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Get ready to ‘do good’

Volunteers repairing a building

Michigan United Methodists eager for mission work can be trained to join an Early Response Team or a Volunteers in Mission team. The next training is on June 10, 2023.

Michigan Conference Communications

There is a debate as to whether John Wesley ever said . . .

“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

What is not debatable is that this quote captures United Methodists’ passion for making a difference in the world.

While willing hearts and able hands can accomplish a lot on their own, in true Wesleyan fashion, more good can be done when a method is followed.

That’s why the Michigan Conference has leaders who help organize volunteers around tasks.

Responding to Disaster

This week marks the first anniversary of the tornado in Gaylord, MI. When the news of the storm damage hit the headlines last May, many people around the state were eager to help. However, Early Response Teams (ERTs), prepared in advance, can best act in those critical hours and days following a disaster.

The Rev. Bob Freysinger is a Michigan Conference ERT trainer. Freysinger states, “Walking into a community that has been struck by a disaster is a humbling experience that will transform the hearts of the servants and those whom they serve. “ERTs hold tools in their hands and care in their souls. Freysinger continues,” Helping a family pick up the pieces following a flood, tornado, hurricane, or other disaster requires that an ERT volunteer come with a hefty dose of love in their hearts. It requires volunteers to listen to the stories they hear and pick up the pieces of the families they serve.”

An early responder needs many skills. Therefore, Freysinger invites those who would like to be ready to provide a caring Christian presence in future disaster zones. Grass Lake UMC will host an ERT training on Saturday, June 10, from 9 am to 5 pm. The cost is $35, which includes a T-shirt, badge, manual, and lunch.

Those who complete this basic training will be certified to serve on an ERT for the next three years. They will be available for a call-up by the Michigan Conference Disaster Response Coordinator or other United Methodist disaster officials across the United States.

Damage from tornado
On May 20, 2022, an E-F3 tornado tore through Gaylord, MI. It was the first time the city had ever been under a tornado warning. Two people died, and property damage was extensive. Blue tarps and boarded-up windows can still be seen a year later. What is less visible, but no less real, is the trauma to people’s spirits. ~ photo courtesy Paul Gruenberg

Freysinger notes, “You will be ready to get dirty, sweaty, and tired by mucking out basements, removing drywall, tarping roofs, and taking out damaged furniture and personal belongings—all for the joy of serving God as the hands and feet of Christ.”

Email Freysinger to register for the ERT training at [email protected]. Please include the following information: name, church name, birth date, mailing address, email address, and preferred phone number.

Helping Neighbors Every Day

However, it doesn’t take a disaster to send United Methodists into action. Opportunities abound to make life better for individuals, families, and communities.

Michigan Volunteers in Mission (VIM) is an organization that connects mission-minded groups with local and international service projects. Jody Pratt is the coordinator of Michigan VIM. She monitors sites and projects in the state and connects individuals and congregations with those opportunities to serve.

The Michigan VIM embraces 50-plus service project sites across the state. These are not simply workplaces. Instead, they are places where relationships may be built.

When a group connects to a site through Michigan VIM, Pratt helps them prepare for their upcoming mission work by keeping their official papers in order, updating their training, and ensuring they have insurance. Scholarships are also available as needed.

She also works with the site to help them be ready to be good hosts. “Does the place you’re going have good safety practices in place?” Pratt asks. “Do they have a safe place to host and feed you?” She explains that safety comes first. “People laugh at me, and I say I would never recommend any trip if they don’t have a safe place to house you, feed you, toilet you and provide a shower. If those things aren’t in place, then it’s not a safe place for you to be!”

Doing good requires a clear set of expectations and goals. For example, a mission group may come to the VIM coordinator with the idea of helping in their community without thinking through the type of tasks and conditions they would be in.

VIM volunteers
Motown Mission organizes transformative service experiences in Detroit for youth, young adults, and adults. Jody Pratt (left) helps connect Michigan’s volunteers in mission with Motown and other sites around the state. ~ Motown Mission web page image

Pratt and her colleagues help groups face the reality of what it means to go on a mission trip in all types of tasks, weather conditions, and terrain groups. “We have a very frank conversation about the group,” Pratt says. “What ages are involved? Do they want to work in construction? Do they want to work with a Vacation Bible School? Is there something else that they have in mind? How do you feel about the jungle as opposed to higher elevation?” There are lots to consider ahead of the experience.

The process of a group coming together, being trained, finding funding, and being placed at the right service site might be lengthy. But it can be very rewarding.

Pratt hopes new and returning groups will plan more mission trips and be guided by Michigan VIM. “We can help you with [a trip]. Make it very accessible and doable,” Pratt says. “But the whole premise is that you are building relationships. Whether it be through construction or education, it’s relationship building. It’s more than just painting walls or roofing a house. It’s a long-term commitment, modeling your faith in The United Methodist Church.”

VIM Goes Global

Jody Pratt will be at Grass Lake UMC on June 10, from 9 am to 5 pm, to offer VIM Team Leader Training. The training provides certification for both domestic and international VIM experiences. Those who complete this training are eligible for scholarship assistance on a first-time global journey. The $35 cost of the training includes lunch and materials. To register, email Jody Pratt at [email protected]. Please include the following information: name, church name, birth date, mailing address, email address, and preferred phone number. The registration deadline is June 1, 2023.

Volunteers in Mission are without borders. Michigan VIM is a part of the larger North Central Jurisdiction UMVIM connection that oversees mission sites across nine states: Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and the Dakotas.

UMVIM-NCJ assists mission teams from each state to travel and work together cohesively across the region and beyond. Jody Pratt is part of that wider connection.

Those interested in setting up a mission trip or learning about scholarship opportunities can contact Jody Pratt at [email protected].

“Do all the good that you can.” Perhaps it doesn’t matter who said those words. What matters more is that United Methodists continue to put those words into action. Thank you to Michigan VIM and the Michigan Disaster Response and Recovery Team for preparing volunteers to do good whenever and wherever they can.

Meghan Hartley contributed to this report. Michigan Disaster Response and Recovery (CCMM #3007) and Michigan Volunteers in Mission (CCMM #3058) are Ministry Partners in Step 2 of EngageMI, the mission initiative of the Michigan Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Last Updated on May 30, 2023

The Michigan Conference