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.
The ministry has relationships with many churches, but is “always looking for new partner churches,” Kroeze said. “We are here to serve the local church and 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.