The extent of my mission experience at Brannen Chapel United Methodist Church in Statesboro, Ga., was visiting the elderly at Brown’s Nursing Home during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season. I had no idea of the joy and excitement I would receive by becoming an active participant of the mission ministry when I joined Ben Hill United Methodist Church.
I remember the senior pastor standing before the congregation and describing an opportunity of a lifetime to participate in the training of the United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM). This four-week training would change my life forever! Sadly, I have to admit that at the time I had never been out of the country and did not have a passport.
My first mission trip was to Lucea, Jamaica, to teach Vacation Bible School to elementary students and to assist in building a fellowship hall for the neighborhood United Methodist church. Our first session consisted of understanding the biblical call upon our lives as missionaries. The trainer shared the scriptural text of Acts 1:8b: “… and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” She enthusiastically taught that as believers our Christian witness was not only for our local communities but as “far as we could reach.” I went away that night excited that my “ends of the earth” was Lucea, Jamaica.
Our next sessions consisted of getting acquainted with our team members, learning the culture of Jamaica, assigning our tasks, gathering supplies and learning how to pack. I thought to myself, “How hard would it be to pack clothes for eight days?”
Little did I know I had to pack clothes, shoes, insect repellent, first aid kit, snacks, water, supplies and my Bible.
During the weeks leading up to our departure, the reality of traveling out of the country became very apparent. For eight days of my young adult life, I would not have the luxuries of my United States comfort. I would travel to a foreign land, teach Vacation Bible Study, sleep in another person’s bed and eat food in a new culture. My excitement began to wane. However, I could hear the UMVIM trainer explaining that my feelings were natural; but be open to the Holy Spirit. She would constantly repeat, “you will learn a lot about yourself, about God and you will be blessed.” Never did she utter I would bless my Jamaican brothers and sisters.
The next Sunday, Ben Hill and UMVIM commissioned our team as “missionaries.” I was traveling to Jamaica to teach and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ! How arrogant did I think that I was “not” going to learn from my Jamaican brothers and sisters. As the mission trip revealed, I learned I was very privileged and the goodness of God’s grace and mercy.
On October 15, 2017, the Virginia Annual Conference will celebrate UMVIM Awareness Sunday. Please take the time to recognize those who have served in short-term missions and the work of UMVIM throughout the world.