Originally published in the Midwestern Magazine, Issue 42
The FUSION program at Spurgeon College trains college students to be both globally and missionally-minded. Given the theme of this issue of Midwestern Magazine, we decided to interview Erik Odegard, director of FUSION, and Sam Bierig, dean of Spurgeon College.
MBTS: The FUSION program is a central feature of the work at Spurgeon College. What, exactly, is FUSION?
Sam Bierig: FUSION is the ideal avenue for college students answering the call of the Lord Jesus Christ to follow him in pursuing the Great Commission (Matt 28:16-20.) Answering that call through the FUSION program entails training sessions, church involvement, and several rounds of testing, but at its core, FUSION is designed to provide a way for college students to take the gospel overseas. FUSION, then, is focused on reaching the least, the last, and the lost with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Historically speaking, FUSION began in 2005 and has grown in strength and number almost every year. FUSION is a program seeking to take its place as a coupling in the pipeline funneling Christians and church planters to the nations.
Erik Odegard: FUSION is a one-year program that equips college students to be, know, and do what it takes to make disciples for a lifetime, especially in hard places. FUSION trains for two semesters on the campus of Spurgeon College and then deploys for 90 days with the International Mission Board. The training instills the required character, knowledge, and skills for an effective deployment alongside long-term missionary teams. FUSION’s goal is to produce graduates who make the commitment to make disciples for the rest of their lives, regardless of vocation or location. Successful completion of FUSION provides 33 credit hours toward a Bachelor of Arts in Intercultural Studies degree at Spurgeon College.
MBTS: What is the meaning of FUSION’s slogan “SOMHAL”?
SB: SOMHAL is the rallying cry for FUSION; it stands for “So Others May Hear And Live.” In essence, this is the purpose of FUSION boiled down into six words. Students complete their training sessions, attend classes, and tend to every part of the rigorous FUSION process in order that others may hear and truly live, in Christ. It is a glorious motto and comes fully loaded with the motivating power to share the gospel and plant churches around the world.
EO: SOMHAL encapsulates the transcendent cause that Fusion candidates commit their lives to. Plus, it serves as a helpful umbrella statement to explain every part of the Fusion process. We discipline ourselves that we might win the lost to Christ!
MBTS: Why should students consider participating in the FUSION program?
SB: If I could go back, I would sign up and do FUSION without hesitation. Students should consider FUSION because it is a combination of the best training and the quickest avenue for getting overseas to answer the Great Commission call.
EO: FUSION is a unique program; its vision continues to draw students from churches all over the country. First, FUSION is for young believers who are obsessed with becoming more like Christ. Through life-on-life discipleship, our candidates learn how to orient their entire lives around the gospel. Second, FUSION is for those who find it intolerable that myriads of people will be born, live, and die without ever hearing the Good News of what God has done to purchase a people for himself. Finally, FUSION is for those who humbly acknowledge that they need to be properly equipped to take the gospel to hard places.
MBTS: Where does FUSION send students?
SB: We send students all over the world but concentrate on sending students to difficult and hard-to-reach places that have no access to the gospel. We send students to locations in South and Central Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and throughout the Middle East. We partner with the International Mission Board in other locales as well.
EO: FUSION intentionally targets “hard places.” We define hard places as locations where perseverance is required to complete the mission in the face of extreme temperatures, difficult terrain, natural hazards, difficult living conditions, risk of illness, political instability, crime, ideological oppression, or social ostracism.
But why do we choose to serve in hard places?
First, we choose hard places because we recognize that unreached people groups are unreached for a reason—people are not signing up to go to hard places. We want to leverage our teams to reach the neediest places on the planet, and those are hard places to serve.
Second, we want to avoid sending our teams to entry-level locations where untrained volunteers are serving because it is a better stewardship of the training they have received. Why go through the trouble of training the teams when untrained volunteers may serve just as successfully?
Finally, we choose hard places because we want our teams to be faced with the internal struggle of asking themselves, “Is it worth it?” Our prayer and eager expectation is that they will answer, “Yes!” and do whatever it takes to make much of Christ.
MBTS: Is the FUSION program only for students who feel called to overseas missions?
SB: No. FUSION is for any Christian student who is in good standing with their local church. However, we gear our training efforts toward those desirous of going to the nations carrying the precious gospel of Jesus Christ. We are happy and thankful for students who choose to spend the entirety of their lives among “unreached” peoples, in pursuit of the fulfilling the Great Commission. However, FUSION is for all Christians at its beachhead.
EO: There are two ambitions that drive candidates to FUSION. The first is true of all and the second is true of many. All our students come to FUSION in order to grow in their walk with Christ. Through life-on-life discipleship, deep involvement in a local church, rigorous biblical classes, and significant challenges, our students make great leaps forward in maturity in just one year. Secondly, many of our students want to be equipped for a lifetime of missionary service. Our training process is one of the most comprehensive missionary training programs in the world and it is evident in the lives of our graduates. For those convinced of or considering a missionary call, FUSION is an exceptional next step to train and get experience.
MBTS: In your time around FUSION students, what have you come to most appreciate about them?
SB: First, I admire their humility. FUSION students are a humble and servant-hearted group, and they are exceptionally talented. When aimed at the kingdom of darkness, that is a lethal combination. Second, they are an impassioned group of people who desperately care for the lost. Third, they are a hilarious group of young adults. I am constantly laughing when I am in conversation or overseas with FUSION students. They are marked by a jovial spirit. Fourth, they are very tight knit! Many of our students have met their spouses through the FUSION program.
EO: What is often lost in all the talk about being resilient and doing hard things is that FUSION graduates become very honest, sincere young men and women. From day one of FUSION, candidates are presented with the gospel as the only lasting motivation for missions. To put it plainly, the Great Commission is not going to be accomplished by a bunch of well-trained, self-reliant hard-chargers. Instead, the Lord will use those who recognize the depth of their own sin, the heights of God’s holiness, and the sufficiency of Christ as Savior. Many FUSION alumni are very honest when confessing their sins to one another and pursuing holiness in community, which is a blessing to their churches, workplaces, and families.
MBTS: How can those not in the program support FUSION students and the program in general?
SB: First, through prayer. Please pray for the Lord of the harvest to send out workers. Second, if you know any young Christian men or women between the ages of 16 and 20, tell them about FUSION and challenge them as to whether this is the absolute best way to answer the call to fulfill Matthew 28:16-20.
EO: First, send students. FUSION has first-step opportunities that range from one hour to one year for high school and college students. We are called to come alongside the church in her mission to raise up the next generation of missionaries and disciple makers. Second, send resources. Our students raise funds to complete FUSION’s training and deployment process. We have a general scholarship fund that is distributed annually to students with the greatest need to cover their personal training and going costs. Third, pray. FUSION is aimed at supernatural goals that are beyond human ability to accomplish. Forging the character of young men and women requires the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit through his Word and his people. Rescuing unreached peoples from certain condemnation requires the convicting and regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Doing all this with the forces of darkness taking aim at us requires the Lord’s protection. We are a people much in need of prayers.