September 21, 2012
Each year, Baylor students, faculty and staff join together on mission trips around the globe, providing the participants with opportunities to serve others through the use of their individual skills and academic disciplines. Discipline - or vocation-specific mission trips - underscore Baylor's vision to enhance informed engagement and transformational education experience for students and others.
During spring break and summer this year, 218 students and 32 faculty and staff members participated in 15 trips in 11 countries, from Guatemala to Malaysia and Belize to Kenya. Most trips lasted two weeks, the equivalent of a May minimester at Baylor.
Some trips offered course credit, such as the Belize childhood development trip; however, all trips were designed to align with a major area of study to help students understand how they may use the knowledge they gained at Baylor to help others at home and around the world.
Holly Widick, coordinator for student missions in the Office of Spiritual Life, notes that the mentorships that develop through the course of the mission trips yield a special experience for the participants. "In the faculty and staff leaders, students see someone who puts into practice - by service to others - what the students have been learning in the classroom," she said. "The faculty leaders also do an excellent job at encouraging critical thinking while abroad."
"The interactions and learning that happens from engaging with another culture is an aspect of mission trips that is invaluable for students," said Heather Mustain, a George W. Truett Theological Seminary student who led the Ghana community development team with her husband Chad. "Students actively learn how their vocation can equip them for worldwide service."
Alexandria Woo, a sophomore nutrition sciences major, was able to connect her academic studies to the Kenya medical mission trip she went on. "One of the highlights of the trip was growing as a team while encouraging our brothers and sisters from Kenya," she said. "As a nutrition major I enjoyed learning about the different crops in Kenya, as well as the nutritional benefits of each food in a Kenyan's diet. Going on a mission trip through Baylor was a great spiritual experience."
Spiritual Life plans to expand mission opportunities. An important goal is to make the missions experience available to as many students as possible, particularly by reducing costs. They are evaluating options for trips to domestic locations, as well as locations in Central America, as one way to keep costs low.
The President's Scholarship Initiative
has focused on the importance of discipline-specific mission trips and encourages donors to support student participation through gifts to the Initiative. Donors may specify that their contribution support discipline-specific missions.
"Many of our trips cost more than $3,000 per person," said Becky Kennedy, director of missions and associate chaplain for Spiritual Life. "While we keep the trips as cost efficient as possible, it is still a financial hardship for many students, above and beyond tuition. We hope to see a significant increase in student participation as a result of the endowment contributions."
"My two weeks in Ghana were the most transformational ever, as we encountered those who needed help both physically and financially," said Andrew Bowles, a sophomore communication specialist major that went on the Ghana community development mission. "But, while they know what they do not have, they know who they have in Jesus Christ. By God's grace, I will be returning to Ghana next summer."
To learn more about missions at Baylor and how to become a group leader, visit www.baylor.edu/missions.