Mission work is not just for full time missionaries, everyone in the United Methodist Church can participate. We talked to South Central Jurisdiction mission advocates David and Elizabeth McCormick while they were visiting our Annual Conference recently and followed up with a phone interview.
They explained the different ways laity can be involved in mission work, “in their own backyards” as volunteers or serving as full time missionaries overseas.
“A lot of the UMC members don’t even realize that the national UMC has a missions arm,” she said.
In fact, the UMC has 315 missionaries throughout the world – and in a way, David, explained that all Methodists pursue mission projects in one way or another.
“Our church makes disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” he said. “So, everyone is a missionary, whether you go out into the world or look in your own backyard.”
Q: How did you get involved in missions work?
Q: If a young person wants to get involved in mission work, what does that look like? (talk about Global Mission Fellows work here)
Q: What if I am too busy to get involved with mission work?
Even financing someone else’s journey is a part of mission work. “Not everyone is called to go to Africa,” David said. “Some people are called to write the check and finance the mission for someone else. There’s no difference in the call. Any call from God is an important one.”
Q: What do I do if I feel the call to be in full time missionary work?
Q: I love doing mission work, but I work full time. Where can I serve?
“Mission,” he added, simply means any work that happens outside of the church. “It’s not just about what’s inside these four walls, but how those four walls energize us and facilitate us to go out and serve in the world,” he said.
At the UMC’s Global Ministries, there are a number of opportunities to serve – from joining a nonprofit, hospital or church already in action around the world to signing up for the youth program, which serves ages 20 to 30. There are programs to build churches in Latino and African-American communities in the U.S.
David said the “United Methodist Volunteers in Mission” option is one of the best-kept secrets around. Individuals sign up for trips that range from two weeks to two years. Becoming a mission volunteer is an ideal option for a teacher considering a summer trip while away from school or a family interested in exploring what a long-term mission would be like.
The important thing is finding what works best for you, Elizabeth said.
Mission work has been tugging at her heartstrings for some time. As a young child, Elizabeth laughs when she admits that she often fell asleep during Sunday sermons.
Until, one weekend, a woman was invited to speak about her recent mission experience.
“It was just one of those moments when my spirit was stirred,” Elizabeth recalled.
She wanted to head out right away, but her parents convinced her to finish school. Then, she continued her education to become a pharmacist, and her career followed.
When Elizabeth met her husband, and they started their family, missions seemed distant and unobtainable. “We felt this calling, but all we saw were the barriers to it,” she said.
Then, one day, she went to a garage sale for another couple with children who were heading out on a mission trip. “I thought, ‘There are children all over the world. Having children is not a reason to not follow a call,’” she remembered.
In fact, the couple’s daughters, Eva, 7, and Annie, 5, would become key to the trip. “I can’t imagine doing it without them now,” Elizabeth said.
David explained that it took about six months to apply to do mission work. Then, they waited for a year and a half. Finally, they received an email that they would be heading to Mozambique.
They spent two and a half years there. David served as director of a hospital, and Elizabeth helped a local artist-run business and water sanitation project.
“What you want to do in a mission is work yourself out of a job,” David said. “We were able to do that.”
Once they were replaced with locals, the couple returned to the U.S. and started helping connect others to mission work. “I see a God thread through it,” Elizabeth said.
The first step to becoming a missionary is to talk to your pastor, David explained. He also recommends finding or forming a spiritual circle to support the process.
Elizabeth suggests that people start as mission volunteers – or join a group in their own area. “There’s a lot to do in our own community,” she said.
If a particular place is of interest, she said the Global Ministries website can be a major resource in staying updated with what work is being done and what the needs are. “We have missions going all over the world,” she said.
David also encourages missionaries to share their stories with congregations back at home. “It’s a testimony,” he said. “It’s a very tangible sermon of transformation. Listen to the stories – and know that we can do this.”
Notes from Shannon on the three areas offered by the United Methodist Church…
Where can I get involved in missions work?
United Methodist Volunteers in Mission
UMVIM is a grassroots movement within The United Methodist Church designed to provide an official channel for volunteer service. Through UMVIM, Christians (lay and clergy) can offer their skills and talents for service in their home country and around the world on short-term assignments at their own expense.
Global Mission Fellows
Global Mission Fellows are young adults, ages 20–30, who are committed to work in social justice ministries for two years. They serve outside of their home communities, either in the United States or overseas. This graduate-level fellowship allows participants to address the root causes of oppression and alleviate human suffering alongside community organizations in a variety of issues including public health (including HIV/AIDS), migration/immigration, education and poverty.
Creating opportunities for young adults is a priority of Global Ministries. Young adults play a critical role as agents of change in The United Methodist Church.
Missionaries witness and serve in different locales and cultures and engage in a range of professions and activities. They are a tangible connection between the church and mission.
These commissioned individuals are usually called to serve outside their country of origin, as pastors, teachers, doctors, nurses (or in other healing ministries), social workers, church planters, evangelists, and in a variety of other ways through denominational or ecumenical ministries.