Young graduates from high school and college are giving one year of their time to urban mission through a new program.
The Philadelphia-based Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education operates Kingdomworks, which is completing its inaugural "Mission Year" program for urban missionaries between the ages of 18 and 29. The organization is led by sociologist Tony Campolo.
Since September, 15 missionaries have served in Philadelphia and 13 in Oakland, California. They live together—usually in teams of five—and work under the tutelage of an established urban church. Missionaries raise $500 in monthly support, with the ministry giving an additional $200.
At least 8 hours a week, they work in church programs, at least 10 hours in evangelistic outreach and visitation, and at least 12 hours in community service under the auspices of an organization they choose based on their interests and abilities. Mission Year workers are teaching computer classes, leading prison Bible studies, painting murals to beautify inner-city neighborhoods, and instructing young people about job skills. They work closely with church members so that the programs and services can continue well after the missionaries leave.
"This is a far better design than a summer program," says Vince Coles, youth minister at the mostly black, 2,700-member Mount Carmel Baptist Church in West Philadelphia, host to five missionaries. "When someone is here for just the summer, the programs they start usually leave when they leave." The goal of Mission Year, however, is not just to change urban dwellers for a year, but to change young men and women for a lifetime. Mission Year National Director Cindy Lee Hauger says, "Wherever they go, these people will understand urban reality in a new way."
Missionary Betsy Vanderhaagen, 23, had planned to attend Princeton Seminary after graduating from Calvin College last year. She will follow through with those plans this fall, but a year's missionary experience has reshaped her thinking. "This program has caused me to examine all aspects of my life," Vanderhaagen says. "I've learned to live in community, to love others, to live with less, and to trust God more."
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