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Mission trips aim to serve, teach others

March 4, 1997

Courtesy Photo

Highland Baptist Church sponsors a mission trip to Juarez, Mexico every spring break. These students, along with many others, choose to spend their time off in service to others.

By Melissa Miller

Lariat Reporter

As classes dismiss for spring break, some University students will increase their view of the world by serving people.

While all go with the intent of serving, two of the three groups also hope to influence their communities with the Gospel.

The Baptist Student Ministries and Highland Baptist Church will 'go, work, be faithful, and hope that we make a small improvement so others can come build on the foundation we are laying,' Rae Wright, associate director of the Baptist Student Ministries, said.

In their trip to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, and Laredo, the 40 students will lead 'backyard Bible clubs, both for deaf and hearing children, insulate, drywall and work in other ways to help build the church.

'It is important that we minister to the deaf because there are not enough people who know their language,' Kimberly Hightower, a Marble Falls junior, said. 'We are privileged enough to be able to communicate with them. We want the deaf people to ask themselves why we would be willing to come down to work with them. We want them to hear the name of Jesus Christ for the first time in their language.'

Hightower, who leads a sign language choir on campus, said the group will help people in Laredo begin a ministry to the deaf through making friendships and building a level of trust.

In efforts to meet the physical needs of the people there, a medical doctor will examine people, giving them medical attention not otherwise available. Although the students go to serve the people, Wright hopes that the trip will produce changes in the students lives and on campus.

'I expect that the students will be challenged in how they live on a daily basis,' she said. 'We will see a wide range of people from those living in cardboard box houses to college students. I learn a lot from watching students be out of their comfort zone.'

Students will also be encouraged to experience new depths in their walk with Christ as part of Highland's mission trip to Juarez, Mexico. The trip consists of 300 plus students.

'We want to give students a taste of mission work,' James Stalkaner, a Stockton, Calif., junior, said. 'We desire to see them get compassion for other people and learn how to talk to people that they will not know, in a language they may not know, about Jesus. We want to teach them how to serve others.'

Highland divides the students into seven teams, each consisting of a drama, evangelism, and music group. Each team, consisting of about 40 people, participates daily in physical work such as clearing land for building on or painting cementing floors, said Jeff Abshire, college pastor at Highland.

In the afternoon, they hold outreaches in marketplaces, neighborhoods and parks where they perform dramas, sing worship songs in Spanish and share their belief in Jesus Christ with the people around.

'In the past, we have seen our students so excited to learn that it is fun to share Jesus,' Stalnaker said. 'They learn that not all of it is scary. We want to see the people there come to know Christ in a deeper way and we hope to see them involved in a local church.'

Highland works in cooperation with Daniel Valles, pastor of Jope Church in Juarez. During the trip, new believers fill out cards which Jope distributes to local churches. The churches then follow up and try to incorporate them into the church. Last year alone, more than 800 people are documented as making commitments to Christ, Stalnaker said.

Not all spring break trips will revolve around evangelism; the Department of Student Activities will sponsor two teams traveling to Atlanta and Denver. Each group will go with an emphasis in areas in which they desire to serve.

'The student will have the opportunity to make a difference and experience things that they don't typically have a chance to experience,' Dub Oliver, student activities director, said. 'We don't have this large urban setting, but is just a natural extension of what our students normally do here in Waco.'

The 13 members of the Atlanta team will work in the inner-city, focusing on HIV and AIDS patients. In working with service groups such as Hands On Atlanta, they will visit an AIDS hospice and talk with people there as well as play with the kids.

In Denver, 13 students will focus on poverty and homelessness. They will work on the hunger farm preparing land and delivering supplies. In visiting homeless shelters, they assist the staff in cleaning, preparing meals or painting.

'The areas of service are chosen before hand,' Oliver said. Exactly what the students do when they get there depends on the specific needs of the organization at the time.

'Our trip is focused on service,' he said. 'We encourage students to reflect on their week and what they can learn from their experiences. For some that takes on a spiritual nature and for others that doesn't. We go with the intent to serve.'

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