The concept of International Messengers (IM) actually took place in the mind and heart of Robert Rasmusson in 1980. It was four years later when God opened the doors for this new missions organization to be born as a branch of Oak Hills Fellowship in Bemidji, Minnesota. IM became an independent, nonprofit mission organization in 1989. The offices were moved to Clear Lake, Iowa, in 1992.
In 1984 Rasmusson established IM, a ministry designed to motivate and train believers in world missions. IM set out to provide effective cross-cultural, short-term missions experiences for college age students and adults. This pursuit led to a new and innovative ministry concept called Evangelistic English language Camps (EELC), born in 1985 with a camp in Austria. The camps were expanded to Communist Poland the following year and then began in Hong Kong and other Eastern European countries from 1987 - 1992. These camps provide an excellent opportunity for North Americans to not only be exposed to cross-cultural missions, but to personally share the Gospel in a friendly camp environment. IM has camps taking place annually throughout Central & Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union.
In 1990 IM started offering 2-1/2 week opportunities aimed at involving adult lay people and impacting the local church. Winter camps began in 1991 for the same purpose. At about the same time, IM started to focus on recruiting church teams, where all the team members were from one church. The number of people involved in these English camp teams has grown annually from 15 in the beginning to over 300 at present. In the late 90’s the concept continued to expand into medical, nursing, educational and professional English camps which have had an effect on the adult population of Central & Eastern Europe.
The situation of few existent evangelical churches in Eastern Europe and the need to provide follow up discipling work after the camps led to our first full-time staff overseas in 1988. Two Polish nationals began with IM that year and were joined a year later by some American staff. The total staff of IM has grown from one man in 1984 to over 190 presently.
IM entered a loose partnership with the Evangelical Free Church of America to help them establish relationships in Eastern Europe in 1991-1992. This partnership was dissolved in 1993. IM provided the EFCA & SEND Int’l with curriculum and teaching materials to start their own EELC programs. Since then we have trained a number of other mission organizations how to use English camps for evangelism.
Several construction project teams were sent to Central America during 1987 to 1992. IM phased out of construction projects trips on 1992 to concentrate on EELC’s. Eighteen-month Missions Training & Internship programs were offered in cooperation with Oak Hills Bible College for three years in the late 80’s. In 1993 the MTI program was started again to help with discipling and evangelism needs created by the EELC. This program offered eight weeks of practical course work in the US and then 10-21 months of internship in Eastern Europe under the mentorship of the full time staff.
In 1993 IM started a Music & Drama program to do evangelistic concerts at our English camps and open air concerts throughout Eastern Europe. 1998 was the last year for these ministries as our director moved to Hungary as career overseas staff.
In 1994 a Family Adventures in Missions program was launched to provide economical family missions adventures in North America. This program was put on hold because of a lack of staff to oversee it. That same year, IM started to develop some potential ministry in mainland China in the areas of business, English evangelism, and children’s work. We still have a burden for Asia, but are waiting on the Lord for His leading on how to proceed.
A discipleship camp ministry grew out of the English camp ministry as there was a tremendous need to disciple young believers who had no access to a thriving, local church. A basketball camp outreach began in 1993 in northwest Poland and has grown to 3-4 camps per year for young boys, men and women. This sports outreach appeals to some who aren’t interested in an ongoing ministry with our staff in that location. An evangelistic ski camp ministry in Romania began in 1998 and was considered a huge success. This outreach is intended to attract students who haven’t been willing to come to Bible studies at the university. This ski camp gives the staff and team an opportunity to build relationships with the students.
IM started to take a new role in church planting in Eastern Europe in areas where a local church cannot be found to assist in the discipling process. Currently there are church plants sprouting in Romania, Czech Republic and Poland.
In 1996, a branch organization called Messengers of Hope, was started to focus on revival and evangelism in North America. We believe that churches must turn back to God in repentance and reconciliation if they are going to effectively reach out to the world.
IM was given a facility in Libby, Montana in 1996. This facility is now functioning as the Mountainside Missionary Training Center for those wanting an intensive look at missions. They begin with a four month training course and then go overseas for commitments of 18 months or longer. There are many other areas where there are tremendous needs. In 1999 we had our first bicycle camp and we have received requests to consider a computer camp and an ethics camp. We are waiting on God to supply the people and structure to move ahead. We give God the praise and glory for what He has done through International Messengers!
On November 4, 2003 IM’s founder and president, Bob Rasmusson, was taken home to be with the Lord. Bob’s last vision had been for a mentoring-based training center in Central/Eastern Europe. God helped us open the Seaside Missionary Training Center in Odessa, Ukraine, in the fall of 2004.
God accomplishes much through the willingness and heart of our staff and short-termers. Over 250 short-term workers conduct 50 outreaches annually. These include sports camps, discipleship camps, EELCs, family English camps, business English camps, staff conferences, children-at-risk ministries, women-at-risk ministries, and retreats for pastors, elders and marriages.
International Messengers Canada Society opened its first office in 2007 in Abbotsford, BC. The two offices work together cooperatively world wide, as God provides opportunities, resources and career and short-term staff. The Canadian office has moved several times and is now located in the basement of a home.
In 2011, Messengers of Hope ceased as Terry Baxter left to start GoServ Global. In 2014, Desertside Training Center opened in the Middle East. This missionary training center is quite like the IM training centers operating in Odessa and Libby but is well suited for Arabic-speaking Christians.
Today we have approximately 200 adults serving with IM in Canada, China, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Egypt, England, France, Hungary, India, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Nepal, Peru, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, South Africa, Thailand, Uganda, Ukraine, and the U.S. in the various ministries listed below. The staff family includes 22 nationalities. There are approximately 50 adults (plus many volunteers!) working with IM in North America to serve and care for our missionary staff.
The evangelistic ministries of our cross-cultural staff include adult evangelism through Bible study and discipleship, children-at-risk ministry, cooking class outreach, evangelism through English teaching, jail ministry, marriage and parenting outreach, medical ministry, men’s accountability ministry, ministry to people with HIV, ministry to the elderly, ministry to the homeless/addicts, ministry through business, motorcycle ministry, Native American and First Nation ministry, outreach to businessmen, outreach to sex-trafficked girls and women, planting and pastoring churches, refugee ministry, Roma ministry through adult education, therapy using dogs and horses, translation of discipleship material, university student outreach, women and children-at-risk ministry, and youth ministry. We eagerly wait to see God’s plans unfold for IM in the coming years.