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This past Sunday, September 25, 2016, someone introduced us to a visiting pastor: "Ralph and Verna served as missionaries in Europe for 40 years." The pastor replied, "That is wonderful! It is so sad that few young people respond to the Lord's call to missions these days. It seems that the comforts of life, material attraction and worldly entertainment have become very strong deterrents for the younger generation."

We have been hearing similar statements now for decades. While it is true that many churches are witnessing an exodus of youth and young couples, I don't believe that the situation has changed that much since I gave my life to Christ at Camp Haluwasa back in 1956.

I told the pastor that we had just returned from the annual Homecoming Conference of Avant Ministries on Friday. I estimated that a hundred of those missionaries present were retired from their fields of service and over 70 years of age. Several were over 90, but most active missionaries are under 40!

We are no longer serving in a foreign country, but we are still missionaries at heart! And we are excited to hear about what God is doing in the world today -- through committed and gifted young people! In 2002, we visited a Muslim nation in Asia for two weeks asking God if there could be an open door for the gospel. Convinced that this was the case, we shared this burden with mission management. We were thrilled to learn in September, 2016, that of the 335 Avant missionaries serving around the world, the second highest contingent of workers is now serving in that nation!

Modern youth love extreme sports such as skydiving, snowboarding, whitewater kayaking, free-style motocross, frostbite sailing, kitesurfing and ice climbing. But only the minority actually gets involved. The others just watch it on TV. Some of the latter group will grow up, get good jobs and settle down in comfortable churches with entertaining music and modern technology. And they will bemoan the exodus of youth and young couples who just don't seem to fit or feel comfortable in church.

There is nothing so exciting and adventurous as missions and many young people are taking up the challenge to get involved. Unfortunately, the majority of Christians is convinced that modern youth are not interested.

It seems that not much has changed since we were young "whippersnappers." It has always been a minority of young Christians who sign on for missions. That was the case 50 and 70 years ago and it is the same today. But young Christians are going to some of the most dangerous places on the globe to share the gospel with people who have never heard. They don't do this for fame or recognition either. You won't see them on TV or read about their activities in publications because publicity is dangerous for both the missionary and those whom they are trying to reach. Even those who are killed in service seldom make it into the news media.

The following photo was taken at the 2016 Annual Conference of Avant Ministries. My wife and I are seated next to Frank and Marie Drown, who were engaged in the 1956 attempt to reach the Aucas of Ecuador with the gospel. Five of their missionary colleagues died in that mission, but the Auca church is thriving today!

The next photo shows Missionary Kids eagerly listening to the Drown's stories. Those kids are now college graduates and perhaps missionaries!

Ralph & Verna Harvey
[Frank Drown entered "Through Gates of Splendor" on Monday, January 22, 2018]