For over twenty-five years, SBU has been involved in a strategic program for the purpose of equipping and training students in the area of a short-term volunteer program. Long before SBU had formally developed the mission statement of being a “Christ-centered, caring academic community preparing students to be servant leaders in a global society”, the SBU short-term volunteer program was promoting spiritual growth, ministry skills, and character development through the volunteer efforts of those who held a passion for the University's short-term volunteer program.
In 1980, a short-term volunteer program was born on the SBU campus entitled CAMEO (Church-planting and Mission Evangelism Outreach), encouraging students to become volunteers on short-term domestic international projects. CAMEO’s objective was 3-fold:
- Promote spiritual growth through quality leadership, team fellowship, and individual commitment.
- Teach ministry skills, which enabled volunteers to effectively reach others with the gospel message. Ministry skills typically centered around recreation, Backyard Bible Clubs, and survey work with a strong emphasis placed on skills in direct evangelism. The ultimate goal was to teach skills, which were transferable from the mission field to everyday life.
- Encourage character development in personal lives through team work, family life, and strong commitment required of CAMEO volunteers.
The CAMEO program began as an independent university work. All team members – students, faculty/staff, and volunteers raised their own money for the short-term volunteer program's support. Those funds were raised through supporters who believed in what SBU was doing in it's short-term volunteer program and evangelism.
Early in the CAMEO short-term volunteer program, support was raised by the CAMEO volunteer director, who submitted letters of support to various individuals, organizations, and churches, who were direct contacts of short term volunteer program team members. The support letters were accompanied with an attached letter written personally from the SBU president, Dr. Charles Chaney, emphasizing the impact of short-term voulnteering on the lives of SBU students and encouraging financial support to sponsor SBU short-term volunteer program endeavors.
As an increased interest in the short term-volunteer program grew, an effort to centrally locate and unify the total SBU short-term volunteer program emphasis was created in the development of the Department of University Missions in August of 1985. The Mission’s Office was created to serve the SBU family by:
- Informing the SBU family of the short-term volunteer program news and opportunities.
- Enlisting members of the SBU family to serve in domestic international assignments.
- Equip short-term volunteers with skills vital to their endeavors.
- Emphasize evangelism as the primary focus for the short-term volunteer program's service.
Since those early years of implementing CAMEO short-term volunteer program, the University Mission’s Office, and the Center for Global Connections has literally sent thousands of students around the world. Serving as career workers, journeyman, church planters, pastors, educators, and in a variety of other ministries, the impact of SBU missions is felt around the globe.
In the Fall of 1989 William Taylor, former Director of the University Missions & Ministries Center , had a vision to move the Center from the Mabee Chapel Foyer into the Student Union. He simultaneously began raising funds for the cost of the project, and with a matching donation from the University was able to open the Center 3 years later. In 1992 the Center was dedicated by Pastor Phil Hunter and opened in the space it currently occupies.
The SBU short-term volunteer program has expanded its domestic international ministry through VBS, survey work, service projects, etc. Yet the vision of SBU short-term volunteer opportunities has broadened. Expanding on the early ministry of CAMEO short-term volunteer projects, which primarily focused on sending teams to North America and Central America , the Center for Global Connections is now sending three fourths of its number of teams to the most unreached populations of people groups around the world…the 10/40 window. Currently, in 2006, student teams are involved in church planting movements, prayerwalking for the purpose of breaking down spiritual strongholds, and taking the gospel to the unreached people groups of the 10/40 window.
The Center for Global Connections has built upon the founding principles set forth through CAMEO's short-term volunteer program, and yet has expanded its vision and purpose while strategically fulfilling the current SBU mission statement.
Author, Diana Gallamore
Director of Center for Global Connections