How to Get Plugged in to Missions Work in the UMC
Mission work is not just for full time missionaries, everyone in the United Methodist Church can get involved. 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 we can serve in mission work, as short-term volunteers or serving as full time missionaries.
“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?
A: David, a lifelong Methodist, had been involved in outreach at church for a long time. Elizabeth’s mission interest went back to her childhood, meeting a woman at her congregation who had been on a life-changing trip. “It was just one of those moments when my spirit was stirred,” Elizabeth recalled.
Mission work took a back burner, however, as the couple pursued careers and family. “We felt this calling, but all we saw were the barriers to it,” Elizabeth said.
Finally, Elizabeth, David and their daughters, Eva, 7, and Annie, 5, could no longer ignore the calling. They headed to Mozambique, where they worked for two and a half years. David served as director of a hospital, and Elizabeth helped a local artist-run a business and a water sanitation project.
When the couple returned to the U.S., they started helping connect others to mission work. “I see a God thread through it,” Elizabeth said.
Q: If a young person wants to get involved in mission work, what does that look like?
A: Global Mission Fellows is a popular option for those 20 to 30 years old, who are committed to work in social justice ministries for two years. They head outside of their home communities, either in the U.S. or abroad, where they address root causes of oppression and alleviate human suffering. Elizabeth explained that there are structures already in place, allowing Global Mission Fellows to work alongside community organizations to help with a range of issues including public health, migration, education and poverty.
Q: What if I am too busy to get involved with mission work?
A: 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 for full time missionary work?
A: 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, David explained. He added that there are also programs to build churches in Latino and African-American communities in the U.S. The church’s Global Missionaries offers a number of ways to witness and serve in various locales and cultures, while engaging in different activities and professions, including pastors, teachers, doctors, nurses, social workers, church planters and evangelists.
Q: I love doing mission work, but I work full time. Where can I serve?
A: 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, youth trips, or a family interested in exploring what a long-term mission would be like. This grassroots movement in the church provides short-term assignments.
Q. I want to sign up, but I don’t know what steps to take. What do I do?
A: 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 church or community.
If a particular place is of interest to you, she said to talk to your pastor first, then consider visiting the Global Ministries website to stay updated with what work being done and what the needs are. “We have missions going all over the world,” she said.