The Youth In Mission program began during a dinner conversation in 1961. That year brought considerable unrest over the growing conflict in Vietnam. There were challenges for radical action from the American Civil Rights activist, Martin Luther King, Jr., and there was a general feeling of uneasiness toward the established church. During this time, another cultural phenomenon emerged on the American political landscape. U.S. President John F. Kennedy proposed the Peace Corps, which would send short-term human resources to third world countries to assist in their development. Kennedy’s proposal and the emerging cultural trends provided a model for opportunities for Nazarene students to be involved in the mission enterprise of the church.
That year the Church of the Nazarene’s Department of World Mission became the architect of a new program that would seek to harness the interests of college students and address the college administrators’ interest in seeing their students serve in world areas. By 1964, the Nazarene Evangelical Ambassadors was created. It was a joint venture sponsored by the Department of Foreign Missions and the Nazarene Young People’s Society. Two male members from each of the Nazarene colleges were selected and sent to Mexico and Central America for the summer.
In 1967, the first team, Youth Assistance Missionary Corps, was formed with the approval of the General Board. Fifteen college students were selected and deployed to five different countries. The name of the program changed to Student Mission Corps and then eventually to International Student Ministries. Although the name of the program has undergone change, the focus has remained constant. The need to extend the missionary arm of the church to the world has been the impetus for an exciting exercise in leadership formation.
Each summer since 1964, Nazarene college and university-aged youth have sacrificed and given themselves to Kingdom service. As a result of these efforts, many have answered the call of God and have given themselves in full-time service to missions and ministry. Hundreds of youth have returned to their campuses and to their local churches with renewed commitment to be advocates for the cause of world evangelism. The program continues to be a way to expose young people to areas of service as well as providing them with training opportunities that will enhance their ministry efforts.
Today, Youth in Mission takes on a true global flavor with teams being sent to and from all corners of the world – North America, Australia, Germany, South Africa, Korea, Indonesia, Guatemala, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Great Britain, Mexico, Brazil, and more!