Spring Popular Time for Mission Trips

Post a Comment » Written on April 26th, 2006     
Filed under: News
MCALLEN, TX (April 26, 2006) – Merge Ministries has seen a dramatic shift in the number of people preferring to travel on mission trips in the spring rather than the summer, says Executive Director Dale Lusk.

This year marks the largest number of participants between January and May in Merge’s history, Lusk says. Meanwhile, the fewest number of workers in a non-CHIC year since 1996 are slated for the rest of 2006.

Merge is part of the Evangelical Covenant Church’s Department of World Mission. Since 1993, more than 9,000 people have served across much of the globe, says Lusk, who founded the ministry in 1993 upon graduating from North Park Theological Seminary. Merge connects teams with projects and offers assistance in preparing for the trips.

More than 300 participants on 17 mission teams are serving in three countries during this year’s first quarter, Lusk says. The previous record was 278 people in 2004.

The number of participants so far represents about half the projected number of 640 workers for the year, Lusk says. That is a far greater percentage than in past years, when spring participants accounted for a quarter or less of the workers.

For example, only 213 of the total 1,037 workers for 2005 participated in the spring, with 12 traveling in the fall, Lusk says. In 2004, 278 of the total 1,092 participants traveled in the spring, with 18 in the fall.

Lusk says several reasons account for the switch to spring for work teams: increasing participation during spring break, better weather, and expense. “I think people are finding spring break an easier time to go,” he explains. “Most students have that time off, and there are no band camps, sports camps, Christian camps, or jobs like they have in the summer.”

Most destination countries, other than Spain, have better weather during our spring, Lusk notes. Flights to Spain and other countries also tend to be more expensive during the summer, he adds.

Traveling in the spring does limit opportunities to serve in some countries, Lusk says. “The problem with spring is teams only have a week – nine days max.” That means trips to South America, Europe and Africa generally are not possible, he explains.

Years in which the Evangelical Covenant Church’s national youth event, CHIC, is held also tend to be lower, says Lusk. He notes, however, that this CHIC year has the fewest summer workers since 1994, although it is the largest year for overall participation.

The switch to more spring trips also has led Merge to change its staffing for the year, Lusk says. The ministry has suspended its volunteers summer staff program for people wanting to serve one to four weeks, Lusk says, adding that eight young adults have been asked to wait until 2007.

Merge is considering two new ways to meet the demand to work with the spring trips: starting a spring staff program like the one in the summer, and offering another level of full-time staff other than area directors that would include translating and site supervisors, or work project supervisors.

The years following CHIC tend to see a large increase in workers, which should translate to more summer numbers, Lusk says, but he adds the ministry faces other challenges as it continues to serve numerous countries.

Lusk says he hopes more churches will view mission trips as being for more than youth and college students. “Half our 36 trips this year are for youth,” he says. The other half is either adult, family or mixed (youth group and adults) In 2005, about 70 percent of the trips were solely for youth.

Lusk also encourages churches that have used the ministry in the past to continue to do so because Merge is able to better provide logistical support than if churches try to do so themselves. Mission teams still can sign up for this summer and fall, says Lusk. To learn more about the ministry, visit Merge Ministries.

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