It’s no secret that the Rev. Hollie Tapley is passionate about mission work. Since her first youth mission trip to La Nariz, Mexico, in 1979 to last month’s travels to Haiti, Tapley has lost count of the dozens of trips she has organized.
But as the new chairperson of the Florida Conference board for United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM), Tapley is making it, well, her mission, to ensure that UMVIM opportunities are no longer “the best-kept secret in the conference.”
|The Rev. Hollie Tapley
“There’s so much that can be done through missions. When you have a hand in making somebody’s life better then mission trips become a transformative experience,” says Tapley, who serves as associate pastor and Minister of Discipleship at Memorial UMC in Fernandina Beach. “By being in service to others you truly discover that it’s not ‘all about me.’”
Despite intentions to limit her conference activities when she transferred from the South Georgia Conference three years ago, Tapley is spearheading efforts to make UMVIM as recognized and active as the United Methodist Women.
“UMVIM is a grassroots organization of conference members who are passionate about doing missions,” explains Pam Garrison, Disaster Recovery Ministry staff liaison to UMVIM. “We are the sending agency for short-term missions for the United Methodist Church.”
Over the past several months, Florida’s UMVIM task force has worked to refine goals, organize resources and restructure procedures to equip, educate and empower conference members when it comes to mission trips. Whether it is a small, rural church in need of roof repairs in the United States or a large-scale earthquake recovery effort abroad, the Southeastern Jurisdiction of UMVIM maintains a database of short-term mission opportunities that have been carefully vetted. The organization also provides resources and support in the form of training, information, contacts and financial assistance to conference members who are organizing mission trips.
|The Revs. Jeff Tate (left) and Hollie Tapley visit with a girl from the village of Cabaret, Haiti, during an UMVIM trip in April.
“I’ve organized plenty of mission trips, and going through UMVIM leadership training was one of the best things I’ve ever done,” says Tapley. “Not only does it provide step-by-step instruction on what to do and expect, it also enhanced my passion for mission work because it shows you that there is a real purpose to doing missions and a reason why you do things a certain way.”
Tapley points out that in addition to empowering the trip leaders, UMVIM promotes safe and successful trips and ensures that traveling tips and best-practices knowledge is shared with subsequent mission teams through the vetting, approval and feedback process for each mission opportunity in the database. It offers affordable trip insurance and is able to respond quickly to get mission travelers to safety when the unexpected – like a bombing in Uganda or earthquake in Haiti – occurs.
To keep track of all the mission teams, UMVIM is adding a form on its web site, www.flumc.org/umvim whereby mission trip organizers can input their team’s information. As conference board chair for UMVIM, Tapley also would like all mission trip organizers in the conference – including those who are not going through UMVIM– to send her an e-mail with the trip and team information, firstname.lastname@example.org
“By knowing every team from the Florida conference – where they are and when they are going – we can see what kind of impact and reach this ministry is having,” says Tapley. “And in the event of an emergency, we will be better prepared and able to act. We had mission teams working in Haiti through other organizations when the earthquake hit so we didn’t know where they were and how to contact them.”
Tapley and Garrison also want mission trip organizers to know that UMVIM’s ability to harness funding sources – through grants and donations – can help trip participants defray the cost.
“Three things we hope to do are: offer scholarships to youth through the Wesley Foundation; provide matching grants to assist churches that have never organized a mission trip; and provide financial support to offset per person project costs,” says Garrison. “But since we do not receive any financial support through apportionments, we rely solely on the donations we receive from churches, individuals and UMVIM teams who have experienced the benefit of an UMVIM trip.”
Tapley and the board are hopeful that more Florida conference members will experience the benefits of an UMVIM mission trip now that the barriers of lack of information, experience and/or finances are being chipped away.
“I want Florida UMVIM – what we do and who we are – to be known by every Methodist in the conference,” says Tapley. “I want us to have so many people who are passionate about mission work and who have experienced it that when I send an e-mail out about a mission need, it will be read and the Florida conference will respond.”
To support UMVIM, checks may be made out to the Florida Annual Conference Treasurer, noting Conference Advance Special #100180, and sent to Pam Garrison’s attention at the Florida United Methodist Center, 450 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., Lakeland, FL, 33815.