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Mission ready and disaster prepared

Posted: April 1 2019 at 12:00 AM

Kris Aves and Larry Dunlap-Berg

Have you always been interested in joining a mission team but don’t know what to do or how to do it? The NIC United Methodist Volunteers In Mission (UMVIM) committee is reorganizing and ready to get you and your team started. Mission journeys are opportunities for both lay and clergy to offer their skills and talents for Christian service at home and around the world. 

Educators, medical experts, electricians, handy people, construction workers, pastors, and all sorts of folks are needed to build relationships, share the Gospel, and help leave the world better than you found it for the sake of Christ. Your skills, prayers, witness, personality, and gifts are an answer to someone's prayers. Projects may include construction and renewing of mission facilities, teaching, witnessing, conducting medical clinics, coordinating a Bible study or Bible school for children, and serving in disaster relief efforts around the world. 

Some examples of VIM trips from the NIC include Chili and Puerto Rico. After almost 10 months of preparation, last December a team of 15 members representing five churches in the Rockford/DeKalb Districts (Beth Eden UMC, Centennial, Orangeville/Afolkey, Bethel, and Rochelle UMC) embarked on a mission trip to Villarrica, Chile, a small town in the southern part of the country. Two pastors led this team from the NIC, the Rev. Mario Mayer and the Rev. Fabiola Grandon-Mayer, whose country of origin is Chile. The team worked hand in hand with the local congregation of Villarrica Methodist Church in their process of continuing to build a fellowship hall onto their church.

Betsy Lovelady-Smith, Rockford/DeKalb Regional Administrator, participated in the mission and said authentic love was the greatest gift of the trip. “We went with a servant’s heart and left with our hearts filled with God’s unconditional love through the people of Villarrica, Chile,” said Lovelady-Smith. "There were many hours of hard work, laughter, sharing, and learning from each other. From this experience, we saw how God does not see differences in people; God sees love and so does the people of Chile.”

To help more United Methodists take part in amazing experiences like this recent Chile mission trip, the NIC has added two new UMVIM co-coordinators, Kris Aves and Larry Dunlap-Berg. We thank the Rev. Carol Meynen for her years serving as the previous NIC UMVIM coordinator. 

Aves and Dunlap-Berg are charged to promote local, national, and international UMVIM trips, train UMVIM team leaders, encourage partnerships across the global church connection, and invite and mentor those who want to say yes to missions small and large. Both are available for Sunday morning preaching, speaking to groups at retreats and community gatherings, training, and strategizing with mission teams, and more. 

Aves is a certified lay servant and member of Faith UMC in Genoa. She has been a youth leader for many years and has been active in taking middle school and high school domestic trips for the last 11 years. Some of her favorite trips have been to Detroit working with Motown Missions, to Nashville working with McKendree UMC, and to Philadelphia working with the Rev. Nick Nicholas when he was with Arch Street UMC.  

Aves has experience in agricultural, gardening, and naturalist fields. Her youth work has been particularly focused on homelessness, social justice for the marginalized, food equality, and ecumenical and interfaith conversations. She also served on the NIC Board of Ordained Ministry from 2008 to 2019. One of her favorite Scripture is the parable of the Sheep and the Goats found in Matthew 25:31-46. “It’s clear what we are to do as we follow the work and teaching of Christ,” Aves said. 

Dunlap-Berg, an NIC elder, has served in Chicago as a US-2 Global Mission Fellow and co-pastor of Humboldt Park and Albany Park UMCs. He’s also been a hands-on educator in Evanston, San Juan, and middle Tennessee for school-age, university and family audiences and has worked with the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry campus ministry. His favorite international trips included Puerto Rico, exploring its natural beauty and environmental challenges, and Peru, experiencing impacts of mission in urban and rural communities. He’s also enjoyed helping eighth- and ninth-graders and their parents explore science, technology, engineering, art and math careers and educational opportunities at MIT, Northwestern University and the University of Chicago.

He has focused on community engagement, renewable energy/conservation, social justice for immigrant and other marginalized communities, science communication, and reclamation efforts for people and environments damaged by human actions and natural disasters. He has served on the NIC boards of Church and Society, Outdoor and Retreat Ministries and Global Ministries. He lives in Carbondale and attends Grace UMC.    

One of Larry’s favorite Scripture lessons is 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, unity and diversity in the body. “Each of us is part of the body of Christ, which is strongest when gifts for ministry of all members are accepted, treasured, nurtured and encouraged to flourish,” said Dunlap-Berg.

To get started on your VIM trip, find forms and resources at

New NIC Disaster Response Coordinator

Colin Monk Pic

Colin Monk

Colin Monk is the NIC’s new volunteer Disaster Response Coordinator. We thank Rev. Christina Vosteen for her commitment and serving in this role for the past six years and her commitment to educating, coordinating and responding to disaster situations across the conference and beyond. 

Monk is a member of First United Methodist Church in Morris, Ill. He and his wife have lived in Morris for almost 28 years, raising three children there.

“I became interested in the United Methodist Church disaster relief ministry after two tornadoes impacted several small towns near Morris,” said Monk, who helped form the Early Response Team (ERT) at Morris FUMC. “The team has responded to numerous disasters locally and throughout the country including Hurricane relief in North Carolina and Texas.”

Monk helped form the Grundy County VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) and is actively connected with the Illinois VOAD.  As NIC Disaster Response Coordinator, Monk hopes to expand the disaster response ministry across the conference and involve many more NIC congregations. 

“I would like to see additional education about disaster preparedness and planning along with training for early disaster relief and long-term recovery efforts,” said Monk. "I encourage all United Methodists to get involved in our conference disaster relief ministry. When there is a need, United Methodists respond.” 

You can contact Monk either via email or call 815.603.9253.

For news and updates about NIC Disaster Response, visit them on Facebook at Resources are available at

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