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The Man Who Influenced a Generation

“Why did you go to Latin America?”

I was sitting with a group of 50-60 former RMM workers in Latin America who had gathered for a reunion this past summer. During the 1960s, 70s, and into the early 80s, RMM sent dozens of young adults as Voluntary Service workers to Latin America. Here they were, decades later, gathering again with friends with whom they shared some common threads in the tapestries of their lives.

They shared lots of old stories, spoke (and sung) lots of Spanish, and laughed a lot. This particular evening, group moderators Nelson and Carol Martin asked them to reflect on their own distinct reasons for going to Nicaragua or Costa Rica as young adults. He assured them that he wasn’t necessarily looking for spiritual answers to that question, though of course those reasons were welcomed.

One by one, they shared their stories—stories that involved a range of factors like parental expectations, desire for adventure, and peer influence. Some stories were quite dramatic, others were less so. After all who cared to had shared, one of the moderators asked another simple question.

“How many of you were tapped on the shoulder by Mark Peachey?” (By the 1960s, RMM needed its first full-time administrator, and Mark Peachey was the energetic visionary who stepped into that role.)

I was amazed as I saw hands go up all across the room—it must have been half or even three quarters of the group that responded. Some of them went on to tell of Mark’s tenacity. He wasn’t timid about sharing what he believed to be God’s plan for the next few years of their lives. I got the impression that Mark seldom took “no” for an answer, at least not the first time.

I don’t know why, but for some reason we don’t seem to be tapping people on the shoulder anymore like Mark Peachey did in his generation. Sure, it happens sometimes, but I’m pretty sure the current generation of young adults in our churches won’t be able to point to one person who had so strong an influence in getting them exposed to missions.

Are young adults less open to that kind of input in their lives? I doubt it. The ones I know are wrestling with the same kinds of life decisions I did at that age. Are older adults less confident to initiate those conversations with younger people? Has career counseling gotten so complex that we leave it to professionals?

I believe God is still calling young adults to missions, both long term and short term. And I believe there is still a place for humble and discerning—yet bold—“shoulder-tapping.” I for one want to learn from Mark Peachey’s example.

We welcome your comments on this subject.