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Volunteers in Mission Celebrates First Decade

Jan 30, 2003 12:35 PM EST

Valley Forge, Pa. -- When American Baptist National Ministries launched Volunteers In Mission (VIM), the program coordinated 32 volunteers in ministries throughout the United States and Puerto Rico in its first year. That was 1993. By the end of 2002 more than 1,000 volunteers had been involved in this home mission program-individually or as part of mission groups.

As National Ministries celebrates the first decade of Volunteers In Mission, 60 individual mission volunteers are listed in January's appointed missionary calendar--about a third more than the number of volunteers in the program's entire first year.

Volunteers In Mission has enabled and coordinated the volunteer work of American Baptists--matching skills and interests with ministry opportunities--since the program's inception, first through individual missionaries and mission groups, then later through Home Mission Action Teams sponsored by NEW LIFE 2010.

When the Red River overflowed its banks in 1997, forcing 90 percent of Grand Forks, N.D., residents from their homes, VIM compiled an extensive list of churches and individuals offering to help with recovery. When Hurricane Georges ripped through Puerto Rico in 1998, VIM recruited and coordinated 25 work groups--with more than 350 volunteers--to help storm victims rebuild their homes, businesses and churches.

VIM groups have completed home repair projects for seniors and low-income families in Appalachia and traveled to Los Angeles to rebuild neighborhoods destroyed in civil disturbance. VIM volunteers also participate in community development through inner city Christian centers. They teach English as a Second Language, minister through prison visitation and reentry programs, help with new church planting, work at child care facilities and summer camps, and assist with college administration.

In 2000 the Volunteer Skills Network--an electronic listing of volunteers and their mission interests, skills and availability--joined the VIM program, forming a database for matching mission workers with ministry needs.

Carole Dieciedue, National Ministries' Volunteers In Mission director, says she has seen, over and over again, how serving as a VIM volunteer can be "a life changing experience" by providing a deeper understanding of what it means to minister in church and society today. These volunteers, she says, "provide not only valuable skills to a mission organization, but also a sense of faith and commitment that demonstrates God's love in tangible ways."

By Susan Gottshall