Dear VMM Supporters and Friends,
As many of you know, Volunteer Missionary Movement has spent the last six months discerning its future. We are deeply grateful to all those who contributed to the conversation about what makes VMM so appealing and discussed ways to keep VMM viable. It is evident that the Spirit has been present in this process. The rich wisdom literature from the Hebrew Scriptures spoke to our decision:
There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for everything under the heavens.A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant. A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build. A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. (Ecclesiastes 3)
We, the Board of Directors of VMM, have decided that 2017 will be the final year of Volunteer Missionary Movement USA. Our sister organization, VMM-International will carry on the Spirit and Lifestyle from its offices in Ireland and the UK. The words of Edwina Gateley, our foundress, helped support our conversation:
Maybe the Holy Spirit is doing a new thing – as She did with the VMM 46 years ago… The vision is yet dim – we see “in a mirror darkly” but we know it is there, for God is faithful and will create anew on the foundations of what we, in the VMM-USA, have so faithfully built in the last 35 years.
We have achieved much, We have made a difference in the world. We must recognize that and celebrate it.
This decision was not made lightly and the focus has always been on our missioners and the communities in which they serve. A recent blog post by Alli Stiffney sums up the “onda,” or feeling, VMM volunteers have about their commitment to accompany the people they live and work alongside:
It has been such a blessing to feel accepted by our community here in San Nicolás. I thought I knew about hospitality and what it means to be a good host, but so many here in Nicaragua have shown us what it means to TRULY host someone with time, talk, and a cafecito (a bit of coffee!) We feel like the luckiest volunteers in the world.
All those who have served with VMM likely feel the same way. They could not have lived through their experience without the financial and spiritual support of so many of you: benefactors, families, friends, and religious communities. To all of you, we say THANKS.
At this time we are not soliciting donations for VMM-USA however monies that continue to be received will be used to support our current missioners. Monies remaining following our closing will be distributed to likeminded organizations
Just like we hear in Ecclesiastes, “there is a time to laugh and dance,” we intend to do just that and close VMM with a celebration. The Board plans for 2017 to be a year of gratitude. The plan is to celebrate and remember while walking with our final round of volunteers: Kyle and Alli Stiffney and Clare Morrison. Over the next few months VMM will be reaching out to you for input as to how to finalize VMM-USA. Please do take a few minutes when you receive the survey that will be coming out, to share your input. VMM-USA will also be asking for your stories, experiences, and pictures that you would like to share that speak to your VMM experience so as to archive our wonderfully enriching history.
Again, thank you for your sustained support of VMM and we hope you will join us in celebrating the 35 transformative years of VMM-USA.
Sue Hood, VMM President
William and Kristin Byrnes
Rosemary Huddleston, OP
Sr. Susan Kolb, CSA
Krzysztof Pipa SVD
is shining all around
in the fiery gold and glow
May we, too,
Come to shine,
As the glory of the divinity
to join the glorious dance,
Edwina Gateley From ‘Soul Whispers’2015
VMM Missioners Gather.
Cody Zilverberg, Wesley Fletcher, Claudia Milligan, and Kristina Anderson gathered in July for a weekend in Florida 13 years after leaving mission in Guatemala. Missing from the group is Liz O’Donnell.
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Read more about Alli and Kyle as they are living and serving in San Nicolas, Nicaragua with Volunteer Missionary Movement (VMM).
Follow their blog here http://allikylenica.blogspot.com/
It is good
to be in darkness
where visions have fled
and dreams are stilled.
where only silence and emptiness live,
the soul sleeps, resting,
until the breath of God
Stirs in the shadows,
having absorbed the darkness,
we rise, healed and renewed,
to face and embrace the world’s pain
with mercy and compassion.
(Edwina Gateley. Easter 2016)
March 28, 2016
Dear VMM Supporter,
After much discernment and collaboration with our VMM members, the Board of Volunteer Missionary Movement has decided to maintain operations with a strategic plan for the year going forward. With prayers felt from around the country, the Board gathered in Milwaukee on February 13. Edwina Gately, the founder of VMM, called in via video-conference to offer her support of the authority and final decision of the board. She gave the Board her blessing if it was decided to cease operations, but also offered support if the decision was to move forward with a new vision for VMM.
Having taken a few months to discern the future of VMM with over 30 members throughout the country, a decision needed to be made. The Board ultimately felt that VMM still offered a unique and desirable opportunity to those seeking long term volunteer work. However, a reimagining of what VMM looks like, where and how it operates, and why it is relevant today was a requirement of the Board. We must focus on strong leadership, employing multiple staff members, sustainable fund development, recruiting volunteers, formation of the volunteers, and building community. The Board has delegated these tasks to members of the Board and will work hard to accomplish these goals over the next 8-12 months.
The Board once again offered its full support of our current missioners in Guatemala and Nicaragua. No matter what happens, we will continue to support them financially through their contract (Fall 2017). It is our hope that by the time the current volunteers are finished with their contracts, we will be able to place a total of 8-10 new missioners in various project partner sites throughout Nicaragua. We also hope to establish better community among the volunteers in country, as well as offering better support to returning missioners who are seeking a community understanding of their radical decision to live, work, and be amongst the poor and marginalized.
We would like to thank all of you who kept us in your prayers as we discerned the most important decision in the history of VMM. Additionally, we want to express our gratitude to those who contributed to the conversation in one of the regional conference calls. The Board knows that the Holy Spirit guided our decision and will hopefully continue to guide us as we move forward in this reimagining of VMM. It is only going to be possible with the help of generous individuals like yourself. Please consider joining the Board of VMM, offering other gifts you can contribute in this time of reimagining, or making a donation to help us sustain our efforts. Contact one of the Board members by April 15, 2016 if you are interested in working with one of the task forces listed below.
Thank you and continue to pray for us.
Board Members of VMM
Mary Campbell Mary.Campbell@elca.org
Sister Rosemary Huddleston, OP firstname.lastname@example.org
Tim Muth email@example.com
Krzysz Pipa, SVD firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul Ssonko email@example.com
Taskforces for Re-imagining:
Formation/Orientation (Susan Kolb, Paul Ssonko,)
Community building (Mary Campbell, Robi Huddleston, Julie Laven)
Funding (Tim Muth, Stephanie Dernek)
Recruitment of new VMM (Billy Byrnes, Kristin Byrnes)