Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Jurisdiction, conference leaders encourage online engagement for VIM teams


By Tabitha Beckman

Team leaders and churches who had planned local and international mission trips through Volunteers In Mission (VIM) now have to figure out how to prepare or continue to support their mission partners while social distancing.

South Central Jurisdiction UMVIM and Disaster Response Director Karen Distefano and the Oklahoma Conference VIM held an online meeting to help equip churches and VIM team leaders with resources and ideas for holding online missions or training for missions. The webinar encouraged volunteers who are stuck at home to use their time to work on team roles and learn more about the area they are in mission with.

In the recorded meeting, Distefano was joined by Una Jones, director of the Mission Volunteer Office, Global Ministries; Rev. Tom Lank, Northeast Jurisdiction UMVIM Director; Rev. Tammy Kuntz, North Central Jurisdiction UMVIM Director; Ronda Cordill, Western Jurisdiction UMVIM Director; Gray Miller the Southeast Jurisdiction Assistant UMVIM Director; and several conference coordinators and team leaders.

Distefano emphasized that everyone should remember their original reason for engaging in mission.

“Many of you felt called to serve your neighbors,” Distefano said. “Some of you may have been called, or have a passion for a particular issue, or a particular location in the world. Maybe you’re particularly drawn to sites that work with children or with hunger issues. Maybe you’re really drawn to Central America or Africa.”

She continued to emphasize the need for ongoing mission work and encouraged leaders to examine why it’s important to to keep connected with partner sites. These partners, she said, are still in mission, and their resources are going to be extremely limited now. That need is a very important reason to still be in mission.

Distefano explained that it’s also important for team leaders to bring the passion and the excitement of their mission to the team members they have worked hard to recruit.

“They still want to be connected, they still want to serve, and so as a team leader, your new ‘why’ could be that you’re wanting to keep your team focused on that mission site,” Distefano said. “And we still want to empower people during these uncertain times.”

She also said it is important for team leaders to work with their mission site directors, “letting them know you are still in partnership, and you still want to support their mission, and they can tell you what they have going on and what they need.”

Webinar leaders said self-isolation is also a great time to educate team members and churches about issues such as immigration, hunger and the fair treatment of all people. Tips included starting a Bible study or book club, researching statistics in your community, and getting involved with local agencies that are already addressing these needs. Volunteering at a food bank was used as an example to get teams involved. Even in this uncertain time, Christians are still called to be in mission.

To watch the whole seminar, visit this link.

For more information contact Distefano at kdistefano@scjumc.org or conference VIM Coordinator Lori Foster at lfoster@okumc.org.


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