A Missionary Peace Corps -- By: Thomas Julien
GJ 7:2 (Spr 66) p. 26
A Missionary Peace Corps
[Rev. Thomas Julien has served as a missionary in France since 1958, with the Foreign Missionary Society of the Brethren Church.]
An encouraging sign in an increasingly cynical nation has been the emergence of the Peace Corps and its success in attracting some of our country’s finest youth. To say that some join its ranks merely in search of adventure does not alter the fact that others, seeking more in life than a ranch-style home and a 35-hour week, are genuine in their desire to serve others.
It is only natural that the success of the Peace Corps should have provoked renewed interest concerning the advisability of seeking missionary recruits on a short-term basis. If the challenge for short-term service were widely presented in our churches, would our youth respond with the same enthusiasm as others have responded to the Peace Corps? And if so, could they be effectively integrated into the existing missionary program, or would their presence cause more problems than it would solve?
It is our privilege to have two young men serving in France for fifteen months as “Cadet Missionaries.” Both are students of Grace Theological Seminary, and have taken a year’s absence from their studies in order to serve on a foreign field. Not only has their presence made a valuable contribution to the France work; it has also provided an opportunity for evaluating the effectiveness of missionary service on a short-term basis.
Short-Term Missionaries and Missionary Tradition
For some, the very expression “short-term missionary” is in itself a contradiction. In their thinking becoming a missionary implies offering oneself for life, and they would be unwilling to honor anyone with the term “missionary” who intended to serve less than that.
Around the word “missionary” a whole tradition has grown up, permeating the thinking of Christians with regard to service in a foreign land. Most of this tradition is good, for it has been mothered by necessity and experience. Some of it, however, can be detrimental to the ability of the church to respond to new challenges and changing situations in missions. Though much of this tradition is not rooted in the Scriptures, it is nevertheless true that any departure from the accepted way of doing things is viewed with suspicion by some.
GJ 7:2 (Spr 66) p. 27
Can short-term missionary service be reconciled with traditional thinking concerning the missionary call, length of service, and the nature of missionary work? And if not, should we be willing to depart from these traditional concepts in order to meet more efficiently the present need?
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