Roots of the Short-Term Missionary 1960-1985

A brief history of short-term mission in America (Part 1).

I teach anthropology at Wheaton College. Every year several students take my classes because they feel called to missions. For these students, and for most evangelicals, a call to missions still implies a career—a long-term (if not lifetime) calling to become immersed in another culture, language and life in a far-away place for the sake of the gospel. Yet we evangelicals have also come to accept 10-day excursions to Mexico building homes for the poor or conducting wordless versions of Vacation Bible School as "missions."

How do these two activities occupy the same conceptual space in evangelical Christianity? When and how did these short trips come to be known by the same term as those life-time commitments made by those who purportedly packed their belongings in coffins, never expecting to see home shores again? To answer that question let's look at how early short-termers came to view their trips as a unique kind of experience.

Youth Missions in the Evangelical Movement

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