This page is no longer current and will be deleted Friday, January 6, 2012. Please note that our new blog is housed here:


Conference Updates

Our hearts are aching for those in Missouri who are reeling from the effects of Sunday’s horrific storms, while we also remain in prayer for those across the Southeast working to rebuild from last month’s storms. We thank our volunteers for their quick response and willing hearts. Your active answer to the request for prayers, work teams and funds to help so many conferences in the Southeastern Jurisdiction was beautiful and inspiring. We are beginning to turn our hearts to the most recent disaster and will respond when they request our services. However, there is still so much needed to be done in the Southeast.

Below are requests from each individual conference pulled from their websites.

For more information, contact the link that is provided.

Alabama West Florida Conference:   The request for volunteer teams has been suspended until further notice, as damage assessments and recovery continues, and until a final framework is put into place. The conference will be ready to receive outside teams in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned for email updates requesting help at that time or visit for the latest news.

Holston Conference:
Now in long-term recovery mode in all sites. There are six active disaster sites in Holston and all are in need of work teams. Teams can come for days, weekends, or full weeks, and they can provide housing at each site. Teams wishing to serve can call the Call Center at 865-309-9530 or 865-309-9563. For more information, visit:

Kentucky Conference:
After recent flooding in Western Kentucky, the Elizabethtown District is assisting victims. They are collecting flood buckets. Cleaning supplies and volunteers for cleanup will be needed in the summer as the waters subside.For more information, visit:

Memphis Conference:
For more information about helping in this conference after the recent flooding, click here:

Mississippi Conference:   For updates from Rev. David Newton and guidelines for volunteer teams wishing to help with the storms and recent flooding, please visit:

North Alabama Conference:   For the latest information on North Alabama Conference Disaster Response to the April 27 storms, please visit  The North Alabama Conference Disaster Response Center is now open. Calls can be made to that center toll free at 855-862-8657.

North Carolina Conference:
In Response to the April 16 storms, to volunteer or for more information, click here:

North Georgia Conference:   For information regarding the response to the April 27 storms in North Georgia, please visit for the latest updates.

Tennessee Conference:
After recent flooding, flood buckets and kits are needed. For more information, click here:

Virginia Conference:
In response to the April 16 and April 27 storms, click here: for more information.

Western North Carolina Conference:
Disaster Response Updates:

Again, our hearts and prayers are with those in Joplin, Missouri and also across the Southeastern United States. For the most recent updates as to how the Missouri Annual Conference is responding in Joplin, click here:

If you wish to donate, any money can be sent directly to the individual Conference Offices or to the UMCOR Advance #3021326 for all US Spring Storms.

Thanks again,

Cristin Farrington, Communication Director

Mongolia Update

“God’s Mission in Mongolia, GBGM Style”- Helen Sheperd, Missionary

 One of the last mission sites to have been developed by the United Methodist Church is outer Mongolia. The General Board of Global Ministries became involved in this country in 2002 with the establishment of a formal presence with the Mongolian government under the name of “GBGM of Mongolia.” This non-governmental status has been the umbrella for all of the activities here in Mongolia, until recently.

The first UMC pastor to be assigned to Mongolia was Millie Kim, from Georgia. Currently there are 4 fulltime missionaries here. Since 2002 a home care hospice program was created, and six worshiping congregations were planted with three in Ulaanbaatar and three outside of Ulaanbaatar in the countryside at distances from 1-6 hours by car.  There are two mission centers which, in addition to having a church, also have many other activities: classes (computer, language, cooking) for children, youth, and adults; recreational activities; music programs, including keyboard, horsehead fiddle, and praise team; senior citizens’ fellowship; meals for the homeless; kindergarten; gardening; woolfelt project.

Since the beginning of the mission activity in Mongolia there have been MANY teams visiting from the U.S. and Korea for a few days each. They have been involved in painting one of the mission center buildings and building a picnic-type of shelter; leading VBS; presenting leadership seminars/women’s seminars; leading revival worship services; visiting a detention center, providing a meal and worship for the inmates; offering medical and dental examinations and treatment for individuals in the area; and  photographing families at one of the churches.

-Helen Sheperd

Below is a link to a video interview with Holli Vining, who recently returned from her time as a Mission Intern in Mongolia.
(make sure to turn the volume up!)

How can you help?

-Pray. For the people. For the church. For the work of mission interns and missionaries.

-Give. Through the Advance #00209A Mongolia Mission Initiative.  click here for more information.

-Serve. If you are interested in serving, please contact our office!

Panama Chose Me- Rhett Thompson

When asked why I chose to serve in the Republic of Panama as a missionary pastor, I often reply, “I didn’t choose Panama. Panama chose me!” 
My Christian formation in the Canterbury United Methodist Church UMYF under the guidance of Youth Minister Leon Precise in the early and mid 1970’s instilled in me a desire to serve “the least of these.” With the idea of becoming a medical missionary, I began premed studies at Davidson College in the Fall of 1977, but my experiences there led me in another direction. 
My exposure to Religion professors Dr. Max Polly and Dr. David Kaylor made it clear to me that a Religion major was the only choice for me. My participation in the Davidson Christian Fellowship and my volunteer work with the youth of the Davidson United Methodist Church helped to clarify my vocational direction. I would be a pastor, not a doctor. 
After graduating from Davidson in May of 1981, I headed for the Candler School of Theology of Emory University. But during the summer between college and seminary, I began work as the Youth Minister of the Bright Star United Methodist Church of Douglasville, Georgia where I would serve throughout my years in Seminary.

During the summers after my first and second years at Candler, I participated in two UMVIM (United Methodist Volunteers in Mission) trips to Mexico with a team from the Douglasville First United Methodist Church. The experiences on those trips confirmed my sense of calling to a cross-cultural mission. The fact that years before, when I was in sixth grade, I had chosen to study Spanish is one of many small details in which in hindsight I have seen the hand of God. Although my Spanish was both rusty and rudimentary, I was thrilled to be able to overcome the language barrier and communicate with the brothers and sisters I met there in Mexico. 
At the beginning of my last year of seminary, I applied to the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM), expressing my willingness to serve as a missionary pastor. My first choice was El Salvador or Nicaragua followed by any other location in Central America, South America or even a Portuguese speaking country like Brazil.

Much to my disappointment, by the end of the school year I had heard nothing definite from the GBGM, but still convinced of my calling, I requested that the Bishop of my Annual Conference (North Alabama) appoint me not to a church back in Alabama but instead to the Latin American Biblical Seminary in San Jose, Costa Rica. There I could further explore the idea of service in Latin America, improve my Spanish and knowledge of the culture and keep my options open if something came up at GBGM. 
The five months I spent in San Jose provided me with a wealth of experiences and contacts that have served me to this day. During that time, my mother, Jackie Thompson, came for a visit and arranged for a five day tour of Panama as a part of that trip. That was my first experience of Panama. I distinctly remember that wall of humid tropical heat that hit me when we came out of the doors of the Tocumen International Airport. Of course I had no way of knowing that I would soon be back…and for quite a long stay.

Early in 1985 I was called to GBGM headquarters in New York City for an interview with Nora Boots. When she asked me what I thought about Panama, I promptly replied, “It’s hot.” Would I be willing to serve there for a three year term as a missionary pastor? No doubt about it! 
Back in Birmingham, one day as I was making preparations to leave, I looked up at one of my bedroom walls and was struck by what I saw. A small cloth map of the Republic of Panama hung there as it has all my life, a gift from my Godparents Peggy and Bobby K. Smith who went to Panama with the U. S. Army shortly after I was born. I was less than a year old when I received that gift. The map was such a part of the decor of the room that it just kind of blended in. But suddenly it stood out with unmistakable clarity. 
I had not chosen Panama. Panama chose me!

Men’s Retreat

Rhett Thompson is a missionary in Panama.

His website is:

Building Bridges through Missions- Glenn Glover

In many parts of the world canyons and rivers are major barriers to medical care, education, trade and cultural development.  In the late 1980’s a Clarksville, Tennessee UMVIM team, led by Glenn Abernathy, built a pedestrian suspension bridge across the San Juan River in the mountains of western Panama between the road-accessible community of Cienaguita and the isolated Ngobe Indian village of Protrera Palma.  The bridge offered safe transit across the swollen river during the rainy season and connection to the outside world.  It also opened the Ngobe area to a Panamanian Methodist outreach project that is still active today.  I was part of an Auburn UMC (AUMC), Alabama team that crossed this bridge in 1991 on a visit with Bishop Morales to Protrera Palma.  In 1992, at the request of Bishop Morales, an AUMC team traveled 8 hours from Panama City, 4 hours on a 4-WD road, then a 4-hour hike into the Ngobe village of Boca de Balsa to re-build two pedestrian bridges that were in disrepair and dangerous to cross.  After two weeks of work, the bridges were in top shape.

Fast forward 16 years.  While preparing to build a bridge in Quesimpuco, Bolivia in 2008, we were training with Bridges to Prosperity ( in Honduras.  We met a Peace Corps volunteer who worked in Soloy, Panama near Boca de Balsa—he was touring Central American as his two-year assignment came to an end.  When he returned to Panama, he hiked into Boca de Balsa and sent me digital images of the bridges we had repaired in 1992.  One bridge had been destroyed and rebuilt by the government; the other was still in use, but needed some repair.  I planned to visit the site during an AUMC mission trip to Cienaguita in July 2010 to assess potential repairs.

A major flood had destroyed the Cienaguita/Protrera Palma bridge in 2008, leaving this portion of the Ngobe Indian Reservation isolated again.  Covenant UMC, Dothan, Alabama and Rotary International are raising funds to re-build this bridge.  A new bridge has been designed and plans are to start construction in summer, 2011 if the balance of the $60,000 needed for materials and labor can be obtained.

Due to high water during the July rainy season, I was unable to visit Boca de Balsa, so Eric Sipes and I returned to Cienaguita during the dry season in February 2011 to survey the Cienaguita bridge site, meet with Rotary Club supporters in David, Panama and make the trip into Boca de Balsa to assess the damaged bridge.  There is now a paved road to Soloy (about half way in) and a new road being built from Soloy to Boca de Balsa, so the trip now only took one hour from the Pan American Highway, rather than 8 hours.  We found that this bridge had also been badly damaged in 2008, after the Peace Corps volunteer’s visit.  The bridge’s floor cables were broken and portions of the steel and expanded metal decking torn by a large tree carried down the raging Balsa River.  As we were assessing the bridge with Rhett Thompson, a 25-year veteran GBGM missionary in Panama, he overheard a young man at a small store located at one end of the bridge talking about the bridge (God works in mysterious ways).  He was the chairman of the “bridge committee.”  Committee members were primarily local fathers with children who had to cross the bridge to attend school.

The committee had debated closing or dropping the damaged bridge (cutting the cables), hoping to force the Panamanian government to rebuild it.  The new government, however, is not particularly sensitive to indigenous needs, so the committee had decided to ask everyone who crossed the bridge to pay a “toll.”  We were shown a notebook where over a 4-5 month period they had recorded their collection of $204 (mostly 25¢-50¢ at a time).  They were going to purchase wood and a few other items to temporarily repair the bridge to make it safer for their children.  One young girl had fallen through a hole in the bridge, but her little dress caught on a piece of the torn metal floor.  Someone was able to pull her to safety, but the fathers did not want their children crossing the damaged bridge.  We matched their $200 collection and also offered the committee that AUMC would help raise money to completely refurbish the bridge.  They could either do the work themselves or AUMC would send a team the next dry season to work with them to refurbish the bridge.  The latest word from the bridge committee is that they want to completely refurbish the bridge with our help.  We are beginning to plan a team’s return to Panama in January or February, 2012 to work with the community to repair the bridge and make it safe again to cross the river.

The road to Boca de Balsa is both a blessing, giving easier access for the villagers to the outside world (and us to them), but also a curse, as the government has plans to build numerous hydroelectric dams in the Ngobe Reservation (the Ngobes will not receive electricity).  There were also plans to open the reservation to strip mining for copper.  This mining could pollute the many streams in the reservation and destroy the Ngobe’s way of life.  There were numerous large demonstrations by the Ngobes across western Panama in February, with several people, including children, hurt by Panamanian police trying to suppress the demonstrations.  The president of Panama may be backing down on the strip mining, but as is true across the world, the needs and desires of indigenous people are often ignored in government policy making.

We often talk about “building bridges” through mission work.  We know that the “ministry of presence” opens doors to not only help those in need, but also to show the love of Christ and “bridge” cultures.  There are countless locations throughout the world that need not only the metaphorical bridge, but also a real and functional bridge.  Bridges give children access to education, villagers access to medical care and commerce and offers the opportunity for Christians to share our love.  Building bridges, figuratively and literally, is at the heart of UMVIM.

Glenn is a Team Leader from Auburn First United Methodist Church, Auburn, AL

Here are some pictures Glenn sent:
Bishop Secundino Morales leading the AUMC team across the bridge on the San Juan River, Cienaguita, Panama- followed by Janice and Lester Spencer (1991)

Ngobe woman and children sitting on remains for bridge tower on San Juan River.

Rhett Thompson (in orange) and Eric Sipes talking to local bridge committee chairman and his son

Two pages of toll collection notebook; money to be used for temporary repair of bridge

Example of damage to Boca de Balsa Bridge

Bridge completed in 2008 across the Chyanta River, 3000 ft. below Quesimpuco, Bolivia.

Letter from Team Leader Rachel Estes on Recent Trip to Panama

Who knew you’d always want running water over electricity?  Anyone who has served at Cienaguita in Panama!  The mornings there start with a bucket line of missioners hauling water up from the spring to fill the tubs in the bathrooms, kitchens and any area that depends on water.  The line meanders through a banana grove, it’s on a dirt path where children in crisp white shirts and pleated blue skirts are walking to go to class, it’s an amazing way to start your day in Panama…a line filled with life, providing life and experiencing life.

Our team of 19 folks travelled here over spring break.  It was an interesting team of 14 youth (ages 8-19) and 5 “adults” all committed to working with children and providing finishing touches to the dental clinic on the mission site.  We quickly connected with the children who spent their afternoons with us making tie dyed butterflies, God’s Eyes, and stenciling tshirts…which we saw proudly worn every day the rest of the week.  The work was constant but rewarding.  The best part of the week, however, was the relationships between the kids…ours and theirs.  Several of our youth were second timers and the kids all fell together in gleeful rememberence.

Rhett Thompson does a great job of sharing Panamanian culture along with the days of work.  In this way, mission teams connect even more fully to the country, itself…and that grows the commitment to the work.  We visited the David Fair for the second year, went to the museums, the beaches and the ruins.  Every day is an adventure in Panama.  One that we’re committed to returning to year after year.  To serve God, to serve Panama, to serve with the people of Cienaguita and to receive blessings beyond what we can give.

Here is a video of  Canterbury UMC:

ARM Summer Staff Positions

A letter of request from Alabama Rural Ministries:
If you are interested, email: Beth Ann Hopkins at

Are you searching for a meaningful summer of service  where you can experience and share Christ’s love through hands-on ministry with others? Do you want to be steeped in friendship ministry of Christ where you serve with families, children, and mentor youth? The work is hard, hours long, and you will be drained at the end of each day as you have poured yourself out in Christian love and intentional community. Have we piqued your interest?

If so, ARM has positions open for mature, college-age Christians who want to serve Christ in real, hands-on ways!

The following opportunities are open:

Site Leader: 2 Positions ($1900 Scholarship)
There is one site leader for each of our two sites: Livingston and Tuskegee . This person serves as the main coordinator/team captain of one of these two sites. Ideally, this person has served on staff or been a previous volunteer. Site Leaders must demonstrate leadership, great Christian and social maturity, management skills, and interpersonal skills in the following ways:
1)  The site leader serves as the on-site facilitator to the staff members at the site. S/he is the spiritual director for the staff team and is directly accountable to the ARM Director. S/he is the main contact and liaison between the volunteer work teams and the summer staff (6-7 other students).
2)  S/he is a liaison with the other ministry partners and key personnel in the communities that support the work of ARM.
3)  S/he mentors the staff serving in construction or day camp and visits these sites throughout the week.
4)  S/he manages the finances for the site and monitors the daily budget and expenditures and income.
5)  S/he is responsible for communicating with and reporting to the ARM Director and full time staff about the activities of the site.

Construction Coordinators: 6 Positions ($1700)
The primary responsibility of a construction coordinator is to serve as a facilitator for the home repair work teams. As a part of the construction staff, your service will include the following:
1)  Construction coordinators will give each volunteer team an overview of the construction projects and family situations for which they will be working.  They will conduct a daily leaders’ meeting.
2)  S/he will plan for projects, purchase materials, and maintain a construction budget for each team.
3)  Construction coordinators serve as contact persons for the home owners, scheduling both staff and work team visits.
4)   S/he maintains all the tools and materials for their site.
5)   S/he helps teams with construction advice and works on-site with them as time allows.

Day Camp Coordinators: 3-6 Positions ($1700)
1)  Day Camp coordinators work with incoming volunteer teams and each other to coordinate activities for children of low-income, under-served families, simply in need of love and attention.
2)  Day Camp coordinators communicate with their site coordinator and volunteer teams prior to arrival to ensure that they have Bible lessons, crafts, recreational activities, educational activities, and more for the week they will be working (Staff will plan back up activities should teams arrive without enough materials).
3)  Day Camp coordinators work together to plan and coordinate enrichment activities and field trips
4)   S/he is helps children form and/or cultivates relationships with Christ.
5)  S/he builds relationships with the parents of the children.

The ARM summer staff, in the most basic of terms, runs a Christian camp for two months. We all work together to maintain our respective sites and the daily/weekly flow of activities. ARM staff will work closely to form a supportive, encouraging Christian community among their team and the incoming volunteers.  Each person will be expected to portray Christ at all times- a tough call when we get tired.  Each team member will strive to support the ministry through teamwork in planning, implementing and sharing in team devotional and worship settings as well as worship and reflection with youth groups.  All staff members will strive to build meaningful, Christ-centered relationships between each other, the youth, and the families with whom they interact.  If you ever wanted to experience what the mission field might be like, then ARM might be just for you. Our positions are compensated through scholarships and the position is academic in nature. You must satisfactorily complete your position to receive the scholarship and must also submit a two page paper that serves as an evaluation of your experience.


Check out

If you are interested, email Beth Ann Hopkins at