For over 40 years, the Helpers in Missions (HIM) program, part of the Memorial Road Church of Christ, has provided young people with an opportunity to spread the Gospel with other missionaries. Today, the program gives graduates and graduating seniors “field training in Christian service to equip them for further works of service at home and abroad.”
“It started with people working overseas who were doing mission work and saying, ‘We think it would be helpful if some young people came and helped us,’” Oklahoma Christian University Lecturer and Co-Director of the HIM program Kent Hartman said. “Sometimes, young people can do things to reach out to others that we cannot do as older people.”
Originally, workers signed up to be a part of the HIM program for one year and Memorial Road gave workers 10 percent of support to help them get started. After realizing the first year was primarily spent learning the language, however, the program was expanded to two years, with Memorial Road providing 40 percent of the support.
“The key to this is that they have to have someone who is their supervisor,” Hartman said. “It is not a program where they can just go out and do their own thing. You have to have someone to help you learn the language, the culture and who just gives you a starting point. The longer you are there, the more they will see what you are gifted and talented in and the more they begin to let you do, but at the end of the day, you are being a helper in missions.”
Participants who approach the HIM committee to be considered for the program are matched with a church location. Over the years, the HIM program has sent students to Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Mexico, Croatia, Ireland, Austria and across the U.S.
“Several of the good things about the HIM program, compared to other programs where kids go right out of high school, is that you are 4-5 years older, you have lived away from mom and dad, you know how to do laundry and you have graduated from college — something that takes a little bit of discipline,” Hartman said. “We try to do the training and preparation beforehand, so that when they get abroad, it may not solve all of their problems, but it will help. They know that about 10-12 months in they are probably going to start feeling homesick and will begin to ask, ‘What am I doing here?’ but once they get past they, they will finish strong.”
Students who are interested in the HIM program can contact Hartman or his co-director, Mel Latorre. The program does the majority of their recruiting from September to November, or the fall before one would go abroad. Psychological training follows an interview with the HIM committee and training takes place November through April.
“You have a bigger worldview after a trip like this and you get to see both the upsides and downsides of the interworking of missions,” Hartman said. “You have to raise money, so you have to talk to people. You get some unexpected good surprises and some little disappointments, but you learn how missions work just a little bit better. You also get to see another part of the world and kind of gets you out of the American mindset. You are away from your family, away from your friends and you just have to learn to trust in God to help get you through that.”
Senior psychology major Madeline Roseke will travel to New Zealand next August through the HIM program. As she said she did not feel quite ready to pursue graduate school, Roseke said she decided to finally take the ‘leap’ and do missions—something she has felt called to for a long time.
“It has always been something I would really love to do, loved the idea of, but never thought I would actually get to do it,” Roseke said. “I was spending a lot of time in prayer, and over Christmas Break, I met two people who work as missionaries in New Zealand. They kept telling me how great it is over there and how I should give it a shot. It was those conversations, and several others just like them, that made me say, ‘Okay, God. I get it.’ It was just an answer to prayer.”
Roseke said she is currently working on creating a budget for her time overseas and preparing to fundraise her 60 percent portion of the trip. In addition to sending out letters, Roseke said she is selling embroidery but knows “God will take the reins on the fundraising side of things.”
“Two years used to sound like just the scariest, longest amount of time to me,” Roseke said. “But when I come back, I am just going to be 24, so I am beginning to see two years as just this adventure. I think God can use these experiences and this time in my life in some amazing ways, and I think that is what the HIM program is all about. So, that is kind of what I am anticipating.”