Volunteers in Mission and Children - Part 1:
by Michael DeBorja
“How are we going to teach children, who live amidst so much affluence, about their responsibility for their fellow human beings?” asked The Rev. Don Underwood, Senior Minister, Christ United Methodist Church, Plano, Texas.
One answer is to include children and teens in United Methodist Volunteers In Mission (UMVIM) trips. Lorna Jost, North Central Jurisdictional UMVIM Coordinator, and her husband, Rick Jost, from the Dakotas Conference of The United Methodist Church, brought their children along on several UMVIM excursions.
Walt and Betty Whitehurst, retired Southeastern Jurisdiction UMVIM and Global Ministries Individual Volunteer Coordinators, also brought their children along to Mexico. They say their children learned about the world and their responsibility to give to the world.
A number of UMVIM sites accept families and some United Methodist camps have family-type volunteer opportunities. Families in the Nebraska Conference have found plenty for children to do at family camps. Children can sort things, clean items in tubs of water, read to younger children, work with the physically disabled, and perform tasks that can be accomplished in small time frames, according to The Rev. Nancy Kaye-Skinner from Ralston Trinity United Methodist Church in Ralston, Nebreska.
United Methodists in the North Texas Conference support a hands-on children's program entirely based on mission activities, called Mission Possible Kids. For children between 6 and 12 years old, the mission activities include collecting items for food banks, cooking meals for homeless shelters, making gifts for hospitalized children, and raising money for Heifer International to end world hunger. These activities provide opportunities to talk about poverty around the world, milk production, and economics.
When the Dallas food pantry of Wilkinson Center was in crisis, Mission Possible Kids “collected enough food to not only get it through [the] holidays, but stocked [it] all winter long....They have helped feed thousands of people,” according to Kathy Meadows, founder and director of MissionPossible Kids at Christ United Methodist Church in Plano, Texas.
The children may glean from fields after they have been harvested, which is “a great opportunity to learn about what migrant farm workers do and the biblical story of gleaning,” said Ms. Hellums. Other activities include “setting up a churchwide collection and then packaging health kits, flood buckets, and backpacks with school supplies, and they could also learn about UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) this way and what it does around the world.”
“We had a group that took a backpack list of items to Reynosa, Mexico, and bought the items to fill 50 backpacks from money collected at their VBS (Vacation Bible School), and a special offering at the communion rail at church. They filled the backpacks and then took them out to a small Methodist Church in Mexico.... This was a wonderful cultural experience while being in mission,” said Ms. Hellums.
On a UMVIM trip to Costa Rica, “The children involved in this mission trip also involved their classmates back home. Several of the 11-year-olds each brought a suitcase with things that had been collected by class members. So not only was this an excellent experience for these 11-year-olds but they were able to witness to their classmates as well," said Bonnie Albert from the North Indiana Conference.
United Methodist Volunteers In Mission offers opportunities not only for parents with children, but for grandparents too. The teams to Costa Rica included grandparents and grandchildren, a single mom and son, teens with a pastor, and a teen with another adult in the church. The young people’s ages were from 10 to 17. “All were outstanding workers,” claimed Ms. Albert.
UMVIM trips are a great way for families to reconnect with each other in a meaningful way.
When searching the web, check out the family volunteer opportunities list at umvim.info
This series of three articles is adapted from a talk to a United Methodist inter-agency meeting on children at the General Board of Global Ministries, New York, Dec. 15, 2006.
Date posted: Feb 06, 2007