Students can be major players in global missions strategies
5/18/1999By Mike Creswell
BATTLE, England (BP) -- They were just foreign
students with backpacks, not a threat of any kind,
the soldiers in a Last Frontier country thought.
But these particular American college students were
Southern Baptists on mission -- sharing their faith
in Christ with university students. They risked
harassment and even arrest to hold long witnessing
dialogues and pass out Christian materials before
heading back to the United States.
They went home with greater faith, and they had
done something long-term missionaries could not
Increasingly such scenes are taking place around
the world as more and more Southern Baptist
students head overseas on short-term missions trips
-- and missionaries and administrators are
delighted with the results.
That was the gist of a four-day meeting in southern
England during early May as student workers from
five states met with more than three dozen
International Mission Board workers from Europe,
Asia, the Middle East and northern Africa.
The idea was to mobilize the campus ministers so
they will in turn mobilize their students for
overseas missions, said Mike Lopez, who coordinates
the International Mission Board's enlistment and
mobilization of college and seminary students for
"College students are not just responding to the
overwhelming needs in the world, but they're also
responding to what God is doing on the field,"
Lopez said. "They see how God is working in areas
of the world and they want to be a part of that."
Ten years ago the board sent just 100 or so
students overseas; in 1999 that number will be well
over 1,000, he said. As of May, more than 300
requests for students overseas remained unfilled.
About 1,000 students have gone to China alone in
The board has adopted a "whatever it takes"
approach to enlisting college students for overseas
assignments, said Lopez, a former missionary to
Taiwan who now works out of the board's
headquarters in Richmond, Va.
Southern Baptists must adopt a similar attitude
about missions financing to make more student
missions ventures possible, Lopez said.
"It takes a lot of creativity and 'coloring outside
the lines,' but we want to do whatever it takes to
involve students in overseas missions so they will
come back in the future as missionaries," he added.
Missionaries agree experience in missions makes
young people more sensitive to God's leadership in
missions careers. But missionaries also value the
role students can play in missions strategies, both
in accessible countries like those in Europe and
more restricted ones in Last Frontier areas.
Campus ministry workers from the United States
agreed that increasing numbers of Southern Baptist
students are both willing and able to participate
in international missions projects. They also noted
that student directors themselves are catching the
vision of international service after they have
participated in overseas projects.
"I went to China in 1995," said Loy Reed, director
of collegiate ministries for the Florida Baptist
Convention. "It made such an impact on my life that
I came back and we started pointing more students
toward international missions," he said.
The International Mission Board helps finance
discovery trips for campus ministry workers and
other key workers to produce just that kind of
opening. The board has sent Southern Baptist campus
workers to 18 countries since 1996.
Taking students overseas makes a major impact on
their lives, Reed said.
"When we get them out of the country, one of every
two students comes back and makes a commitment
either to church vocations or to missions full-
time," he said. "Since we're in the business of
life change and leadership development, that's what
we're most concerned about. We're using a greater
percentage of our budget towards international
Workers also discussed the problems that can
develop even on short-term missions trips, such as
when students want to spend their money on
expensive fast food instead of more basic items.
But the consensus was that such minor problems are
worth the vast pay back that occurs from involving
students in missions.
College and seminary students wanting more
information on overseas opportunities can visit the
International Mission Board's website at
www.imb.org/students or call toll-free 800-789-
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