By Rachel Mari
Promoting a lifestyle of missions—that is the heart of the work at Touch The World.
The short-term missions agency, based in Allendale, NJ, coordinates trips for young people who want to serve and share the Good News in the United States and in countries like Cuba, Uganda, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Greece.
“Touch The World is passionate about equipping youth to live out missions every day and everywhere,” said Executive Director Jesse Kroeze.
One of the hallmarks of the ministry is the training it provides before teams leave for trips. Touch the World (TTW) seeks to ensure that believers are culturally appropriate, spiritually ready, and personally empowered to serve.
“We are a resource provider to empower youth leaders with excellent training and trips. Within missions, there is so much of a savior mentality that we work hard to break down and replace with sensitivity and empathy,” said Kroeze. “Our passion is to see youth living on mission for God in their everyday lives and to use the experience of a trip to spur on global understanding, spiritual transformation, and personal development.”
All teams participate in missions training for three days, engaging in teaching sessions, worship, and other practical elements that will prepare them for their trip. Additionally, each team participates in the poverty challenge, which simulates life in some third-world countries.
TTW believes that training is essential for a successful missions trip and getting churches on board is key. “The challenge for us is that many churches that engage in short term missions don’t see a need for training and oftentimes sacrifice preparation just to get on the field and serve,” said Kroeze. “Unfortunately, many mistakes are made and good intentions only take you so far. We would love every church to experience missions training and a TTW trip, so that they can see what it looks like to engage with thoughtfulness and intentionality.”
Touch The World was founded in 1991 with a mission ”to move youth from apathy to energy in their faith.” And that is still happening 25 years later.
Kroeze has been involved at Touch The World since 2005, working in various roles.
“I was drawn to youth ministry and missions for many years, but never found an avenue in which the two could work together within a full-time job,” he said. “Through my years with TTW, I was able to engage with youth in missions and see their faith transformed.”
In 2006, Kroeze married his wife Andrea, also part of the TTW staff, and the couple moved to Uganda, where they served for five years. “In 2008, we moved to Uganda in order to work with the marginalized and show God’s love in a very practical way,” he said. “We lived in Gulu, which was a war-torn village where we established a community center, medical clinic, [and provided] vocational training and spiritual development. Many lessons in missions were learned on the field and interacting with those from such different cultures and socioeconomic levels completely humbled and transformed us.” In 2013, Kroeze agreed to return to the U.S. as the executive director of Touch The World.
In addition to seeking God on the mission field, the Kroezes are no strangers to leaning on Him in all areas of life—and even for life itself.
“On December 22, 2018, I ended up in the hospital with a heart infection and ended up having three major surgeries that were quite risky,” explained Kroeze. “After heart surgery, [getting] a pacemaker, and having my spleen removed, I was in bad shape and forced to rely fully on God and trust in Him. This was such a trying time for our family as so much of life hung in the balance and the questions of why can’t quite be answered.”
So as the Kroezes continue to model their faith and trust in God here at home, they and the TTW staff continue to send out teams of people desiring to serve the Lord and share the Gospel in other regions of the world.
“We are always looking for new partner churches, so if you know a church where their youth are going on missions trips, we would love to connect,” said Kroeze. “We are here to serve the local church and are honored to partner with many schools and churches in the area. Please reach out to us if you are considering missions.”
For more information, visit www.touchtheworld.org.
RISE CONFERENCE: Touch the World will host the RISE Conference for students ages 12 to 18 on November 15-16 at Powerhouse Christian Church in Wyckoff, NJ. The conference will focus on identity, culture, and mission: “At RISE, students will discover their identity in Christ, learn how to deepen their faith in the ever-changing culture around them, and enter into a movement of young people living out the mission of God every day, everywhere.”