Students in the July 14 Early Response Team training work together in an exercise to build a structure with minimal craft materials.

2 Disaster Response volunteer training events, March 16

Volunteers in Mission and Early Response Teams
(2 simultaneous training events)

By the Rev. Russell Atkinson
Eastern PA Conference UM Volunteers in Mission Coordinator
Pastor of Drexel Hill UMC

Explore the world, near and far, through the ministries of Volunteers in Mission and Early Response Teams. Ponder anew what the Almighty can do . . . through you! You could travel a few miles from home or halfway around the world to share God’s love.

Work alongside close friends or new friends from far-off lands. The Eastern PA Conference’s Disaster Response Ministry Team will sponsor two simultaneous training events for UM Volunteers in Ministry (UMVIM) on Saturday, March 16, 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM, at St. Paul’s UMC, Elizabethtown (398 N. Locust Street, Elizabethtown, PA. (717) 367-1889).

One training will be for people wanting to explore participation in general UMVIM teams. The other will be for people wanting to serve on Early Response Teams (ERT), whose mission is to provide skilled support to disaster survivors as soon as communities allow response teams into disaster-impacted areas.  

Each training costs $45 per person, which provides the book Mission Journey, a light breakfast, and lunch. UMVIM participants will also get the updated VIM Team Leader Resource Toolkit. Learn more. Register Online Now.

Leading the two trainings will be:

  • UMVIM: The Rev. Russell Atkinson, Eastern PA Conference UMVIM Coordinator. Contact: ratkinson@epaumc.org  or 610-675-7187.
  • ERT: Robert Simcox, Eastern PA Conference Disaster Response Coordinator. Contact: drc@epaumc.org or 610-427-0470.

Early Response Teams are “background-checked, badged, trained and motivated to be a caring, listening Christian presence,” said Simcox. “You will learn how early responders prevent further damage by tarping roofs, stabilizing structure, and clearing out debris and water-soaked materials.

ERTs know how to prepare a structure for UMVIM recovery teams to do their work and also how to provide hope to desperate survivors that God’s people do care about their lives and their homes.”

UMVIM volunteers can work as carpenters or Vacation Bible School teachers. UMVIM volunteers have helped with medical clinics and community youth sports and recreation programs. Many volunteers take weekend journeys. Others spend a full week, and yet others stay up to a month on a volunteer journey.

Great passion and interest have been expressed throughout our Conference for the continuing struggles of the people of Puerto Rico following Hurricanes Maria and Irma two years ago. “The Methodist Church of Puerto Rico has developed a sound disaster response plan, which our conference is supporting with funds and UMVIM terams.”

More UMVIM teams from Eastern PA are needed to help repair homes, churches, community centers and heavily damaged Puerto Rico Methodist Church Camp Fred P. Corson. The recreational camp in a mountainous area was created in 1961 when Methodists there were part of the Philadelphia Episcopal Area.

Teams are also needed to respond to disasters in our Northeast region—including Maryland and West Virginia—in Texas and Louisiana, still recovering from Hurricane Harvey, and elsewhere.

Eastern PA churches reported sending 55 UMVIM teams and 733 persons to serve across the U.S. and around the world in 2016; but the real numbers are likely higher. Often, we don’t get to hear the stories of many UMVIM teams. So please, we need more teams and individuals to share their mission plans, experiences and insights with us.

Read more in an August 2018 article by Russell Atkinson: Volunteering with the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico.