Comments from the New Volunteer Management Coordinator:
Our First Commitment is to the People of Haiti
by Rev. Tom Vencuss
The United Methodist response to the crisis in Haiti has been nothing short of remarkable. Immediately following the earthquake, United Methodists began offering their presence, prayers, and gifts in service with and to the people of Haiti. The Haiti Response Plan calendar is already full for the winter of 2010 and spring of 2011. I watch the enthusiasm, care, and concern that teams have when they arrive; I hear stories of youth groups and Sunday school classes raising funds and collecting items to be sent with teams; I see the Holy Spirit at work bridging culture, language, and color to bring people together.
Again, it is nothing short of remarkable.
Continuing and New Staff in Place in November
As the new Volunteer Management Coordinator, I follow in the footsteps of Rev. Mike Willis, who--with Susan Meister, Beth Guy, and the Guest House staff--has done a remarkable job in getting this mission off the ground and establishing a strong foundation for future work. Mike is taking a well-deserved leave to go home to Vestal, New York. I am grateful to Mike, Beth, Susan, and the staff for their sacrifices and efforts.
Beth will continue in Haiti as the Assistant Volunteer Management Coordinator. Susan will also continue as the US-based Calendaring Coordinator. On November 15, we will be joined by Deanna Hawkins (of the Minnesota Conference), our new Finance/Hospitality Coordinator.
I have been coming to Haiti for the past eight years. I have been part of a conference mission which has focused primarily on a small village in the hills south and east of Port-au-Prince. My wife, Rev. Wendy Vencuss, and I were actually in Haiti during the earthquake. Since then, in many ways things in Haiti are the same--the challenges, the needs, the call to mission. And yet in many ways everything has changed. Since the earthquake, the challenges and needs are greater, more critical; the call to mission deeper, more urgent.
"Many things are the same, yet everything has changed"
I thank those who have come through our program in the past nine months and those who will be coming in the months ahead. As I said, many things are the same, and yet everything has changed. This includes the way we may do mission. While we all come with a desire to serve and use our gifts and talents to their fullest, our first commitment is to the people of Haiti and to the needs of the local community in which we will work and serve.
All teams must remember that we are here at the invitation of the Methodist Church of Haiti (EMH) and to assist the local community in their projects. The sites and projects are established in accordance with the leadership of the EMH. I will meet on a regular basis with Rev. Gesner Paul, President of the EMH, and his clergy and lay leadership to plan and coordinate our UMVIM projects. And while some of our projects may require construction or de-construction, the most important part of our mission in Haiti will continue to be relationship building. Toward this, teams may be asked to take down or put up a wall, move blocks, carry cement, paint, play with children, or visit adults. Some of the projects may require more specialized skills and others simply a commitment to assist as needed.
This is an exciting and much-needed mission. As we move forward, some of the needs will change. But as someone pointed out, the key word here is "flexibility."
Thanks to UMVIM teams who have served and who will serve
We look forward to your visit and will do what we can to assist you in your planning and work. We thank you for the commitment and sacrifices you have made to be here. May God bless us as we work together in ministry and mission.
With thanks, in faith,
For more information about the Haiti Response Plan, go to www.umvimhaiti.org.
Date posted: Nov 10, 2010