Robert Bland, the founder of Teen Missions International, has died at 92 years old, Christianity Today reports.
Bland founded Teen Missions International in 1970 after he witnessed a 14-year-old girl crying when a missionary organization denied her application to work with them that same year.
According to Christianity Today, the organization puts teen Christians through "boot camp" where they are trained to live in underdeveloped conditions. So far, the organization has sent more than 42,000 teens as missionaries.
However, Bland's ministry started 10 years earlier, in 1960, after graduating from Arizona Bible College in Phoenix.
According to his obituary, "He returned to Alma, Ohio to work for Jay Lee Stelle and the American Sunday School Union. Living in an old, converted bus, he and his young family traveled all over rural Southern Ohio leading vacation Bible school." From there, he trained with Youth for Christ International and led their program in Chillicothe, Ohio. He was also a pastor at Mt. Joy Church.
From these and other experiences, he started to form the idea for Teen Missions.
According to the obituary, Teen Missions would take children into the jungles of Florida, where they would learn how to build several different kinds of structures. The obituary states, "Deep in the Florida jungles teenagers from all over the United States and Canada were brought together to the Lord's Boot Camp where they learned how to build hospitals, orphanages, airstrips, and medical rescue units in the neediest and most remote corners of the world."
However, Teen Missions was not Bland's only outreach. He also started Aids Orphans and Street Children, whose goals were to reach the children in sub-Saharan Africa. "This ministry built medical rescue units in the African bush, brought tens of thousands of shoes to orphans, and also built matron units for vulnerable young women," the obituary states.
Bland and his wife have both died, but his three children live on.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Kayla James
John Paluska has been a contributor for Christian Headlines since 2016 and is the founder of The Washington Gazette, a news outlet he relaunched in 2019 as a response to the constant distribution of fake news.