Get prepared for a culturally diverse world through overseas volunteer service

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Overseas Volunteer Service

"People from every nation, tribe, people and language" -- Revelation 7:9

"College graduates without significant cross-cultural experience will be under-prepared for the global culture of the 21st century" -- Loren Gresham, retired Southern Nazarene University president

of Loren Gresham

As university president, Loren Gresham dreamed that significant numbers of SNU graduates would offer themselves for a year of volunteer missionary service.

Example of William Cameron Townsend

After his junior year in college, twenty-one-year-old William Cameron Townsend took a leave of absence from his academic life to spend a year selling Bibles and Scripture portions as an evangelistic outreach in Central America. That was in 1917. That one year became two which ultimately became a lifetime as Townsend went on to found Wycliffe Bible Translators. What does that mean for you? Well, a year or two of service overseas won't necessarily turn you into a career missionary. It may, however, foster a global perspective in you.

Overcoming obstacles

What keeps you from offering yourself?

"What about my student loans?"

All our volunteers who have had loans have gotten payment deferred for their year overseas.

"Isn't this going to interrupt my movement toward fulfilling my call from God to be a pastor?"

Districts have been counting the year of Mission Corps service toward ordination requirements. So, you are not losing any time at all.

"Wouldn't it be better for me to go straight to seminary first?"

Nazarene Theological Seminary has worked out "field experience credit" for volunteers so they actually begin their seminary experience by going to the mission field. That's called their 365m program.

"Where would I get the money?"

Friends, family, and home church people love investing in young people willing to sacrifice a year of their lives. This is not about fundraising. It's about creating a network of prayer supporters who help pray in the resources.

"Where could I go?"

The Nazarene mission board has opportunities worldwide. Two Creative Access areas, Bulgaria, Croatia, Italy, Japan, and Macedonia have benefited from SNU graduates who have gone for a year or more as Mission Corps volunteers.

While in India on his way to Japan, new missionary Francis Xavier wrote back to his fellow students: "Give up your small ambitions."

Giving up one's "small" ambitions and getting in tune with God's heart for the world is usually what happens when one embraces SNU's missions ethos. Sometimes, people are tempted to think that missions activity at SNU is a great -- but very much optional -- dessert. It's not; missions involvement is part of SNU's main course. It's such a crucial part of what we do that the school has talked of finding a way to make significant cross-cultural experience a graduation requirement.

A few semesters ago I was trying to talk an SNU student into going on "Commission Unto Mexico." The more I pushed and cajoled, the more he backed away. Finally, in exasperation, he said to me, "Missions is your thing; it's just not mine."

He was wrong, of course. Missions isn't "my" thing; it's God's thing. As Henry Martyn, a missionary to China, often said, "The nearer we get to Christ, the more intensely missionary we must become."

SNU students have a variety of ways to get involved. Fall is recruitment time for summer ministry experiences. There are often over-the-New-Year's holiday opportunities.

As new students arrive at SNU, I hope it quickly becomes clear to them that missions involvement is not something expected only of the super-zealous or of the extraordinarily talented. In early July, Jessica Bohn e-mailed me from her summer Youth in Mission assignment in the Caribbean: "I don't have much to offer, but God is taking my willingness and moving mightily."

Don't be one of those who get an SNU diploma and move into a career, graduate school, or family life without ever participating in one of our missions thrusts. Don't graduate from here without a photo album full of delightful pictures of little children whose language you do not know all crowded around you making faces at the camera. Don't be content to graduate from here, having merely talked about the church's responsibility for the poor and alienated. Get involved in doing something. Craig Shepperd, who graduated from Southern Nazarene University and then gave a year of volunteer service to Croatia, recently wrote to university leaders: "Don't lose the [world missions] focus."

SNU offers various opportunities for you to "give up your small ambitions." I hope you'll take advantage of them.

    -- Howard Culbertson,

"During the night, Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, 'Come over to Macedonia and help us.'" -- Acts 16:9


Taking a gap year of volunteer service globally before starting a career or pursuing further studies can offer several valuable benefits for college graduates:

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