October 7, 2003 - The Tennessean: Guatemala RPCV Robert Itzin brings the Christian message to people in countries that aren't open to missionaries

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Guatemala: Peace Corps Guatemala: The Peace Corps in Guatemala: October 7, 2003 - The Tennessean: Guatemala RPCV Robert Itzin brings the Christian message to people in countries that aren't open to missionaries

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Guatemala RPCV Robert Itzin brings the Christian message to people in countries that aren't open to missionaries



Guatemala RPCV Robert Itzin brings the Christian message to people in countries that aren't open to missionaries

Missionaries' lives bear their witness

ERIC PARSONS / STAFF

By BRIAN LEWIS
Staff Writer

Program trains youth to spread gospel while working secular jobs

In four of those countries, she led a group of missionaries. As a young person, she often feels as if she's in over her head. But also, she always feels that God will help her and the people who depend on her.

''I've never yet led an outreach in a country I've been to before,'' she said. ''It's always a big stretch and just puts me in a position where I have to depend on the Lord completely.''

Thorngate's mission work began after high school when she came to the campus of Youth with a Mission in Adams, Tenn., about 40 miles north of Nashville.

For her and other young people with a desire to share their faith, the program provides an opportunity to learn the skills to travel the world as missionaries.

The staff and students all raise their own funds to support their work and their studies. It's part of being involved in a ''faith-supported ministry,'' said Andy Landers, training director at the school.

Thorngate said the job is 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with no overtime.

''It's like a job that I don't get a paycheck for,'' she said. ''I absolutely love it.''

Seth Kupersmith of Oregon, who just graduated from high school this fall, said his goal is to become a Christian filmmaker. Deepening his faith and having integrity will be just as important to him as going overseas, he said. ''I'm always going to be a Christian,'' he said, ''but every film I will make won't necessarily have a bold message about Jesus Christ.''

For others, there's a more direct goal.

Jonathan Perez-Sanchez, who is from Belgium, wants to organize churches throughout Eastern Europe. The son of a preacher, he was the only Christian in his school while growing up, he said. But he's always wanted to talk with people about God, he said.

He believes strongly in practicing friendship evangelism. That's developing a relationship with someone who eventually will ask him why he's so happy. That happened after his sister died in a car accident and he was prepared to tell people about his faith.

''Most of the time I notice that people come to me,'' he said. ''They say, 'What do you have that I don't have?' ''

Robert Itzin, a staff member, said the organization ''helps kids dream big dreams.''

He's part of the school of strategic missions, a program that focuses on bringing the Christian message to people in countries that aren't open to missionaries.

The options include working in medicine, teaching English or starting a business. For example, some students are planning on going to a North African country and opening up a coffee shop with live music, including Christian bands. While the performers would not be able to preach, if someone asked them about their faith, they could respond.

For Itzin himself, such a soft-sell approach helped him find faith. He was in Guatemala with the Peace Corps as a young college graduate. Regardless of what he did, he never felt any satisfaction, even working amongst the poor in a remote village. One night while he was contemplating suicide, Christian missionaries invited him to a service and he found meaning, he said. It changed how he saw his assignment in South America. ''I was there as an ambassador for God,'' he said. ''I was serving him, I wasn't serving the State Department.''

That's the call that many of the young people at the school are trying to realize in their own lives, and it can take many different forms. Landers said that there are infinite possibilities for missionaries, from participating in large crusades in this country using skills in extreme sports, performing in Christian bands to going to a foreign country and helping dig wells and find clean, drinkable water for people.

Often people will say, ''I didn't really have that much of an interest in your message until I saw that you cared about me.''

''Certainly we want them to believe in Christ,'' he said, ''but Jesus loves them whether they believe in him or not.''

To learn more

Youth With A Mission Nashville is holding an event titled, ''Got Passion? Take Action!'' from 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday in Adams, Tenn. Child care provided. For more information, call 696-3096.



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Story Source: The Tennessean

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Guatemala; Missionaries

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