitarIt discusses volunteers in cross-cultural situations and the problems and difficulties they encounter, the value of volunteering, and what happens after the volunteer experience.

All these are illustrated with fascinating vignettes and stories in the volunteers’ own words.

Going through the process of writing the book helped Walt and Betty to remember the many individual volunteers and the great work and witness the volunteers have shared with others. They deeply feel that it has been a real blessing to have had a part in enabling the individual volunteers' mission service.

“Following God's Call: Individual Volunteers In Mission” is available at Cokesbury Book Store and at http://cokesbury.com. It is a work that is hard to put down, and would be great not only to read and keep and cherish, but also to give as gifts.