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Giving more than money

 

Countless opportunities exist for people throughout the United Methodist connection to help others in ways beyond giving money. Sometimes becoming involved personally means more than just writing a check.

The involvement can be as diverse as keeping in touch with people who are part of Advance projects or actually working side-by-side on projects needed by local congregations and missionaries or worshipping online with other Christians.

What's important in all instances, however, is for everyone involved to understand each other's needs and to work together.

Volunteers in Mission (VIM) and In Mission Together, programs of the General Board of Global Ministries, let United Methodists be personally involved in mission work.

VIM is a grassroots movement that is an official channel for short-term mission assignments in the United States and around the world. In Mission Together is a global partnership network embracing asset-based, long-term development rather than the traditional needs-based, short-term relief approach to mission work.

In Mission Together partners agree in a 50/50 Partnership Covenant to participate equally, using everyone's skills and resources to address systematic issues rather than treating symptoms.

The Rev. Patrick Friday, In Mission Together director at Global Ministries, emphasizes the importance of people involved in mission work identifying with their partner's situation and developing relationships to let them find ways to learn from each other.

"Sometimes we feel that partnership is all almost one-sided. Not intentionally – it just happens," Friday said. "We're from a country that has more assets, or more possibilities .... (we think) we're the teachers, and we're the donors.

"If you shift that and think, well what if our partner – whoever that may be – is the teacher, and even the donor using their local assets, what could we learn from that?" he said.

He cites a vibrant United Methodist church in the Central Asian Republic of Kyrgyzstan filled with young people who are very passionate about sharing the gospel and being involved with local social justice issues. They also long to be a part of the global connection and have frequent communications with churches in the United States.

The Kyrgyzstan church is now a partner with the Los Angeles Korean United Methodist Church. Technology allows the two to interact online for worship and Bible study.

"What a spectacular moment earlier this year when we were together and the worship was set up" between Kyrgyzstan and Los Angeles, Friday said. "We were having morning prayer and morning worship connected by the Internet, and it was just amazing."

Una Jones, assistant general secretary for mission volunteers at Global Ministries, said VIM stresses that mission groups should respect the needs and desires of leaders at host locations, whether in the United States or abroad. VIM provides approved project lists for mission journeys for both adults and for youth and young adults.

"When you encourage your partners to have the projects approved, then you know the (church) leadership of the country has endorsed them," Jones said. "It's based around their ministry as opposed to many of us going to certain parts of the world or in the USA and really determining what we think they need, instead of what the ministry really is."

Donors through The Advance are encouraged to track their gifts and keep in touch with their projects using The Advance website (www.umcmission.org/giving).

Each project page includes contact information, said Ellen Knudsen, director of Advance projects at Global Ministries. "It includes an email address so donors can be in direct contact, and that's really what we recommend. The best thing for the projects and the donors is for them to be able to have a conversation and create a relationship."

Advance staff members often speak to churches, annual conferences and other groups about Global Ministries' work and conduct events called Missions Celebrations to provide greater opportunities for people to learn about Advance projects.

Tom Gillem