Nestled on 28 acres of land in Union Mills off Hudlow Road is one of Rutherford County's best kept secrets. Though well known to the hundreds who attend training or teach at the Center for Intercultural Training (CIT), the majority of Rutherford County residents might be unaware of its mission and how they might become involved in the intercultural center.
For 28 years the Center, formerly United World Mission, has trained missionaries as they go all over the world to spread the message of the gospel.
The center's mission is equipping the heart and mind of the servant.
George Schultz, who moved here in 1995 with his family, is the Senior Residential Director. His family formerly served in Alaska where Schultz was the Field Director at InterACT Ministries.
Schultz shares the center's history of establishing Rutherford County, where the organization is today and how local volunteers can help.
United World Mission (UWM) bought the property in Union Mills in 1988 and moved its international headquarters there in 1989. One of the reasons for this location was the desire to create a cross-cultural training center for its missionaries. In 1994 Schultz was invited to come lead the residential training program and a year later the Schultz family moved to the area from their ministry in Alaska.
In 1998 UWM moved its international headquarters to Charlotte creating the opportunity for the total campus to be used for training.
Schultz said there are 18 agency partners involved today committed to working together with staff from several of these organizations working onsite. CIT operates under the nonprofit status of UWM in Charlotte but the partnership maintains its own advisory board and hosts an annual meeting.
To date, CIT has trained more than 4,100 missionaries serving in approximately 152 countries of the world from around 200 different organizations. Though most of the trainees are primarily North American, CIT has trained cross-cultural workers from a number of other countries including Romania, Bulgaria, Eswatini, Canada, Ukraine, China, Taiwan, Mexico, Dominican Republic, India, France, Costa Rica, Egypt, Perus, Colombia, and others.
CIT maintains a staff of 39 people the majority of whom live in and around Rutherford County.
Among those who are teachers there is Kristen Synder of Missouri. She has taught at CIT for 11 years and said teaching there has been a privilege.
"I have gotten to see first hand the tremendous care, effort and prayer that goes into training the missionaries. The staff there are top notch," she said.
Husband Joel Snyder and the couple's four sons usually travel with Kristen when she comes to CIT.
"My four boys love the pool, exercise park nearby and game rooms. They look forward to getting together with old friends (staff kids) and making new friends.
I enjoy working on the building and grounds and often with my boys helping too.
We all love hanging out with the amazing staff and participants.
"I am especially grateful for CIT's emphasis on family ministry. We are grateful for each opportunity to bless CIT," Joel said.
The Snyders, with Rutherford County connections, live in Missouri and work with Ethnos360 with a mission to see a thriving church for every people group in the world. Ethnos360 has a church planting methodology used by thousands of missionaries around the world.
Kristen, a former nurse at Carolina Medical Center in Charlotte became friends with the Bobby Gantt family of Forest City when daughter Alison was in the hospital there more than 25 years ago.
The Snyders were in the county in September as Kristen taught classes at CIT and the couple spoke to children at Florence Baptist Church on mission night.
Schultz also emphasizes the training for the entire family on the CIT campus.
Cross-cultural training and language acquisition skills for adults,cross-cultural training and language acquisition skills for children ages 3 and above; there are debrief retreats for returning missionaries and other programs.
One of the impacts of COVID has been the decline of new missionaries from North America recruited for service, Schultz said. That means CIT has a smaller pool of people from which to draw trainees.
"Our prayer is that this will increase in the next couple of years as hopefully the North American church increasingly accepts its responsibility to see all peoples of the world have the opportunity to hear and accept the good news/salvation that Jesus has provided," Schultz said.
CIT is pursuing innovation in training to adjust to these changing times in the American environment through blended training and other offerings. A newly offered component is training for those going into high-risk areas with skills developed for how to manage hostile environments.
"We are anxious to connect more deeply with the churches of this area," Schultz said. Last year CIT hosted numerous pastors for lunch to inform them of the valuable resource right here in the county of which most people are unaware.
"Our desire is to connect more openly with the local church community and assist local churches with their missionary vision and provide a place and opportunity for local involvement," Schultz continued.
There are always opportunities for volunteers to help in the kitchen, housekeeping, building maintenance, yard work, renovations, and other areas.
"We have churches who send work teams (adults and youth) to our campus each year," he said.
Last week a construction group of volunteers from Florence Baptist built cabinets, rebuilt walls and made other renovations to the kitchen area. Financial contributions are also sought and valued as we have the great opportunity to expand the reach of this ministry.
Schultz said the reality is the Christian community in Rutherford has the opportunity to touch and impact the world through its involvement with CIT.
"We welcome all visitors and those interested in knowing more and who want to make an impact," Schultz added.