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‘Volunteer Vacations’ mix enjoyment with purpose

By Bruce Smith

Christian mission trip opportunities abound in areas that take into account unique skills and attributes.

It’s estimated that 1.6 million American Christians travel to remote areas of the world on short-term mission vacations annually. Roger Peterson, president of STEM International (Short Term Evangelical Missions), estimates that 50,000 churches in the United States are sending members out on mission vacation trips each year.

Have you ever thought about being involved in international volunteer organizations?

Christian mission trips and opportunities abound. However, finding and deciding on an organization where you can do volunteer work abroad and find fulfillment – given your unique skills, personality and desires – can be a challenge.

Most people looking for such opportunities probably don’t realize the variety of activities in which they could be involved. Positions requiring skills such as accounting, teaching, administrative, business, computer, construction, electrical, counseling, language, medical, plumbing, music, tutoring and website management are available. And these are just the tip of the iceberg once you start researching.

Myriad of opportunities
When it comes to overseas mission work, people often think in terms of directly sharing the Gospel or being involved in Bible translation work. However, it is common to miss the myriad of opportunities to provide support to other full-time missionaries. For instance, being able to help missionaries with a construction project is a calling that has been extremely joyous and rewarding for many.

If you enjoy or have experience in teaching, perhaps you could consider specific projects to help others, like advising teachers in the developing world, compiling handbooks and materials, giving online learning support to missionary families, or helping establish specialized schools.

Other volunteer projects can include: building schools, helping in clinics, farming, conducting rainforest conservation, tree planting, computer training, health and environmental education, and youth work.

The decision to serve others with your talents and skills brings you such a wide range of opportunity. You will find that you grow and develop spiritually, progress professionally, work practically, expand relationally and grow personally.

Match talents and skills
Wycliffe Associates believes they have a great opportunity to match talents and skills with volunteer opportunities. Volunteers can go at any time, for as long as they wish. This could be on a volunteer short-term mission vacation basis, a full-time basis, or anything in between.

If fears about capability and adequacy are a concern, many quality organizations provide volunteers with training, language preparation and/or field support, empowering them to make an impact that will last long after they leave.

While volunteering overseas can be a very fulfilling and rewarding experience, those who want to gain international experience but don’t want to travel overseas can volunteer with one of the many international community organizations based in the United States. Consider redirecting your vacation time toward international volunteer organizations and find that the “vacation” of choice for many is in the mission field.

Bruce Smith is president of Wycliffe Associates, Orlando, FL. Since 1967 Wycliffe Associates has supported the worldwide
efforts of Bible translators.  www.wycliffeassociates.org

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See the world and the word

WordSpring Discovery Center in Orlando offers an opportunity to see the world and the Word in a whole new way. Immerse yourself in a living cultural adventure as you explore the history of the Bible, the world’s languages and the ongoing work of Bible translation. Multimedia presentations, interactive computer games and simulations, audio dramas, and hands-on activities for all ages broaden horizons and refresh the spirit. Lunch and snacks are available in Café Karibuni. The Village Shop features exotic and unique gifts from around the world as well as missions resources. www.wycliffe.org/wordspring — From website

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A launching pad for mission

The Wycliffe Associates Volunteer Mobilization Center in Orlando is strategically located next to the Wycliffe U.S.A. headquarters. Built by volunteers, the newly completed Volunteer Mobilization Center is the launching pad for sending out a growing number of talented, skilled volunteers from across the U.S. to share the load with Bible translators. Our goal is to have volunteers providing 250,000 hours of service in critical international roles in 2010. Orlando is where they receive training, logistical support and encouragement.

Volunteers from across the country travel to Orlando to spend days, weeks, and even months filling important jobs that are vital to the translation of the Scriptures into remaining languages.

During the winter months, the Volunteer Center’s RV site overflows with volunteers who want to make a difference. Many of them, after getting their feet wet in Orlando, realize that it is not only possible, but exciting and fulfilling to devote their time and energy to get God’s Word to those who need it. They decide to plunge in and do volunteer work overseas, where the need is greatest and where they can make the maximum difference. — Bruce Smith

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