Is the Peace Corps a good option for Christians?

Is the Peace Corps a good option for Christians?

"In contrast to the Peace Corps, GoCorps’ model and mission is that Goers integrate their faith into all aspects of their life and overseas placement: friendships, their profession, their service and calling."

Most Americans are familiar with the Peace Corps, and many Christians serve through the Peace Corps each year.  The Peace Corps is an attractive option for recent grads because it has positions all over the world, provides training, financially covers all transportation, stipend and re-entry expenses, and is nationally known and trusted, ensuring a solid resume entry upon completion.  However, for Christians who are deeply motivated by their faith, is the Peace Corps the best option to get overseas?

Below are three differences between GoCorps placements and the Peace Corps that Christians should consider. 

Difference #1 - Freedom to Share Christ

Whether serving through GoCorps or the Peace Corps, you’ll be taking on the toughest challenges you've ever faced.  As you take on the hard challenges that await you, wouldn’t you want to be 100% free and encouraged to bring your faith, prayer and convictions with you?

Peace Corps Volunteers are free to believe and practice their religion personally and privately, but as it relates to the work, serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer requires you to compartmentalize your faith.  Why? Because the Peace Corps’ mission is strictly agnostic in terms of religion*. 

In contrast to the Peace Corps, GoCorps’ model and mission is that our Goers integrate their faith into all aspects of their life and overseas placement: friendships, their profession, their service and calling.  Goers are encouraged and equipped to be authentic in communicating their faith, life experiences and world views through their relationships and in everyday life, including the work they do in their placements.  

Difference #2 - Model of Mentorship

The second big difference between GoCorps and the Peace Corps is the day to day leadership and mentorship structure.  Importantly, at GoCorps, we’ve found that the one thing that makes the most difference in the effectiveness of those living overseas for the first time is having a gifted team leader and mentor.  

GoCorps highest priority in ensuring the success of our Goers is to carefully vet and hand pick each team and project with one core criteria:  Is there a team leader on the ground that is gifted in leadership, successful in their work and has a vision and availability for mentoring the younger generation in the work?  All of our Goers are placed in locations where the answer to this question is yes.  Further, each Goer is assigned a ‘track supervisor’ who mentors them in the day to day of their professional position overseas.

All of our Goers are placed in locations where the answer to this question is YES.

Conversely, while the Peace Corps has a leadership and mentoring structure in place during service, Peace Corps Volunteers often don’t have a Peace Corps supervisor that lives in their town or village.  Therefore, the day to day work and growth of Peace Corps Volunteers is done without the close proximity to a mentor.

Difference #3 - Built-in Christian Community

When you are doing hard things, stretching yourself more than you’ve ever been stretched, having Christian community is crucial to thriving and persevering!  A third significant distinction between the Peace Corps and GoCorps is that with GoCorps, Christian community is built-in as a part of our model, whereas with the Peace Corps it is hit or miss.

When you are doing hard things, having Christian community is crucial to thriving and persevering! 

GoCorps Goers are placed in the context of a multicultural team of other Christians who are a part of their placement project.  This means that there is always a structure for regular prayer, study, discussion and relationship.  One especially cool thing is that GoCorps teams are made up of people from multiple countries, so you get a mosaic of cultures and the experience of working closely with global church leaders! 

Because the Peace Corps is not a Christian organization, finding Christian community can be difficult.  

GoCorps: A Viable Alternative for Christians

These reasons above are just some of the reasons why my wife and I founded GoCorps in 2009.  We wanted to offer Christians a viable alternative to the Peace Corps.  Through GoCorps, you can live on mission while using your degree overseas and fighting for justice for the oppressed, all while fully integrating your Christian faith into your work.  And at the same time, we offer a sending timeline and student debt assistance on par with the Peace Corps! 

My Experience After College

When I was in my early twenties, I knew that following my passion and calling in life meant that I was going to live overseas and work among the poor.  Because I had a strong foundation in my faith and in living missionally, I thought that I’d probably find my best contribution with a relief and development agency, and pursued employment with USAID and some other governmentally funded programs.

However, as I did a second year-long stint overseas with a missions organization while focused on economic development, I realized the immense benefit of being a staff member of a Christian organization, where all of the staff had a shared worldview and values as we tackled some of the hardest poverty situations as well as great spiritual openness that we’d ever face

Thailand is where it's at!
"If you are a Christian who is just beginning to dive into overseas work, doing it in the context of a missions organization or a Christian NGO that prioritizes mentorship is what we’d recommend."

There are a variety of ways to get overseas and get some global experience.  The Peace Corps or teaching English through governmental programs are a couple popular ways that Christians choose often because of the way they’re funded.  However, if you are a Christian who is just beginning to dive into overseas work, doing it in the context of a missions organization or a Christian NGO that prioritizes mentorship is what we’d recommend. 

With GoCorps, it’s possible to invest two years overseas in the context of deeply committed believers who will be your co-workers and mentors,.  And all the while be 100% encouraged to be authentic and free in sharing your faith while getting global experience in your degree.  In GoCorps placements, you are engcouraged to engage with all the people you meet on both the spiritual and physical realms and realities.  Doesn’t that sound like an option you should look into?  Let's talk!

____

*From the Peace Corps website: “The Peace Corps forbids Volunteers from proselytizing or participating in other religious activities that could impair their effectiveness as Volunteers.”  Christians can be Peace Corps Volunteers, but Christians and people of all other religions, aren’t able to share their faith during official work and are not able to be fully open in praying and engaging with the spiritual nature of the situation they are working to improve."

Paul Van Der Werf

Paul Van Der Werf is the founder and executive director of GoCorps. Paul spent four years after college living overseas and serving through a Dutch NGO doing ministry in Amsterdam’s Red Light District and doing community development and ministry among overlooked communities in Mexico along the Texas border. His firm belief is that God’s mission is too important to be left just to the missionaries, and so he’s made it his life’s work to help ordinary Christians find their place in God’s global work.