Thousands of Americans are devoting a few months—or a few years—to overseas missions.

Roger Bruce, a family physician from Lincoln, Nebraska, recently spent three months setting up feeding centers in Ethiopia. He previously worked in Kenya and Thailand, and he plans to volunteer for additional overseas relief work.

Bruce is part of a rapidly growing army of short-term missionaries that has served in virtually every nation in the world. The volunteers include agriculturalists, musicians, writers, teachers, construction workers, seamen, doctors, and students.

A Summer Of Service

Young adults make up the largest component of the short-term missions force. In the last few years, thousands of college students have gone overseas on short-term missions projects. And young people returning home from those assignments have a great impact, especially on college campuses.

“Seven years ago we had a handful of people who were concerned about world awareness who got together on a Sunday night to pray,” said Dennis Massaro, director of the Office of Christian Outreach at Wheaton (Ill.) College. “Now, over 250 students gather every Sunday night for a time of worship and emphasis on world awareness.”

Mission leaders say short-term programs serve as prime fields for the cultivation of career missionaries. During the last five years, at least half the missionary candidates accepted by The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM) had short-term missions experience.

In Japan, a short-term program has reaped a major harvest for TEAM. Most of the agency’s 160 missionaries in that country are expected to retire by 1990.

A few years ago, the mission began to send short-term workers to teach English in Japan. “Out of the program we have now seen a steady stream ...

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