Baby Boomers. What can one say? "Whiny, narcissistic bunch of paunchy, corporate losers...fakes, hypocrites, cop-outs and, in many cases, out and out dorks," said Joe Queenan in Brent Green's book "Marketing to Baby Boomers." Maybe there are corners of our culture that believe this; I have seen something VERY DIFFERENT!
Baby Boomers, early retirees, and others are doing something different--and in the United Methodist Church it's called Volunteers in Mission (for groups) and Individual Volunteers (for singles and couples). Alan and I are going to Zambia for 9 weeks as "Individual Volunteers," a classification of volunteer missioners who serve at Methodist sites around the world. And it's a big world at that, with about 12 million members worldwide, and many locations offering an opportunity to serve in the Global Church.
Individual Volunteers go as volunteers: invited by the Church leadership in a particular area, paying their own way, working to fill the needs and requests as determined by the receiving site, trained by the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM-the mission arm of United Methodism), and serving a minimum of 2 months (some people go for a year or two--or even a lifetime). We will be at Kafakumba Training Center in Ndola, Zambia with long-time missionaries John and Kendra Enright and Ken and Debbie Vance.
Alan and I attended our training in New York City under GBGM trainers. It was great. There were about a dozen in our class (these classes are held quarterly around the U.S.). An ER doctor and his wife are looking for hospitals in Africa to serve 6 months each year, with the other 6 months at a hospital in the U.S. Another couple is going to Haiti for several months, a young woman to China, a newly retired gov't worker to W Africa, a woman alone to Chile. I've met other Individual Volunteers serving in Cameroon, Tanzania, Bolivia, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Zimbabwe, and varied places in the U.S. Each of them have a terrific story, an incredible sense of humor, courage, and a determination to make a difference as they live out their faith. There are 325 Individual Volunteers serving now....and the number is expected to skyrocket as Baby Boomers begin to retire.
So I'm back to those Baby Boomers again. We are they. Fortunately, we live in a time when travel and communication make such an adventure possible for us. Sometime down the road we hope to do more of this, but for now two months in Zambia is all we can manage. "Whiny, narcisstic losers?" I hardly think so.
P.S. Check out the website for Individual Volunteers at www.individualvolunteers.info. You can check out stories coming from the field and see a listing of sites all around the world (including the U.S.) that are looking for volunteers now. Also check out the Volunteers in Mission website if you are interested in going with a team somewhere: www.missionvolunteers.org.