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Step Up in Mission Volunteer Training

Individual Volunteer Orientation in Nickerson
Participants in the Individual Volunteer Orientation
in Nickerson, Nebraska, March 5-8, 2009

The closing months of 2008 and the opening months of 2009 saw a number of training events for mission volunteers, for both teams and individuals.

Here are some highlights:

Training in Liberia

One Global Ministries leadership goal for the quadrennium is to provide leadership training to better equip people in the central conferences to offer support and coordination for mission volunteer work. On February 16 and 17, a training event for district volunteer coordinators and district superintendents in Liberia was held at St. John United Methodist Church in Gbarnga.

There were 20 coordinators present, 11 of whom were young adults, and also 267 superintendents. Staff of the Liberia Annual Conference and Global Ministries provided leadership. The training curriculum included topics such as:

Understanding the nature and role of volunteers and volunteer coordinators;

Preparing for receiving volunteers;

Educating volunteers in the history and culture of the place visited, its mission, and the community;

Planning, prioritizing, and scheduling volunteer projects and opportunities;

Building relationships as the central objective of the volunteer experience;

Creating long-term mission partnerships.

Following the training, Bishop John Innis, a director of Global Ministries, urged UnitedMethodist-Volunteer-In-Mission (UMVIM) teams to consider work in the area around Diecke, Guinea, where the Liberia Conference has a mission consisting of 12 congregations, a school, and a clinic.

Individual Volunteers

Four training events for individual volunteers were held in 2008 for a total of 64 people, and six are projected for 2009. In February of this year, the first individual volunteer college campus training took place at McMurry University, a United Methodist-related institution in Abilene, Tex. Twenty-one people engaged in preparation for domestic and international services. Global Ministries has opened communications with church-affiliated colleges and universities to bring volunteer mission service to the attention of more students and young adults.

This training at Camp Egan in Tahlequah, Okla. marks the completion of one of the largest ever groups of individual volunteers.

Currently, 70 individual volunteers are serving in international and domestic sites; 59 people for potential placements have been trained so far in 2009. Central conferences are being encouraged to promote the individual volunteer concept, and in the summer of 2009 the first individual from Germany will be placed in South America.

Adequate training for individual volunteers is essential since they are often viewed as missionaries by host communities; they must possess a mature Christian faith, understand the nature of mission, and be equipped to deal flexibly with the culture in which they work, whether domestic or international.

Individual volunteers are expected to cover the costs of their mission experience. They may volunteer for a few weeks, months, or several years. At present, such volunteers are in service in 25 countries, ranging alphabetically from the Bahamas to Zimbabwe, and including China, Israel/Palestine, Japan, Slovakia, and Swaziland.