Our story began with a vision and a passion.
Jack's vision for a new kind of mission trip
In the late 1980s Jack Larson, who at that time was the Caribbean Director of Youth for Christ's "Project Serve", had a vision for a new kind of short-term mission trip. He envisioned churches mobilizing entire mission teams, rather than individuals from around the country making up the team. His experiences proved to him that short-term mission teams were making a significant impact on impoverished communities in foreign countries, and he began to visualize the impact those teams could also have in their own communities as a result of their international voluntary service.
Jack believed that if the people of a particular church would invest in a mission trip together - preparing together, going and serving together, being challenged together, and coming home to the same community together - something radical would happen. The mission trip, experienced by some, would inspire others. It would have the potential to broaden worldviews and increase commitment to serving. He also believed that through this approach, participants themselves would have the support system needed to integrate the learnings from their experience into their lifestyle. This vision, to see the "mission" of short-term mission teams broadened, birthed World Servants.
The first mission trips were facilitated in the summer of 1986 with 200 senior high school students passionately serving in the Dominican Republic.
Joop's passion for young people
At that time, Joop van der Meer, who worked for Youth for Christ in the Netherlands, became inspired to recruit Europeans to participate in the U.S. teams. Joop had been a police officer and had seen many young people steering in the wrong direction. This troubled him and he believed that the gospel could change this. That's why he joined Youth for Christ to think about new ways to make young people in the Netherlands discover the gospel in an age-appropriate way.
In 1981 Joop went to Egypt as a trip leader. He was greatly moved by the poverty he saw there; people living in slums and on the garbage belt. He began to think about involving young people in the lives of people at the other side of the globe, demonstrating the gospel in practical deeds of service. His passion for serving was further fueled at the International Conference for Itinerant Evangelists led by Billy Graham in Amsterdam in 1986. That same year he went to the Dominican Republic with his American friend Jack Larson.
The first World Servants trip with Dutch participants was organized in 1987, also to the Dominican Republic. This proved to be a success and in 1988, Joop founded World Servants Europe, which later became World Servants Netherlands. An international mission statement and philosophy were established, allowing World Servants USA, World Servants Dominican Republic, and World Servants Netherlands to develop themselves individually, while remaining committed to the same mission and philosophy.