The PLNU LoveWorks program is celebrating some of its successes and pushing for new participation as the program enters into its 26 year. LoveWorks is a collection of short-term missionary trips occurring over the summer and sponsored through the Office of Spiritual Development.
Those who attended the International Ministries chapel on Oct. 13 noticed that within the call for student involvement, there was a strong push for male participants to step into the realm of ministry through LoveWorks programs.
“Last year we had about 85 students participate, and only five were guys,” said Brian
Becker, Director of International Ministries. “And those five who went, they are awesome guys, they did a phenomenal job.”
However, the lack of a male presence in PLNU’s international ministry programs is no recent phenomenon.
“Even back in 2003, the ratios were really low. The guys were not there, even historically,” said Becker.
Blaire Foltz, a Sophomore who went on the Ecuador LoveWorks trip in the summer of 2012, experienced the necessity for men within ministry. Out of the 13 student participants who went to Ecuador, none who went were men. The only male representative from the LoveWorks team was Urbano Orozco, a PLNU alumnus and one of the two leaders on the Ecuador trip.
“I think because it’s children based, that isn’t super appealing to men,” said Foltz. “Even with Vacation Bible School, there are so many little boys who need a male role model to look up to, and as a trip of all girls and only one guy leader, all the little boys attached to Urbano.”
Foltz noticed on her trip to Ecuador that a lot of children do not have father figures in their lives, creating a need for male missionaries to serve as positive role models while spreading the news of Jesus.
“There needs to be more guys. I don’t know why they don’t sign up, maybe girls just feel more called to mission work then men, but it’s a huge issue,” she said.
However, not all LoveWorks trips have such a disproportional ratio of women to men in their programs.
Andrew Schalin, a 2013 PLNU alumnus, went on a LoveWorks trip to Rwanda in 2012 on a team of 10 students, where each gender was represented equally. The balance of the group complemented the traditions of the host country in regards to male and female roles.
“Rwanda still has heavily defined gender roles so there were a few times where there was some heavy manual labor and our host only allowed the guys to come,” said Schalin via email.
“That would have been an awkward situation with a female-only team. I don’t think not having men on the team would prevent the Gospel from advancing. I do think it makes it easier for a team to be effective and get along (when men are present).”
Becker has noticed that the trend of a large female presence in ministry is not only impacting PLNU’s LoveWorks ministries but that there is an absence of a male presence in church ministry at large.
“Much of the time when we think about the ministry of proclaiming the gospel, preaching, leading up front, in a public way, often times we see that dominated by men. But when it comes to being the hands and feet of Jesus, the compassionate side, the active side, we see more women being the ones in ministries,” he said.
In asking for more participation from the male PLNU community, the last effect Becker wanted was for the men to feel attacked by the LoveWorks program.
“I don’t want to berate the guys, because I don’t want them to just feel bad and then turn and walk away in shame,” said Becker. “I just want to invite them. That’s what we were trying for in the chapel.”
All of the programs under International Ministries need the participation of both women and men for their purposes to be fulfilled. In the summer of 2014, 13 LoveWorks programs will take place. Applications are now available and will be due Nov. 4.