Help Make Mission VIMpossible!


-By Leslie Uriss Spehar-

Scholarships for Volunteers in Mission trips (VIMships) have been available for several years through the Western PA Conference, but the supply has been limited due to lack of resources. To increase the number of VIMships available, the Conference Volunteers in Mission leadership team has launched a fundraising plan that will enable them to assist people who feel called to the mission field.  They are on a mission to make the impossible VIMpossible.

The costs associated with mission trips have been going up since 2007, but the ability of churches or individuals to do all the fundraising has become more difficult.

“People need help to go,” said Stephanie Gottschalk, Conference Volunteers in Mission Coordinator. “Mission takes 3 groups of people to happen -- the prayers who pray and support those going; the payers who give and help others to go; and the players who are willing to go and have an ability that they are willing to use even if they aren’t able financially to send themselves.”

Lack of awareness of VIMships is one of the problems facing the team.

“This past year we’ve probably given out less than 10 VIMships,” said Gottschalk. “Part of that is because they are not hugely promoted for various reasons. Our goal is to widen who the VIMships are available to so that that anybody who is called and accepted on a VIM team is able to go.”

Through increased funding efforts, the team hopes to give out about 20 scholarships in 2015, and continue to increase that number each year. “If we can get more churches to participate, then we can offer more scholarships,” Gottschalk said. “We, together as a church, can be about sending people into the mission field whether it’s short term or long term.”

To meet their goal of increased VIMship dollars, the group is set to officially launch its VIMpossible campaign that will offer individuals and churches an opportunity for greater involvement in fundraising. The first phase will kick off on Giving Tuesday, a day designated by the denominations’ Board of Global Ministries to focus on mission giving.
Beginning that day -- Tuesday, December 2, 2014 -- anyone who would like to help VIMpossible can have their gift matched 100 percent up to $14,000. Double the value of your donation! Donate online through  or mail a check made out to WPAUMC, with MissionVIMpossible #001 134 4870 in the memo line, to:

Rev. Stephanie Gottschalk
1204 Freedom Rd.
Cranberry Twp., PA 16066

The team is also working with Keystone United Methodist Credit Union so that credit union members can designate gifts online or through their accounts.
Gottschalk has an ambitious goal for Giving Tuesday. “If we had 1000 people give $14 on giving Tuesday, we would double the amount available for VIM scholarships that we had in 2014.”

Phase two of the plan, called Pen It Forward, enables churches to actively participate in fundraising through TerraCycle, an organization that facilitates the recycling/repurposing of used pens, pencils, markers, Sharpies, highlighters, and mechanical pencils. Through this program, the VIM team will establish an account and send out mailing labels to participating churches. The churches collect used items from their programs, members, and community and drop off their boxes of recycled writing instruments at a UPS store. The recycling funds are then credited to the VIM account.

Gottschalk is hoping that churches will engage their local community and businesses to help with Pen It Forward. “We need bulk to have a financial impact,” she said. “We’re trying to get a few initial churches to be our beta churches. They will help us work out the kinks and then we can really heavily recruit at annual conference.”

The third arm of the team’s fundraising plan is a travel-based program that offers the opportunity for individuals and groups to plan continuing education or spiritual formation trips with part of the proceeds going to VIMships. “Instead of earning a free trip for someone,” said Gottschalk, “they get a chance to send someone into the mission field.” Travel for Travel, as this program is dubbed, is still in the planning phases and the team expects to have more information available later next year.