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Missions: Hardly Impossible

Missions: Hardly Impossible
Here I am, only a week before the deadline and nothing on paper. It isn't that I have been lazing around. I've been busy with worthwhile activities, but that doesn't change the fact that I still haven't done anything.

The analogy isn't perfect, but my situation is similar to that of many Christians when it comes to missions. They come to the end of their life and have done nothing. They always wanted to, they knew they should, but they never got around to it. It is more than a shame. It is tragic. Because of this, it is very exciting to see the growing interest in missions among teenagers.

The topic of youth missions is large, but let's focus our attention on two very different aspects: short-term missions and the sadly neglected, yet incalculably important ministry of intercession and prayer.

Short-term missions are a rather new development in Christian missions. When William Carey began the modern missions era of the church in the 18th century, the common practice was for a missionary to go to a country and reside there for his entire life. As the church became global, however, short-term missions -- ranging from a few weeks to two or three years - became more practical.

The most popular and common short-term missions for youth are, of course, summer trips. For anywhere from $100 to several thousand dollars a teenager can spend a couple of weeks serving both God and others. Visiting orphanages and prisons, aiding other missionaries, and street evangelism are some of the different types of ministries youth do. Whatever the activity, the experience is very rewarding. From the reports I've heard, I seriously doubt if anyone ever regrets a summer missions trip.

From the day or two of training to the actual work itself, there is so much to learn, both spiritually and academically. The pure joy that comes from serving God is indescribable, as anyone who has taken part in something like this will readily agree. Summer missions trips are a truly faith-building experience and one that you'll remember for the rest of your life.

Another excellent way to get involved in short-term missions is to take a year or two between high school and college and travel abroad to assist more permanent missionaries. The longer stay allows you to be much more effective and a great blessing to the other missionaries. This is certainly not for everyone, but something to seriously consider. You personally will grow tremendously -- much more than with only a few weeks on the mission field (and your impact has the potential to be far greater. The Mormon church has used this method very successfully and is one of the main reasons for their rapid global growth.)

One final short-term missions suggestion: local evangelism. Strictly speaking this doesn't really belong in an article on youth missions, but I'll give it a quick look anyway. In many ways, local evangelism is a scarier prospect than missions, but at the same time it is a lot easier. Whether you're handing out literature, sharing the good news personally, or knocking on doors, local evangelism is something I believe is for all Christians. I'm not speaking of friendship evangelism, but an active campaign to evangelize your town or neighborhood. I can promise that unless you are a rare exception, this will not be very easy to do -- fear is a very real factor, trust me! Nevertheless, it is well worth any sacrifice.

However you want to participate in missions, I strongly encourage you to do so. Here are some websites that will help you get involved in summer missions. Your pastor or youth leader would no doubt also be happy to plug you in to something.

Adventures in Missions
Center for Student Missions
Operation Mobilization
Youth with a Mission
Youth Mission International

Now, let's turn our attention to prayer. Prayer is an incredibly simple activity, but its potential is absolutely amazing! I could cite hundreds of illustrations of the power of prayer that I personally know of, and that wouldn't start to scratch the surface; here is one of the best examples -- the story of the beginning of Operation Mobilization, one of the largest mission agencies in the world:

Operation Mobilization (OM) traces its roots to the persistent prayers of Dorothy Clapp, a housewife in New Jersey who prayed for 15 years that God would save the students in the high school across from her home -- and that from their midst would rise up a missionary force to evangelize around the globe. Along with her prayers, Dorothy and her family distributed simple literature to the students.

George Verwer was one of those students who became a Christian after reading the Gospel of John that was given to him by the Clapp family. [I have to interject here and encourage all of you to take any opportunity you get to hear George speak -- you will never be disappointed; go to for speaking schedule] From there he went on to establish Operation Mobilization, initially to do short-term mission work. Now in its 43rd year of ministry, OM focuses on evangelizing and distributing literature to the people all around the world. OM has distributed over 500 million pieces of Christian literature, spreading the good news of Christ to 1 billion people. Could the fervent prayer of one person really bring about all of this? Yes, and it still does, insist the people of OM.

That story should be enough to convince you of the value of prayer. And the beauty of it is that you can pray anywhere -- the shower, in bed, over breakfast, while walking, roller blading, biking -- you name it! You'll never know the true effect your prayer life has had until that first day of eternity, but you can be sure it'll exceed your expectations. Estimates place the Christian population of the world at 1 billion. If all of us were praying like Mrs. Clapp, who knows where we'd be! I could go on (one of my spiritual gifts is the ability to get carried away on a topic I feel strongly about), but I'll stop here with this challenge: Simply spend five straight minutes a day -- it doesn't matter where or when -- praying for the world (there are many places to get prayer requests and suggestions, if you keep your eyes open; one of the best prayer guides is Operation World, a large encyclopedic volume which outlines the spiritual condition of every nation in the world and gives prayer requests for each day of the year). You will inevitably grow closer to God and the world as a whole will benefit.