How Missionaries Work

Modern Missionaries

In December 2008, the Salvation Army distributes food, toys and personal care items to people in need. The Salvation Army is an aid-based mission organization.
David McNew/Getty Images

Now that technology has reached most corners of the world, it might seem that traditional missionaries are a thing of the past. But missionaries carry on their work today in several adapted forms. Many devoted Christians still feel an obligation to convert non-Christians -- both foreign and within their own societies. However, mission work in underdeveloped nations has largely become as much (or more) about aid as religious conversion.

  • Mormon missionaries in the United States are known for going door to door to preach their faith. Mormons consider themselves Christian; the sect traces its particular origins to the 19th-century western United States. Missionary work in the United States and abroad has been responsible for the successful dissemination of the religion. Indeed, proselytizing is a priority: All young men (and many women) of the faith become missionaries for a span of two years.
  • Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh-day Adventists are also Christian sects that developed in the 19th century. These religions are also known for their fervent missionary work. Besides having full-time missionaries, Jehovah's Witnesses ask all members to perform mission work in their spare time by distributing literature and knocking on people's doors. Evangelizing is seen as essential to their faith [source: Holden].
  • Other Protestant sects and Catholics continue mission work in various parts of the world as well. The Evangelical Alliance Mission is a nondenominational Christian group dedicated to helping churches organize missions. It has sent more than 700 missionaries to more than 40 countries [source: TEAM].
  • The Salvation Army has been a driving force to spread Christianity and relieve poverty around the world for more than a century. One notable Catholic congregation, the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, continues to do mission work around the world. The Marians have about 500 priests in 17 countries [source: Marians].
  • The Peace Corps is a nonreligious, U.S. government agency that has inherited much of the humanitarian spirit of the 19th century. It focuses on training local peoples and fostering understanding between nations. Established by Congress and President Kennedy in the early 1960s, it now boasts more than 7000 volunteers in 70 countries [source: Peace Corps].

Despite the controversy that surrounds the history of missionaries, for the most part their willingness to face hardship and struggle has been testament to their iron spirit and desire to help others.


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