IMB to partner with colleges on Fusion experiential missions opportunities10/25/2007
By Mark Kelly
RICHMOND, Va. (BP)--It’s been heartbreaking to see how many Christian young people – as many as 80 percent – drop out of church after graduating from high school, says Scott Brawner, who founded a program called Fusion in response to this alarming trend. Established at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2005, Fusion is becoming an initiative of the International Mission Board to inspire students to continue following Christ after high school and to pursue missions as a career and calling.
Fusion offers high school graduates, ages 18-24, missions experience for college credit. In 2008-2009, the nine-month program will still be housed at Midwestern Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., and operated through its undergraduate school, Midwestern Bible College, SBC. For the 2009-2010 school year, Christian colleges interested in offering the Fusion program to students on their campuses can contact the IMB’s student mobilization team at (800) 999-3113 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students attending the program currently receive 32 hours of college credit through Midwestern Baptist College for the two-phase course. Phase 1 of the course involves both classroom study and rigorous training challenges designed to develop personal discipline and leadership skills. Phase 2 puts a Fusion team on an international mission field, where they work under the oversight of career missionaries in projects ranging from prayerwalking and evangelism to human needs and community development.
Fusion was created to help young Christians develop spiritual maturity and life direction, resulting in a lifetime passion for reaching the world for Christ, Brawner says.
“We lose so many students after high school,” says Brawner, who has worked nearly 20 years in student ministry. “Some leaders say as many as 80 percent of our Christian kids abandon their faith after high school. Fusion can help change these numbers.
“Data compiled on Fusion graduates shows these young adults not only take personal responsibility for their faith, but become catalysts for evangelism and ministry while in college and beyond. This makes Fusion the ultimate freshman experience; it not only prepares young people to survive college with their faith intact but to follow hard after Christ for a lifetime!”
‘Students need to be challenged to follow Christ’
Russ Savage, who participated as a college student in Fusion and has led others through the process, says students who aren’t challenged to live for Christ settle for a superficial religion that doesn’t change lives.
“For many students, the call of Christ has been reduced to a list: don’t think about sex, read your Bible; don’t try to be popular, be friendly; don’t do drugs, go to youth group, etc.,” says Savage, a native of Platte City, Mo., and biblical studies major at Midwestern College. “The result is mediocrity in the pews and the hypocrisy in the high schools, where students’ Facebook pages label them as Christians, but their photo albums show them proudly imitating alcohol commercials.
“Students need to be challenged to follow Christ beyond the youth rooms and into places where persecution is inevitable. Fusion challenges them with a fellowship of believers who live and strive together against the norm and pursue the call of Christ.”
Fusion helps a student break through superficial stereotypes about Christianity and discover the gritty reality of following Jesus in a hostile world, says Jeremy Vonada of Parker, Colo., a Fusion leader who is working on a bachelor’s degree in international business administration at Missouri State University.
“Fusion provides a no-holds-barred missions experience,” says Vonada, who also is a former Fusion student. “The program presents missions in a way that can’t be sugar-coated. You see service to God for what it really is, both the suffering and the rejoicing.”
Developing student leaders on mission
The international missions component of Fusion encourages students to plug into missions at a local church and consider returning to the international mission field as short-term volunteers as well as full-time missionaries.
“Fusion provides a great emphasis on developing student leaders, and we look forward to expanding it to include a larger number of students in a wide variety of assignments worldwide,” says Mike Lopez, who coordinates student enlistment and mobilization for the IMB.
After two years based at Midwestern, Fusion’s expansion to the IMB will give it a higher profile that can take it to the next level, says R. Philip Roberts, president of Midwestern Seminary.
“We are very thrilled about the partnership between Midwestern and the International Mission Board,” Roberts says. “Fusion provides a unique opportunity for students not only to begin their undergraduate education, but also to gain vital mission experience both nationally and internationally.
“We are certain that this move will strengthen and give more exposure to the program. It is our hope and prayer that more students are able to participate in missions opportunities with the IMB and to go into all the world and preach the Gospel.”
More information on Fusion is available at gofusion.ws.
In a related effort to raise up a new generation of career missionaries, the IMB is launching “Hands On” pilot projects in sub-Saharan Africa in January 2008 to give 18- to 29-year-olds experience in the nitty-gritty of overseas missions. The Hands On Initiative will expand to other regions of the world in 2009.