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‘Fusion’ college initiative expanded

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–It’s been heartbreaking to see how many Christian young people drop out of church after graduating from high school, says Scott Brawner, who founded a program called Fusion to counter the dropoff.

Established at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2005, Fusion is becoming an initiative of the International Mission Board to inspire students to continue following Christ after high school and to pursue missions as a career and calling.

Fusion offers high school graduates, ages 18-24, opportunities to gain missions experience for college credit. In 2008-09, the nine-month program will still be housed at Midwestern Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., and operated through its undergraduate school, Midwestern Bible College, SBC. For the 2009-10 school year, Christian colleges interested in offering the Fusion program to students on their campuses can contact the IMB’s student mobilization team at 1-800-999-3113 or [email protected]

Students attending the program currently receive 32 hours of college credit through Midwestern Baptist College for the two-phase course. Phase 1 of the course involves both classroom study and rigorous training challenges to develop personal discipline and leadership skills. Phase 2 puts a Fusion team on an international mission field, where they work under the oversight of career missionaries in projects ranging from prayerwalking and evangelism to human needs and community development.

Fusion was created to help young Christians develop spiritual maturity and life direction, resulting in a lifetime passion for reaching the world for Christ, Brawner says.

“Data compiled on Fusion graduates shows these young adults not only take personal responsibility for their faith, but become catalysts for evangelism and ministry while in college and beyond,” says Brawner, who has worked nearly 20 years in student ministry. “This makes Fusion the ultimate freshman experience; it not only prepares young people to survive college with their faith intact but to follow hard after Christ for a lifetime.”

Russ Savage, who participated as a college student in Fusion and has led others through the process, says students who aren’t challenged to live for Christ settle for a superficial religion that doesn’t change lives.

“For many students, the call of Christ has been reduced to a list: don’t think about sex, read your Bible; don’t try to be popular, be friendly; don’t do drugs, go to youth group, etc.,” says Savage, a native of Platte City, Mo., and a biblical studies major at Midwestern College. “The result is mediocrity in the pews and the hypocrisy in the high schools, where students’ Facebook pages label them as Christians but their photo albums show them proudly imitating alcohol commercials.

“Students need to be challenged to follow Christ beyond the youth rooms and into places where persecution is inevitable. Fusion challenges them with a fellowship of believers who live and strive together against the norm and pursue the call of Christ.”

Fusion helps a student break through superficial stereotypes about Christianity and discover the gritty reality of following Jesus in a hostile world, says Jeremy Vonada of Parker, Colo., a Fusion leader who is working on a bachelor’s degree in international business administration at Missouri State University.

“Fusion provides a no-holds-barred missions experience,” says Vonada, who also is a former Fusion student. “The program presents missions in a way that can’t be sugar-coated. You see service to God for what it really is, both the suffering and the rejoicing.”

The international missions component of Fusion encourages students to plug into missions at a local church and consider returning to the international mission field as short-term volunteers as well as full-time missionaries.

“Fusion provides a great emphasis on developing student leaders, and we look forward to expanding it to include a larger number of students in a wide variety of assignments worldwide,” says Mike Lopez, who coordinates student enlistment and mobilization for the IMB.

“We are certain that [the IMB-Midwestern partnership] will strengthen and give more exposure to the program,” R. Philip Roberts, president of Midwestern Seminary. “It is our hope and prayer that more students are able to participate in missions opportunities with the IMB and to go into all the world and preach the Gospel.”
Mark Kelly is a freelance writer based in Gallatin, Tenn. More information on Fusion is available at gofusion.ws. In a related effort to raise up a new generation of missionaries, the International Mission Board is launching “Hands On” pilot projects in sub-Saharan Africa in January 2008 to give 18- to 29-year-olds experience in overseas missions. The Hands On Initiative (hands-on-africa.com) will expand to other regions of the world in 2009.

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  • Mark Kelly