A 20-year partnership between the International Mission Board and Fusion, a missions program from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Spurgeon College in Kansas City, Missouri, has helped students live a missional life. The two entities are excited to see this relationship grow even more in the years to come.
Erik Odegard, Fusion director and assistant professor of intercultural studies, explained the Fusion program began as a directional process for young Christians to embrace the call of the gospel. Now years later, many of these former students work long term with the IMB.
“It was a long run up to 18-year-olds growing up and taking their own families to the mission field, but we see it happening now,” Odegard said, noting he recently visited South Asia where 15 Fusion alumni are now ministering. “Our hope through these short-term assignments is to see our graduates serving with IMB for years to come.”
The formula for the program and partnership hasn’t changed much through the years. Fusion students get practical and hands-on training before spending weeks working alongside a missionary. They work all school year dabbling in the language they will live in, while learning security protocol for that region of the world. During the year, they form “cohorts,” or teams, and work through four training areas: spiritual, academic, physical and contextual. Within their cohorts, they immediately put this training to use within the Kansas City metro area.
Odegard said this hands-on aspect of the training helps work out any kinks, conflicts and nerves before the cohorts are deployed to their place of service that summer. They go to church together, live together and train for life-on-life discipleship. By the end of the year, the cohorts are ready to reach the lost with the gospel. They arrive to the missionary teams ready to immediately plug in, or at least that’s the way it worked for Lamar Schubert, an IMB missionary serving in Eastern Europe.
Schubert worked with the cohort via video conferencing months before they actually arrived in his country. He made sure this group made up of high school students led by a college student and young professional could transition almost any conversation to the gospel.
“Our Fusion team came prepared and hit the ground running,” Schubert said.
The team spent four weeks traveling Eastern Europe creating a digital map of potential ministry sites for new missionaries. The main idea behind mapping is to identify places within neighborhoods where people gather, what time and who it is. For instance, a group of young mothers met at the park for play dates every Monday morning but later that afternoon, several retired men gathered in the same spot to play chess.
“…the gospel is true and worth sharing.”
The Fusion team also gathered information about religious beliefs with most of these discussions leading into a presentation of the gospel. This allowed the team to gauge receptivity to the gospel.
“They nailed it,” Schubert said, adding that this type of work is frontline ministry that sets up strategies for sharing the good news with people groups who have never heard.
“AND,” he emphasized, “they shared the gospel with more than 200 people in four weeks.”
Tina, a co-leader of the cohort, watched the team of high schoolers grow in their faith as they shared the gospel in many different cultural settings. The co-leader took six weeks off her job to lead this trip. The preparations to go and then ministering as part of IMB strategy with missionary teams changed her perspective.
“We saw first-hand the purpose of this work — the gospel is true and worth sharing,” she explained. “We meet people who have never heard the gospel or even had a conversation about Jesus. It gave me a new passion for the [spiritually] lost of the world, especially in Eastern Europe.”
When the students and co-leaders on the Eastern European cohort returned from their summer mission declaring they planned to go back on the mission field, it didn’t surprise Odegard. It’s what the Fusion program is all about — preparing high school, college and seminary students for a life on mission.
Some names have been changed for security purposes.
Learn more about Fusion programs and the IMB partnership.