It’s spring break at Corban College. Classrooms are empty and parking lots are wide open, but many students are busier than ever. Hinting at their activities is a bulletin board in Schimmel Hall, an academic hub on campus.
It reads, “Not Cancun. Not Miami. Not San Diego. Spring break is a lot different at Corban.”
This spring break, nearly 90 Corban students are reaching out to people in Italy, Los Angeles, Mexico, the Philippines, Peru and Utah. These students and a handful of staff are following the Corban tradition of spending their break building houses, leading Bible camps, playing with orphans and inner-city children and doing other service projects around the world.
“It’s always a thrilling time to see what God does for these students and through them,” says Jim Morris, Corban’s missionary-in-residence. “It’s all part of the experience, seeing God work to supply their needs and seeing God help them when they get there.”
These short-term trips are more than “feel good” experiences for Corban students. Many students return to a city or country year after year, building friendships with the people they meet. Others are interested in working overseas full-time. Of the college's 900 students, 27 are majoring in missions.
There are few better ways to taste the missionary life than to try it for a week or two, says Morris. For 40 years, he and his wife, Louise, were Old China Inland missionaries in Thailand and Singapore. In the 1950s, Morris and fellow workers trained for months, maybe even years, before seeing their final destination.
“In my day, we didn’t even think about short-term missions,” he says. “My first trip was for life.”
Now, travel is much easier. The trek to Thailand’s remote villages that once took weeks for Morris and his wife is over in a matter of days. And another new factor: young Americans typically hold many different jobs over the course of their careers, creating more opportunities to move in and out of missionary work.
So, the short-term mission trip – defined as anything between one week and about three years – is a good way for potential missionaries to see what such a service-oriented life is like. It’s also a way for mission organizations to see potential missionaries in action.
“Today, short-term missions are well-organized,” Morris says. “Most everybody who’s a full-time missionary has been on a short-term mission trip. It’s a great recruiting tool.”