What is UMVIM?
United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) is the short-term mission agency of the United Methodist Church. An UMVIM volunteer is any United Methodist who engages in outreach as a member of a United Methodist Church in service of their neighbors near and far. Learn More
Stories from the field
By Michelle Schwartzman, VIM Coordinator
Building the Beloved Community, what does that mean? What is the Beloved Community? Why do I keep hearing this in the Susquehanna Conference? The Beloved Community is the idea that all people are cared for and are free from hunger, poverty, and racism. It became popularized through Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The idea isn’t new but it’s circulating because people are still suffering from hunger, poverty, and racism and many believe we can build this community!
I’m the Volunteers in Mission Coordinator (VIM) for the Conference and I was able to attend the United Methodist Appalachian Ministry Network Assembly (UMAMN) on behalf of the Conference Board of Global Ministries (CBGM). Wow, we do love our acronyms! UMAMN’s mission is to advocate for Appalachia within the structure of the United Methodist Church, working to identify and implement solutions that address the systemic causes of community and environmental issues in Appalachia through leadership development and collaboration with ministries and organizations that serve the region. UMAMN celebrated 50 years in ministry and their Assembly theme was “Building the Beloved Community”.
UMAMN offers the Hunger & Poverty Grant Program which awards several grants up to $2,500 per year. The goals of the program are to assist with and encourage the development of new ministries or the expansion of current ministries that are working to eradicate hunger and poverty in Appalachia and to help meet the emergency needs of ongoing ministries dealing with mounting client populations and decreasing or diminishing resources. The grant is funded through the Appalachia Hunger and Poverty General Advance Special. Donate today. Like all ministries and organizations the Global Pandemic took it’s toll on UMAMN. However, they were able to offer emergency grants for direct food purchases for the ministries they’ve partnered with in the past during this time.
At the Assembly, I attended workshops and heard presenters talk about their efforts to Build the Beloved Community. The House of the Carpenter in Wheeling, WV hosted us for a day of workshops.
We heard from their Executive Director, Rev. Dr. Michael Linger. He presented on the Impact of Poverty and his experiences of leading the House of the Carpenter. He gifted us with the book, “The Mission-Minded Guide to Church and School Partnerships” by Jake McGlothin. You can borrow it from our Conference resource library, Discovery Place. We heard from Rev. Joy Wigal, Chair of Zanesville Thinktank on Poverty, about Addiction Services. Together with her congregation, she partnered with another church to begin an overnight shelter. We heard her passion and care for others and were trained on the use of naloxone. We learned what a Harm Reduction Advocate is and talked about different misconceptions of those addicted to substances and those who are unhoused. We also heard from Rev. Mike Feely, Executive Director of Mountain T.O.P., Rev. Dawn Martin, Director of Program Ministries at Hinton Rural Life Center and Cynthia Lytle, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Community Engagement and Rev. Ashley Steele, Executive Director, both of Urban Mission Ministries, Inc.. Closing out our presentations was William Isom II, Director of Black in Appalachia.
Our very own Bishop (well, one of them), Cynthia Moore-Koikoi, was the guest speaker Thursday evening. Bishop Moore Koikoi encouraged UMAMN and the people of Appalachia saying they have just what they need to Build the Beloved Community. Being from Appalachia herself, Bishop Moore Koikoi pointed out the strong sense of community and caring for neighbor as well as a drive to confront the hypocrisy of systems.
Appalachia is made up of 423 counties across 13 states and spans 206,000 square miles, from southern New York to northern Mississippi. The Region’s 26.1 million residents live in parts of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, and all of West Virginia. (arc.gov) All or a portion of 20 United Methodist Conferences fall within Appalachia, and the region contains over 9,500 United Methodist churches. 52 out of 67 counties in Pennsylvania are Appalachian counties.
Angela Bates, UMAMN Executive Director and Board Chair, Rev. John Baney (from the Susquehanna Conference, serving an Appalachian community at the Renovo Area United Methodist Charge and my hometown) ask that you, your congregation, or your Sunday school become a part of the 85 Builders for UMAMN. These 85 (or more!) will help UMAMN lay the foundation for future ministries and support existing ministries serve the people of Appalachia. Please consider becoming a BUILDER by pledging to give $25 a month for 1 year. You can donate to the Appalachian Ministry Network Advance #982041 or send your donation to Angela Kirtdoll, Exec. Coordinator, UMAMN Office, 301 North 5th Street, Steubenville, OH 43952.
Red Bird Mission in Beverly, Kentucky is in the poorest area of the U.S. The people of the Mission and the community have huge hearts for this region, and they also have some of the best scenery to view! The First United Methodist Church in Hershey has had a long history of sending work crews to serve. This year's Volunteer in Mission (VIM) team of ten left the first week of October to help a lovely elderly lady whose house was literally falling in from foundation damage. What is common when doing a project on an older home is that you discover more problems as you work. This was the case with Marilyn's home. She had been a widow for many years, and had gutter issues, along with the flooring. Our team was able to build back the rotten foundation and keep the water from coming into the home. We were also able to winterize other areas for the cold weather ahead.
Red Bird Mission is such a helpline for those in need in this area. They provide medical and dental services, a community store, Meals on Wheels, Volunteer in Mission teams for home repair, a Christian school, mothers and children programs, and senior citizen center activities. Marilyn was among many who have been helped by VIM teams coming to volunteer in this remote region in the Appalachian Mountains. Marilyn was so thankful for the help she was given due to the outpouring of love and prayer. Check out their website at rbmission.org. For assistance in planning a Volunteer in Mission Journey contact Michelle Schwartzman, VIM Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By John Shepler
On July 25, 2022, five Volunteers in Mission from Calvary UMC in Harrisburg arrived at the Onondaga Nation UMC just in time to unload the groceries to make lunch in their Fellowship/Kitchen room. Regis Doyle, Dale Miller, Mike Stephens, and Steve Keller were part of this team.
We were greeted by Dickie Crouse, of the Onondaga Nation, who directed us to several projects. Since the church needs a lot of work we went right to it. Some of our members spent several days replacing the toilet “up-pump”, stove, back door and repairing and painting the deck/ramp.
That evening we were welcomed to a dinner at Immanuel UMC in Camillus, NY. This was our night-time home. We cannot thank the people at Immanuel enough for their hospitality.
The next few days we patched and painted siding, sealed a deck, and repaired a couple of outside faucets.
On Thursday, we hosted ten members of the Onondaga Nation at our dinner where friendships are made and renewed over the 15 years we have been visiting there.
Friday morning was visiting day to all homes we worked on and gifts were given and photos taken. Then, these five tired Volunteers in Mission loaded tools and personals and headed home feeling good about our week with Onondaga Nation.
By Darlene Thomas
This was the theme for this year’s U.M. ARMY (United Methodist Action Reach-out Mission by Youth) mission weeks this past summer. U.M. ARMY is a national youth mission organization that offers youth mission opportunities across the United States each summer. U.M. ARMY is also a Volunteers in Mission vetted organization and can be found on the VIM website.
Several Susquehanna Conference churches were involved in this mission organization this past summer. The mission week was hosted by Trucksville UMC church. Four churches from our conference participated in the week: Trucksville UMC, Christ UMC (Mt. Top), New Creation UMC (Dover), and Shiremanstown UMC. In addition, two churches from Connecticut traveled to Northern Pennsylvania to join us.
Armed with hammers, paint brushes, yard rakes and other tools, this group of 44 youth and adults served the greater Trucksville area, helping both individual families as well as local social service organizations. We truly felt GOD @ WORK through everything we did – CONNECTING us with the community, new friends, and our faith. In addition to the work we undertook, we also worshiped together each morning and evening, enjoyed wonderful food prepared by our awesome kitchen team, and had lots of fun with games, an end of week picnic, a visit to a local dairy farm including yummy ice cream and strengthened our walk with God through lunch devotions and a prayer journey. The highlight of the week was our Community Celebration Dinner, when we invited the neighbors we served to a dinner and program to celebrate the projects we completed and the lives we touched.
GREAT NEWS!! U.M. ARMY is coming back to Trucksville in 2023. We will be there the week of July 9th and we would love to have more churches from the Susquehanna Conference join us. Registration will be opening up on November 1st so please check out the U.M. ARMY Northeast Website for more information. You can also contact Gina Grubbs at email@example.com or Darlene Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss the possibility of your group joining us.
Our theme for next year is GOD @ WORK: TRANSFORMING. Won’t you join us and help us continue to transform the Trucksville community and the lives we touch?
Many Volunteers in Mission (VIM) Teams are groups that have been meeting for years helping in their community. This is the case for the Allport-Bigler-Woodland Work-camp. These volunteers build community as they spend a week in the Woodland, PA area. This year the work-camp consisted of 40 volunteers. Even though it has been running for years, they welcomed 8 volunteers that were new to missions to their team.
The volunteers and the individuals at the sites enrich each other’s lives so much. Thank you ABW Work-camp for your love in action!
Thank you, Roger, for sharing your experience below.
- Michelle Schwartzman, Susquehanna Conference VIM Coordinator.
Bringing Hope in the Name of Jesus Christ
By Roger Walton
I had the distinct privilege of sharing my God-given gifts and talents, limited as they may be, with persons in need in the Allport-Bigler-Woodland area of Clearfield County, PA during the period of June 19-24 . This was the 11th year of this work-camp, and I have been blessed to be able to participate for 9 of those 11 years. Our efforts are based on 1 Peter 4:10, which states “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms”.
There were 33 individuals, families, and/or institutions on the request list for this year’s work-camp. The projects ranged from straightforward items like yard work, interior cleaning, power washing, exterior painting, and hauling/stacking firewood to more complex items like replacing a porch, installing fencing, and building decks/wheelchair ramps. I haven’t seen the final report on all that was accomplished, but I know we made a difference in the lives of every person we interacted with during that week.
I spent the first three days of the work-camp as part of a team building a deck and wheelchair ramp. The husband was recently in the hospital and is now confined to a wheelchair. The problem was, he had no way of getting out of his house in case of an emergency or even to go to a doctor’s appointment. When he was released from the hospital, four individuals carried him up a steep set of stairs at the rear of the house and placed him in a wheelchair inside the home. That’s what his world consisted of when we arrived. In those three days, we built a 10x20 foot deck and the structure for the first phase of the much-needed wheelchair ramp.
Unfortunately, we had to stop midway on this project after those three days, because my team leader had to return to his home to assist his wife with some pressing medical issues. I am thrilled to report that this project was completed after the official work-camp. A group of people (most of whom had been part of the work-camp) came together to finish the work and give great hope to this family.
On Thursday, I replaced two storm door latches, sanded, primed, and painted an exterior door of a large house for an elderly widow. Others power washed the entire home and cleaned ceiling fans and lamp shades on the inside. On Friday, I helped dig six 36” deep holes in shale so that posts could be set for the building of a deck and cover to be attached to a trailer. The owner purchased the FEMA trailer and is making all the preparations to turn it into their home. They are currently serving overseas in the U.S. military but are soon due to return to life in Clearfield County. Every time we dug rocks out of the holes and got closer to the 36” depth, more rocks fell in, and the process became agonizingly slow.
I can honestly say that I was physically drained by the time I drove home to Mechanicsburg on Friday afternoon, but I can also say that I was greatly blessed by the experience and look forward to “sharing my gifts” with the people of these Clearfield County communities in the future. Please be open to these types of mission opportunities, whether it be here at home, across the region and state, or wherever God calls you to serve. Let us all be doers of the Word, and not hearers only.
By Darlene Thomas
Hands and Feet is a ministry that came to life in August of 2017 at Shiremanstown United Methodist Church (SUMC). The title for this ministry came from our church’s vision statement to “be the hands and feet of Jesus.”
Hands and Feet volunteers are comprised of not just members of SUMC but include youth and adults from several area churches. We meet monthly on a designated Saturday and form teams comprised of adults and youth to serve the community. The workday starts with a hot breakfast for the volunteers, followed by a worship service to help us focus on why God has called us into missions.
The projects are identified through various referral sources and each site is assessed for viability prior to the workday by our Sites Manager. Materials, tools and supplies are organized ahead of time, so each team is ready for work at the beginning of the day. Each team has a leader who is experienced in the Hands & Feet procedures. Various leadership team members visit the sites throughout the day to ensure the teams have what they need and or troubleshoot any problems. We undertake projects such as: painting, yard work, repair, clean up/organization, small construction, etc.
We feel the work is important; however, we know God calls us to each of these homes for a purpose that sometimes isn’t visible to the human eye. We trust God has us there for a reason! Building relationships with the people we serve is part of what God calls us to do. We invite them to share lunch with us and have a devotional during lunch. This is a wonderful time of fellowship for the team and the neighbor they serve.
If your church is within the local community of SUMC, we invite you to join us on an upcoming Saturday. Adults and youth are welcome!
If you know of someone who could use our help within approximately 20-30 min drive of Shiremanstown, please contact us. We would love to show God’s love to these neighbors.
If your church is outside of our designated radius and you are interested in starting up a similar ministry, we would be happy to share our processes to help you build a similar ministry in your area.
We look forward to being in service with your church in whatever capacity God has planned! There is plenty of need in this hurting world. Won’t you partner with us to serve others and share God’s love??
For more information, contact Darlene Thomas, Director Hands & Feet at email@example.com or call Shiremanstown UMC at 717-737-6621.
This ministry is a Volunteers in Mission (VIM) ministry of the Susquehanna Conference. Key leadership positions of the ministry participated in VIM training several years ago and we report our monthly workday information to the conference for record keeping.
By Beth Notarfrancesco
Recently, a team from the Camp Hill United Methodist Church returned to their sister church, Lower Bombara UMC, in Panguma, Sierra Leone,
West Africa to rejuvenate the relationship that suffered a 3-year break due to the COVID pandemic. The relationship between the two communities was developed from the partnership the church had with the Sierra Leone Initiative www.susmb.org/sierra-leone-initiative/) and grew with
yearly voyages to the village.
The five-person team for 2022 consisted of Jim Clahane, Marsha Curry-Nixon, Beth Notarfrancesco, Denise Paran and Mark Vickrey. Confirming the commitment to the community was the primary focus for the trip although they were also able to spend time with the church, schools, hospital, and dedicating a community market.
The dedication of the community market was a highlight of the trip for many as the project’s origination started back in the fall of 2015. Camp Hill UMC partnered with Community Empowerment for Livelihood and Development (CELAD) to work with the community-at-large to determine what they most needed. It was decided by the Panguma community leaders and elders that a market structure would be of greatest benefit to the entire community. In 2018 physical construction began and the market came to completion just prior to the team’s arrival in 2022. Two widely loved and respected leaders, Bishop John K Yambasu and Amadu Ndoeka Sr went on to rest with their Lord and Savior during the building of the market and so the dedication of the Amadu Ndoeka Memorial Market became as much of a day of memory and honor as joy and commencement.
The team also spent time revisiting a long-standing scholarship program in which the church has raised and invested more than $340,000 over 12 years to assist in the education of students within the UMC schools in Panguma. Changes in educational funding in recent years as well as changes in leadership determined the need for this re-evaluation. With the wisdom and assistance of Josepha Pormai, Secretary of Secondary Education for the Sierra Leone Annual Conference, the team was able to gather the information necessary to bridge the educational partnership between the two communities into its next season. This partnership is helping to improve the education and opportunity for education to children living in Panguma with the hope of bettering the lives of families one child at a time.
The team returned home encouraged by the many ways they saw God at work throughout their journey and credits the Sierra Leone Initiative for opening the door of opportunity for the development of this relationship which has changed lives on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean to
and for the glory of God.
God is good all the time. All the time God is good!
In case you missed it, VIM has a new website under the Conference
Board of Global Ministries (CBGM). Go to susmb.org/vim to
check it out! You can find what VIM is all about, see photos of teams
from the past year, find a project to work on or a training that would suit
you, and mission resources. These pages are constantly being updated
with new materials and projects so check it out regularly.
Keep an eye out for upcoming VIM Training, sessions are scheduled
regularly or by request. VIM Training prepares us to have a positive
impact in mission whether it is a few hours or weeks; local, national, or
global. It is open to those who have led teams and those who have never
served on a project. Taking this training does not require you to lead a
trip but equips you for service. Topics covered include Best Practices,
Cultural Awareness, Health & Safety, Team Orientations, Useful Forms,
Insurance and Fundraising. If you, your mission committee, or mission
team are interested in the VIM Training, contact Michelle at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-766-7441 ext. 3105.
A gem that the Susquehanna Conference VIM provide is supplemental
accident insurance for your teams FREE of charge. If you’re serving in
your local community or sending teams out further into Pennsylvania,
other states, or other countries, contact Michelle for information on how
to acquire this insurance. It’s another way we care for our teams and all
the work you do.
What to look for in 2022???
Right now, the Susquehanna Conference VIM offers a grant for VIM
team’s material costs. Check it out at https://susmb.org/resources/. We’re
creating a new grant that will debut later this year to help the journey
costs of new missioners. But we can’t continue to offer these grants
without the help of generous donors! You know that it all adds up and
any amount donated helps tremendously! The grants come from United
Methodist Advances and that means that 100% of the money donated is
used for the grants, not administrative fees!
Please consider a donation to VIM, here’s how to donate to our VIM
Volunteers in Mission (VIM) Advance Special (#4055)
VIM is a grassroots movement of United Methodists who seek to put their
“Christian Love in Action.” VIM offers a connectional framework through
which disciples can engage in short-term mission journeys locally,
nationally, and globally. VIM provides training, resources, insurance, and
support to our VIM teams.
Volunteers in Mission (VIM) Materials Advance Special (#7010)
This ministry helps with the costs of materials for VIM work including
local mission, domestic and international VIM Journeys.
Make checks payable and send to:
“Susquehanna Conference UMC” - Memo line: Advance and number
303 Mulberry Dr., Mechanicsburg, PA 17050
VIM is the short-term mission agency of The United Methodist Church
who seek to put their “Christian Love in Action”. I celebrate all our
Conference Missioners and those who support us with your prayers,
monetary gifts, and relationship. I’ll leave you with one of our core values
from John Wesley: Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.
Michelle Schwartzman, VIM Coordinator
email@example.com • 717-766-7441 ext. 3105.
By Pennsy Waltman
Faith UMC, Bellefonte, and Mt. Calvary, Harrisburg, were so blessed to return to Carteret County N.C. this fall after having served there in the spring. There
are 250 families still waiting for help from the 30 inches of rain in 24 hours in 2018 which came up through the floors and rotted them from the bottom up. We helped
three families in the spring and two on our trip in October: a grandmother raising four grandchildren (wonderful kids!) and a retired gentleman on disability who had a broken
back and neck and isn't able to do a lot of repairs himself. Both homes should have been condemned! Floors were rotted out so that you had to walk on the floor joists in
order to cross the room and not fall through the floor. You could see the earth beneath the floor while using the bathroom. Insulation was hanging two feet above the bunk
bed where a teenage granddaughter was sleeping. Four tarps on top of each other was keeping some of the rain from coming into the home. The back porch had fallen
down onto the concrete making it unsafe to enter the house that way. In one home there has been no hot water since 2018!
The job/housing coordinators are working six days a week without financial compensation but are greatly compensated by seeing what God is accomplishing
through His children in mission. We were able to install shower/bathtubs, toilets, new flooring, new roof, a hot water heater, drywall, and much more. The day after we
left, God sent another team to finish where we left off. Praise God both families are back in their homes. We always invite past and present families we have served
to join us for dinner and it was a joy to have them all together and hear their stories. The son of the gentleman homeowner helped us on his days off and is taking
vacation to join us on our next trip in the spring because "I haven't seen my Dad smile in 3 years and he's been smiling all week!" A couple we helped in the spring thought
God had forgot all about them and lost their faith, stopped going to church, and gave up. Seeing us driving all the way from Pennsylvania, sleeping on the floor, and helping
people they never saw before brought them back to God and they paid it forward with a check for $1,000 to help us help someone else!
As we all say, "We always get more than we give on these trips!! Maybe God just wants us to keep paying it forward!"
For more information contact Volunteers In Mission Coordinator Michelle Schwartzman at 717-766-7441 ext.3105 or email VIM@susumc.org
By Douglas Hoy, Disaster Response Coordinator
Have you ever seen those advertisements offering an all-expense paid, week-long vacation to a tropical location? It’s an offer that seems almost too good to be true, right? Just spend a few hours touring a vacation resort and listening to a salesperson attempting to sell you a condo. No strings attached. Just give them a few hours of your precious time. How bad could it be? Fill out the registration form. Provide them with your mailing address, telephone number, and e-mail address. Convinced it’s
worth it because all expenses are paid? It’s a great opportunity because you were planning to take a vacation anyway. Then, you start receiving junk mail and spam
e-mails. Your phone rings constantly. The texts never stop. You discover the airfare is free—well, except for the taxes and fees. Suddenly, what seemed like a great opportunity with no “catches” has turned into an expensive, time-consuming nuisance.
Recently, I felt like one of those sales persons. I was assessing a home that had been damaged from one of the storms that passed through Knoxville in north-central
Pennsylvania. As the homeowner accompanied me, we documented the damage and discussed what needed to be done to fix it. Remove the mud. Dispose of the debris.
Re-build the basement staircase. Replace the hot water heater. Inspect and repair the electrical service. As we talked, I could see the concern becoming evident in his
eyes. He was already overwhelmed by the circumstances surrounding the flood and being forced from his home.
Then he asked the question, “What is this going to cost me?” What’s the catch?
This year, the Disaster Response Ministry was active in supporting the relief and recovery efforts for multiple disasters. Of course, supporting the on-going pandemic
is at the top of a list that also included helping with storm clean-up at Camp Penn; resourcing various Conference and local church ministries, providing national crisis hotline operators to record disaster needs; doing flood relief, cleanup, and rebuilding in multiple locations throughout the Conference.
We learn from scripture that “God loves a cheerful giver.” More specifically, 2 Corinthians 9:7 clarifies that we should give without reluctance or compulsion. The people of the Susquehanna Conference have been generous with its financial support. And, that generosity has enabled the Disaster Response Ministry and UMCOR to be a caring, Christian presence in the aftermath of these disasters. We have been able to meet the needs of survivors by providing them with temporary heating, replacing medical equipment, paying for utilities, meeting essential needs, and awarding grants to assist with recovery to name a few.
As I spoke with that homeowner a few months ago, I thought about your willingness to give without hesitation. I turned to the homeowner and confidently shared that he
would not incur any costs. Immediately, I could see the relief in his eyes. The stress he was experiencing faded quickly as he processed that idea that there was no “catch.”
As we move into a new year, I look forward to continuing in ministry and mission with you, being the hands and feet of Jesus, and sharing His love with those who are suffering ... with no catch! Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
United Methodist Action Reach-out Mission by Youth (U.M. ARMY) is a national youth mission organization offering summer mission opportunities for youth, young adults and adults across the United States. U.M. ARMY works with VIM at both the national and local conference level to ensure quality, faith-based, mission weeks. READ MORE
It has been 14 years since my first of many trips to McCurdy Ministries Community Center in the beautiful Española Valley of Northern New Mexico. At the time, I was a senior high youth leader at a United Methodist church in York, PA. READ MORE