It Could Happen in Your Town
For years, a number of people had watched the statistics of the decision cards mined in the last night at Urbana. In 1964 the statistics reached an all time low. Only 8 percent of those present indicated a willingness to become missionaries. That was the middle of the radical '60s."
But something began to happen. In 1967, 12 percent of the Urbana attendees indicated a willingness to serve as missionaries. In 1970, nearly 20 percent of the students signed cards. By 1973, it was 28 percent, and interest seemed to be on the rise.
A stow burning fuse finally went off, and we called Inter Varsity in March of 1974.
"What are you going to do about those decision cards?" we asked, "Do you have any plans for follow up? Any suggestions for the students to help then. keep their initial commitments alive?"
That conversation sparked the beginning of US the Institute of International Studies.
Most of the 35 students who attend ed the fast 115 course in Wheaton, Illinois that summer of 1974 learned about it from a friend.
Our daughter, Beth, a sophomore at UCLA, got up every morning at 6 am. to make phone calls to friends around the country Two days after the course began she called her next younger sister, Becky. "Becky, you just can't afford to nil's this. Forget your job. t know you need the money, but you'll get by somehow."
That weekend, at Wheaton, Becky joined the other 34 in writing to her friends about why they also ought to drop everything and come.
It was in exciting experiment.
Plans had jelled so late in the spring that we couldn't gel a professor, so we asked for five for one week apiece. They ate with the students, jogged around the track with them, prayed with them, lived with them for the entire week.
Draining, perhaps, for the professor, it was a great opportunity for the students to get to know missions from at insider's perspective. And they received college credit; transferable, even, to secular net versities.
For many students, it seemed too good lobe true.
In the midst of these humble beginnings. many of us were dreaming of the day when, once again, as in 1900, 40,000 students would be seriously studying about missions. We dreamed of the day when those 35 IlSers would become 50, then 100, 250 .... 5000.
Back in the late '70s when the course first moved to our campus, we projected 5000 students by the year 1985.
It is now 1985. How are we doing?
Last year. almost 2000 students enrolled in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement courses (HS). They met on tO different campuses and in local churches. At the same time, our Perspectives book was used as a missions text in almost every major evangelical sentinary and Cht'istian college. Ten thousand copies of the book were sold last year, almost all to students.
This year things are a bit out of control, and we am pleased!
Well over a hundred students are attending the evening sessions of extension classes in both Austin and Minneapolis. Bozeman. Montana last spring had over 70 students. Many of these are repeating the course for free this spring.
What is it about the Perspectives course that is so exciting?
It's not just the fact that many mission minded young people find each other at IIS. That does happen, and it is exciting! But other things are happening, too.
The course was not designed just for those already convinced about missions. It was also designed for those who frankly don't know what to do with their lives. That is why it is called Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. If you don't have a basic understanding ofwhat Ood is doing through His church around the world, how can you know what specific role He wants you to play in the church?
Some people think perspectives must be a missionary training course. Or, at least, it should make young people into missionaries.Far mote important we feel, is that the students all become enthusiastic mission promoters.
After the first IIS, one student went back to her campus and talked so much about missions that the student leader in her dorm rebuked her. "You've got to get off this mission kick and become more biblical!" he said.
She blinked, then challenged him to take IIS the next summer. He took her upon the challenge.
The first week, he was irritated and angry. The second week, he continued resistant, but the walls were beginning to crumble. By the third week, he was sold.
Two weeks after he returned to his home church, he wrote the girl from his dorm, "Can you believe it? Pastor J. keeps telling me, now, that I've got to get off this mission kick and become more biblical!"
Some people have the idea that Perspectives is only for young people.
The fact is, many students are pastors, mission committee leaders, andeven experienced missionaries.
Following one of her earliest class leclures, H.M., a 20 year veteran with a major mission agency wrote:
I look back on the last few years and see 'hart have become somewhat mechanical in my missions response. (The) lectures, coupled with the assignments, have had an explosive impact on my mind. Suddenly everything fits together. There is a thread running through the Bible.
Missions is central to God's purpose.
The Institute of International Studies is a classic example of taking the course to the student instead of the more traditional pattern of bringing the student to the school.
True, the offices of IIS are on the USC'WM campus in Pasadena. and year 'round Perspectives courses are offered here. But our purpose is not to fill the USCWM campus with more and more students. Rather, we want to inspire thousands of s;odeots around the world with mission vision.
In recent weeks, we have begun talking about "franchising' Perspectives. In this way many organizations should be encouraged to run their own programs. But at the same time, we want tofranchi.ce in order to ensure that certain non negotiables remain unchanged.
- a major emphasis on unreached peoples, not merely on "missions";
- approval by die home office of alt professors (10 ensure that they are spiritually, academically and philosophically in harmony with lISt basic objectives);
- arrangement for transferable credit, even to secular schools;
- agreement by the franchising agency to work cooperatively with all evangelical student agencies;
- a commitment to keep efficient and accurate financial records, open to the supervision of the home office.
Students at the Pasadena course are encouraged to stay on for an extra week to take he Extension Coordinators' training program.
The Coordinator's course gives practical guidance in how to organize and administrate an effective Perspectives course "back home."
A Coordinator is a publicity agent, an administrator, a business manager, a registrar and class moderator. To be a coordinator is an educational experience in itself.
One young man attended the Perspectives course offered here in January 1984. Last summer he brought with him 25 friends.
This year he is the coordinator of one of the larger Perspectives courses - 125 students!
Interest is mushrooming. Yet we've had at least one church plead with us to slow down. "We have so many young people who want to be missionaries that our church can't afford to send them all," they say.
Wouldn't you like to have that problem?
Join the team!
Write or call your local coordinator.