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This Week in AG History -- December 22, 1968

Today's AG youth still often get their first taste of missionary life through Ambassadors in Missions (AIM) trips, which began more than 50 years ago.

AIM (Ambassadors in Mission) is the missions-sending arm of the Assemblies of God (AG) National Youth Ministries. Through involvement in short-term mission trips, AG youth experience firsthand the need for national and international workers and discover their part in meeting those needs.

In the mid-1960s, AG educator Dr. Ward Williams suggested to AG leadership that AG youth (known as Christ’s Ambassadors, or CA's) could serve as temporary workers on the mission field. He envisioned trips lasting two to six weeks, in which CA’s could contribute to the mission work, while stretching their own skills and personal experiences with God.

Some districts had already begun providing missions trips for their youth groups, including Northern and Southern California. Indiana D-Cap (district youth director) Brenton Osgood had recently taken a team of 70 CA’s to Latin America with Loren Cunningham’s organization for a summer of service.

In 1966 AG leaders gave approval to do something similar on the national level. That summer, 12 CA’s went on a “Caribbean Youth Witness” trip to Jamaica and British Honduras. In 1967 two more teams of 32 youth revisited the areas that had been targeted the previous year.  

In 1968 Norm Correll, director of MAPS (Mobilization and Placement Services), and Brenton Osgood, newly appointed director of Speed the Light, strategized a plan that would involve the efforts of five departments to implement the vision for youth mission trips:  the Education Department would provide promotion, Men’s Ministries would provide literature through Light for the Lost (LFTL), Women’s Ministries would provide for meals and housing, Spiritual Life-Evangelism would provide training, and the CA Department would provide the workers. CA’s, themselves, would provide the money for airfare. They named the effort Ambassadors in Mission — making good use of the name of the national Youth Department, Christ’s Ambassadors.

These well-planned trips consisted of a training program in which the youth would travel to Springfield, Missouri, for a three-day orientation with leaders such as J. Philip Hogan, the director of the Foreign Missions Department. Students became acquainted with the concepts of culture shock, interpersonal relationships, witnessing strategies, and spiritual readiness. A frequent visitor to each training period was Alice Reynolds Flower, wife of the first general secretary of the Assemblies of God, who met and encouraged each student in their journey. After training, students embarked on a four-week witnessing program in countries such as Brazil, El Salvador, Germany, Liberia, Kenya, and many others. 

Each American youth was paired with a young person from the host national church. Together they would go, two by two, to visit homes in the neighborhood of an AG church. Using LFTL literature, they would strike up conversations and share the gospel message, along with an invitation to special services being held each night at the local church. Those who accepted the gospel message through the witnessing efforts or the evening services received six follow-up visits with teaching based on the Gospel of John. 

That first year of well-organized strategy saw young people from 30 states participate in the program. The Pentecostal Evangel reported in its Dec. 22, 1968, article “AIM! On Target to Win Today’s World” that “these Christ’s Ambassadors had unforgettable experiences that deeply affected their lives, and at the same time produced thrilling results on the mission field. The combined total of decisions through door-to-door witnessing and the accompanying Good News Crusades came to 3,122.”

The same article quotes the testimonies of several teens as to the impact these summer trips had upon their own personal and spiritual development. One CA, Deloris Rykhoek, shared, “Never before have I felt such an anointing upon my life. I said things that amazed me. God melted hearts, brought joy to the helpless, and placed a hunger for more of Him.”

Since those early days, tens of thousands of AG youth have experienced their first taste of missions on an AIM trip. Many current AG missionaries responded to the call of God while serving on these short-term outreaches. Ambassadors in Mission continues to provide Assemblies of God teens with a life-changing experience as they spend their summers expanding their own horizons while expanding the kingdom of God.

Read more of the 1968 AIM reports on page 16 of the Dec. 22, 1968Pentecostal Evangel. 

Also featured in this issue:

• “Pre-Christmas Pilgrimage” by Mary Tregenza

• “What Christmas Means to Me” by students from Central Bible Institute, Tokyo, Japan

• “The Goads of God” by R.L. Brandt

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

IMAGE - KS students on the 1971 AIM Christmas Trip. Six districts (Kansas, Arkansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and North Texas) combined to send 275 students to spend their Christmas break evangelizing in Monterrey, Mexico.

Ruthie Edgerly Oberg

Ruthie Edgerly Oberg is an ordained Assemblies of God minister and fourth generation Pentecostal. She served in senior and associate pastoral roles for 25 years. Oberg speaks at national conferences and local churches.