- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 24, 2002

THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Two of the fastest-growing faiths overseas have American church roots and tell a less conventional story of U.S. missionaries abroad.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church, with world headquarters in Silver Spring, has its largest following among foreign believers, many of whom come here as immigrants or missionaries to spread the faith on its native soil.
Though founded in the United States, the Adventist faith has 90 percent of its estimated 10 million global adherents in Latin America, Africa and Asia.
"We have 400 to 500 American Adventists overseas in a given year," a church officer said. "A career missionary serves six years at minimum, and may extend that."
In addition to the Americans abroad, world Adventists have another 600 to 700 "interdivisional" mission employees working between the global divisions of the church.
Another American-born faith, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, has made two-year missionary duty standard for its young men, and now, some young women.
Because of mission efforts, Mormon membership abroad has grown in recent years to match the number of U.S. adherents.
The Latter-day Saints claim 42,000 American missionaries, almost entirely young men working in pairs. They typically make a 24-month commitment to missionary duty.
"We have no 'career missionaries,'" church spokesman Bill Dales said. "All are volunteers who serve for a limited time before returning to their homes, where they continue their personal pursuits."
He said that while 80 percent of missionaries are single young men, the number of single young women has grown to 13 percent. Retired people make up the rest.
Mormon missionaries go only where they are allowed, he said. "We only proselytize in those countries where we are welcomed by the government," Mr. Dales said. "Consequently, we don't have missionaries in most Muslim nations or in China."


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