Students Impacted After Powerful Baylor Mission Trip Experiences
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WACO, Texas (Apr. 24, 2014) - Baylor Missions was busy living out its purpose over spring break 2014.
At the beginning of what most students utilize as a much-needed week off, 90 dedicated Baylor faculty, students, and staff boarded planes to take helping hands to five global destinations: El Salvador, Guatemala, Belize, the Dominican Republic and Eagle Pass, Texas.
Staying true to the Baylor Missions principle of focusing on discipline-specific missions, each group concentrated on how the students could use their academic strengths and passions in service of Christ and the world.
Holly Widick, assistant director of missions for Baylor Spiritual Life, headed to Esperanza, Dominican Republic, with a men’s leadership team of Baylor business students.
“In the past, I’ve had a hard time figuring out how to engage guys in mission trips so I made a guys-only team,” she said. “I went with this team because it was our first time going to the Dominican Republic and we want to find partners we can work with for three-to-five years.”
Baylor’s partner in this area was The Good Samaritan, a volunteer-run organization that seeks to provide a loving platform for people to make meaningful change for hope in Esperanza.
Anthony Herrera, a lecturer of accounting and business law in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business, joined Widick on the trip as a team leader and described The Good Samaritan as an orphanage-turned-community outreach center.
The Good Samaritan assigned the Baylor students to do business consulting in the area. Then the group of 12 students was broken into three smaller teams.
One team worked with The Good Samaritan to help with rebranding and budgeting, another helped the organization determine if fish farming would be a profitable business venture, and a third group worked with the owner of a small Internet café to help him grow his business.
John Thomas, a junior accounting major from Delray Beach, Fla., was part of the group that helped The Good Samaritan with their business practices. He used his accounting skills to help them develop an operating budget.
“We went in and tried to find out the ways they operated and how we could make it more sustainable,” he said. “They have an incredible heart, but they don’t always really know what it takes to run the business. They do such an incredible job influencing kids, but they have no record of expenses.”
Working with the team at the Internet café was Derek Davidson, a recent Baylor business graduate and current first-year graduate student at Baylor’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary.
“We wanted to figure out how [the café owner] also could have a more sustainable business,” he said. “We tried to give him some ideas about computer and budget skills like keeping a spreadsheet. He was very appreciative.”
Although the students were successful in their consulting, it was not because the team leaders held their hands through every challenge. Herrera said he took the approach of pushing the students into new situations with little guidance.
“It would have been really easy for me to tell them what to do, but the idea was to grow these men,” Herrera said. “They really got to see how in the real world we deal with a lot of ambiguity.”
The team leaders also wanted to show the students how it is possible to be a blessing in missions without participating in labor-intensive service projects.
“It was definitely different than any mission trip I’ve been on,” Davidson said. “One of the things I realized really quickly was that I was glad we weren’t doing a service project because we weren’t bringing labor skills. The way we impacted the people was in the way we interacted with them and with each other. They were amazed at how we put Jesus first.”
Thomas said one of his favorite parts of the trip was realizing how the things he learned in the classroom could “come to life on a global stage.”
In addition to serving through business knowledge, the team was able to form a community of friendship by teaching ESL classes, playing basketball with new friends and enjoying conversations in local homes.
“By the end of the week, all the locals came to talk to the guys and said they had never seen a team where Christ was No. 1 like in ours,” Herrera said. “I think it was really eye-opening and by the end of the week they realized it was their actions that were most important.”
Thomas said another aspect of the trip he learned from was observing the way in which the Dominicans were so content with so little possessions.
“The premise of the trip was based around the differences in culture,” he said. “They don’t have material goods like we do, and it was cool to see them be so grateful for what they have. I grew in the sense that I need to be focused on the here-and-now and not be so stressed about the future.”
The students’ growth as a result of engaging with the locals is one of the main objectives of Baylor Missions.
“The reason we do missions is for reciprocal relationships,” Widick said. “It’s not just about Baylor giving resources and time, but it’s about the ability to receive from other people. A lot of students didn’t realize how much they would learn on the trip.”
As a testament to Widick’s statement, Davidson said he was greatly influenced by the people while in the Dominican Republic.
“In any ways we impacted people there, they impacted us just as much because it was so different,” Davidson said. “Anytime you go to a totally different reality than the one you’re used to, there’s so much to learn.”
Other Baylor teams around the world also learned from their spring break experiences:
• The Childhood Development team in Punta Gorda, Belize, worked alongside preschool and kindergarten teachers and children in village schools, hosted a parent workshop and learned about the Mayan culture.
• Baylor’s Multicultural Association of Pre-Health Students (MAPS) team in Santiago, Dominican Republic, partnered with Christian Medical Missions to aid those in need.
• The Honors Residential College (HRC) team in San Salvador and Santa Ana, El Salvador, served by bringing meals to the elderly in soup kitchens and working on art projects that presented the gospel to elementary-age children.
• The American Medical Student Association (AMSA) team in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, served and observed local clinics and taught basic hygiene techniques to village children.
• The Texas Urban Missions team in Eagle Pass, Texas, hosted a Family Reading Fair and led a literacy program.
• Baylor’s Louise Herrington School of Nursing served in Peru, caring for the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the city’s residents.
For more information about Baylor Missions, visit www.baylor.edu/spirituallife.
by Kristen Bennett, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805.
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