In the late nineteenth century the experience of the Spirit-filled life swept across widely separated Mennonite groups in Canada and the United States. Out of this period came the Mennonite Brethren in Christ (later the United Missionary Church) and the Missionary Church Association. At the turn of the century both groups were kindled with missionary fervor.
Missionaries from what was later organized as the United Missionary Society (UMS) first entered Nigeria in 1901, where a completely autonomous church took responsibility for the work in 1978. For many years UMS missionaries served in the East, leaving a strong indigenous church there in 1938. In 1924, a region north of Calcutta, India, became the UMS responsibility. Missionary work in southern Brazil was begun in 1955.
In 1945 the Missionary Church Association, which since 1898 had sent out scores of missionaries under cooperating societies, opened fields of its own in Sierra Leone, the Dominican Republic, and Ecuador. Within six years it also entered Jamaica, Haiti, and Hawaii.
When these two denominations merged to become the Missionary Church in July 1969, they brought together a staff of nearly two hundred missionaries, including those later known as Missionaries on Loan. These men and women served on nine denominational overseas fields: Nigeria, Sierra Leone, India, Brazil, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, and Cyprus. Some of them also ministered in the then Hawaiian Mission District and in six other countries with cooperating missionary societies.
In 1979, the Missionary Church began a ministry in France and in 1985 sent its first missionaries to Spain. In 1982 it also began cooperation with a group of churches in Mexico.
Following the separation of the Missionary Church of Canada and the Missionary Church, Inc. in January 1988, the name “Division of Overseas Ministries” became known as World Partners, the international ministry arm of the two denominations.
In 1991 World Partners began a period of expansion by sending missionaries to the Kurds. In 1992 missionaries began works in Thailand, Indonesia, Portugal, and the Middle East.
In 1993 World Partners became the official mission program of the newly formed Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada, the result of a merger between the Evangelical Church of Canada and the Missionary Church of Canada.
Missionaries were appointed to four new fields in 1995: Russia, Guinea, Vietnam, and China. In 1997 missionaries were appointed to Chad and Cuba. The following year, new ministries were begun in Mexico and Venezuela.
Also in 1997 a committee was commissioned to examine the World Partners agreement. The committee made two recommendations. The first recommendation was to terminate the original World Partners agreement between the Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada and Missionary Church, Inc., so each denomination could administer its own missions program. The second recommendation was to form World Partners International to encourage the denominations that are a part of the Missionary Church worldwide family to become more heavily involved in global ministry. The mission program of the Missionary Church, Inc. was named World Partners.
Since that time ministry has continued to expand into Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. The identification and development of key national leaders to launch discipleship multiplication movements has allowed World Partners to extend the influence of the gospel far beyond the efforts of World Partners staff and open doors that would otherwise have remained closed due to political or religious reasons.