Facing a tough job market, more young college graduates are deciding to serve in the mission field – at least for short-term, reports a mission-sending agency.
"The job market for missionaries has never been brighter," says Hubert Harriman, president of World Gospel Mission.
Harriman reports that the Indiana-based agency's VIA (Volunteers In Action) program for 19- to 29-year-olds has seen a boost in the number of participants. Young adult Christians who have had an interest in serving in the mission field got the push they needed from the slow job market to commit to short-term mission trips.
According to the U.S. Labor Department's monthly job report, the unemployment rate hit 9.4 percent in May – the highest rate in more than a quarter-century. Some 345,000 jobs were lost that month.
During commencement ceremonies this spring, many speakers directly addressed the dismal job market facing graduates. As of May, less than 20 percent of the Class of 2009 had a full-time job line up – down from about 50 percent two years ago, according ABC News.
"Many who have contemplated missions now find themselves facing uncertain days in their own career and this crisis seems to be used by God to nudge some to a call He had given them years ago," said Todd Eckhardt, who has been in charge of WGM missionary recruitment for the past nine years, to The Christian Post.
He says WGM has seen an "upturn" in both full-time missionaries and volunteer short-termers.
Through WGM's volunteer program, twenty-something adults learn how to raise financial support from their network of friends and family members. Then they are enrolled in a course on cultural adaptation, spiritual preparation, and ministry training at the agency's headquarters in Marion, Ind.
While overseas, VIA participants work directly with missionaries and nationals to have a true taste of a cross-cultural missions experience.
"For college students who are just starting to exercise their call, the VIA program is a perfect fit," Harriman says.
Some college students can even use their overseas experience with the VIA program to earn college credit or to complete an internship or practicum. Many colleges, WGM noted, require or strongly encourage a cross-cultural experience, which the VIA program can provide.
WGM is an international mission-sending organization founded in 1910. The organization now has 300 missionaries and support staff serving in more than 17 countries on six continents.