Baylor Goes Worldwide With Multiple Missions Opportunities
by Ashley Lintelman, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805
They have different majors, follow different career paths and come from different backgrounds. But Baylor University students are united by a commitment to missions and a desire to demonstrate God's love throughout the world. This year Baylor offered more than 10 extended mission trip opportunities, challenging approximately 125 students to use their classroom studies to serve others and reminding them of Baylor's mission - "to educate men and women for worldwide leadership and service by integrating academic excellence and Christian commitment within a caring community."
Baylor students, faculty and staff spent several weeks this summer contributing to service projects and working to meet the needs of people in Armenia, Honduras, Kenya and Mexico. Coordinated by University Missions, Baylor's Louise Herrington School of Nursing and Baptist Student Ministries, each trip offered students in different areas of study hands-on learning and mission opportunities.
University Missions was created through Baylor 2012, the university's 10-year vision, to help Baylor students "understand life as a stewardship and work as a vocation." The program allows students to better understand how God might use their gifts to make a difference in the world.
"At Baylor, we continue to focus on our Baptist heritage and the Baptist tradition that is closely tied to missions, and it lives on through our university," said Rebecca Kennedy, director for University Missions at Baylor. "While encouraging students to participate in church-based mission trips, Baylor also is offering discipline-specific missions as an expression of our identity as a Christian university. We want to create opportunities for students to understand and utilize their God-given gifts and abilities in serving others and spreading the love of Christ."
Armenia is a country with a deep heritage of Christianity, located in the middle of the largely unreached 10/40 window. Kennedy said Baylor's mission teams were focused on learning about and participating in economic development that could truly impact an entire nation, while helping spread the hope of the message of Christ and the richness of discipleship as a believer.
During Baylor's inaugural mission trip to Armenia this year, groundwork was prepared for future ministry opportunities.
Students were pre-divided into three teams before they went into Armenia. Dr. Walter Bradley, distinguished professor of engineering, led Baylor's engineering team of ECS majors who joined students from two other universities to build two low-cost and energy-efficient model homes for low-income families. With the assistance and contacts of local Armenian-American builders, the team was successful in accomplishing its goals and already has requests for 15 additional homes.
The second Baylor team was geared toward business and leadership development. Dr. Marlene Reed, visiting professor in management, taught a leadership development course to Armenian business leaders and has agreed to further partner with University Missions next year to provide additional leadership for Baylor's Outdoor Recreation/Tourism team project. Students from that team will work to build partnerships with local business leaders to create a sustainable tourism/outdoor recreation business. Next summer, Baylor students and team leader Kelli McMahan, assistant director of campus recreation and program director for Outdoor Adventure Living-Learning Center at Baylor, will begin a long-term task of mapping trails for hiking and biking in Armenia.
Maxey Parrish, lecturer in journalism at Baylor, led a general ministry team to Armenia to provide social ministry and evangelism to un-churched villagers throughout the country. The team assisted a missionary and a local church through children's Bible clubs, community carnivals and manual labor, and was part of the first evangelical Christian service to be conducted in the 1,500-year-old village.
Parrish said the team lived in villagers' homes in Zarinja, Armenia, and came as close as possible to experiencing 19th-century life. There was no running water or sewage and all the food served was grown at the home.
"My favorite part of every mission trip I take is seeing my students exposed to situations in which the only way to succeed is to rely on God and see Him at work," Parrish said. "Putting [the trip] in God's hands and leaving the results to Him, you can't help but experience Him in a different way."
As students served the Armenian people, they also got to see Biblical sites such as Mount Ararat, the landing place of Noah's Ark, and the world's oldest Christian cathedral.
In Honduras, Kennedy said that Baylor students were challenged by the faith and resolve of the people in the Central American country who live out the gospel message in everyday life.
Baylor students have been serving in Honduras since 2002, beginning with deaf education through the department of communication sciences and disorders. This year five additional teams from engineering, education, nursing, medical and general ministry participated in the trip.
"Faculty and staff-led teams from various disciplines at Baylor create ways for students to explore what it looks like to serve God by using the skills and expertise from their major and field," Kennedy said. "Participating in discipline-specific teams often allows students to have even more to offer as they serve in international settings. Students also greatly benefit from learning and serving alongside professionals in their respective fields, and this experience can help shape a student's view of their own future of service and ministry."
Kennedy said Honduras continues to be an excellent location for students to serve because of the many needs represented in Honduras.
Baylor students on the deaf education team were able to work with students in the only deaf school in Honduras, while team leader Lori Wrzesinski, director of Baylor's American Sign Language program, focused on teaching English as a Second Language to Honduras' deaf school teachers. This year Wrzesinski had her first graduating ESL class, Kennedy said.
The second part of the team, led by Nancy Pfanner, lecturer in communication sciences and disorders, assisted a non-profit organization in hosting an annual camp for deaf and hearing-impaired children.
"Each year has been a success," Kennedy said.
The medical and nursing teams provided relief and assistance to local medical clinics. Baylor students gave immunizations to local villagers each day and used medical supplies to meet the needs of impoverished communities. Students had the opportunity to interact with villagers and experience real-life needs of underprivileged people.
Andrew Pham, a senior biology major from Frisco, said the people in Honduras re-emphasized that there is more to life than money and materialistic desires.
"Their happiness spawned from the relationships developed between friends and family. I believe our society needs to be reminded of that as we all seek our own sources of happiness," Pham said.
As an aspiring physician, Pham said he hopes to one day be able to go back to Honduras or other indigent countries and set up "more efficient medical infrastructure to educate citizens in preventative healthcare."
Other teams included an education/general ministry team, led by Baylor education professors Randy Wood and Rick Strot and Baylor BSM director Clif Mouser, which provided Bible stories, manual labor, health care and ESL training for teachers at a recently established Christian school at a church in a small Honduran village. A Baylor engineering team, in the meantime, was in the country to construct a micro hydro-generator and install a water purification system, led by Dr. Brian Thomas, lecturer in engineering at Baylor's School of Engineering and Computer Science.
For the third year in a row, 93 Baylor faculty, staff and students traveled to Kenya, the largest number of participants to date. "Because of the large number of participants many different activities [could] be accomplished," Kennedy said.
Baylor students had their perspective challenged, Kennedy said, as they encountered the HIV/AIDS epidemic as an individual rather than a statistic. But they also learned from believers with a rich deep faith.
Led by Dr. Randall Bradley, director of Baylor's Center for Christian Music Studies, and Dr. Sharyn Dowd, associate professor of religion, Baylor students used music to reach orphans and neighboring villages, while representatives from University Baptist Church in Waco built partnerships with Kenyan churches to provide social ministry within village communities.
Students from Baylor's George W. Truett Theological Seminary trained future Kenyan leaders in HIV/AIDS education, evangelism, church leadership and community development, as well as business sustainability. The teams worked with several faith-based organizations in order to accomplish their goals.
Several freshmen and sophomore students provided general ministry to Kenya's HIV/AIDS victims, orphans and widows. Despite the language barrier, students played games and learned songs with Kenyan children during their lunch time.
Tiffani Riggers, a graduate assistant for University Missions and a team leader with fellow grad student Marquette Bugg, said often parents are too tired to play with and love on their children due to long daily struggles to get money to feed their families. Simple actions, such as giving individual attention to the children, allowed team members to show God's love by filling that parent-to-child void.
"Knowing that spiritually we made an impact is awesome, and we had a great reminder that we don't always see the fruit of our works until we are in heaven," Riggers said.
Also in Kenya, engineering students, faculty and staff continued to provide practical solutions for real-world needs, such as the installation of solar panels in a deaf school with no electricity, the construction of windmills to provide electricity for a school and the designing of a foot bridge to be built over a river in eastern Kenya.
In 2006 Baylor students created a non-profit organization called Omega Kids, which provides resources to Kenyan pastors who minister to orphaned street children. This year Omega Kids donated money and helped a local pastor purchase land for a dormitory to be built specifically for street children.
Riggers reflected that the time in Kenya showed how much Americans take for granted, "from the amount and type of food that we choose to eat, to the clothes we wear." Riggers described the desperate need, the incredible joy and indelible hope that the Kenyan people had, even while living in abject poverty.
"It was a very special time for me, as I felt that our Baylor students were seeing how much they are a part of something bigger than just a mission trip," Riggers said. "It was wonderful to get to worship God in a Kenyan church with my brothers and sisters and know that even though we may have been speaking different languages, we were worshipping the same God."
Baylor's Louise Herrington School of Nursing, located in Dallas, also offered Baylor nursing students an excellent way to get involved in missions, as well as obtain hands-on experience in their field of study. Lori Spies, mission coordinator for the nursing school, said the growth of students on all levels during the trip is very impressive.
"It is gratifying to see our students spread the love and care of Jesus Christ while they deliver much-needed health care," Spies said.
Nursing students participated in the University Missions' trip to Chuloteca, Honduras, providing health checkups to every child attending the host church's school. Students put together seminars on health, hygiene, nutrition and sexually transmitted infections at both public and private schools. A Baylor graduate student led an extensive question and answer session specifically for women both at the church and throughout the community.
David Kemerling, director of student ministries for the nursing school, said faculty, staff and students were a "fresh set of eyes" for the community.
"The question we ask ourselves throughout the trip is, 'How can we live differently once back in the U.S.?' I believe, for students, the trip puts value into nursing in preparation for their future careers," Kemerling said. "It builds confidence and gives experience."
Baylor's nursing school also continued a 30-year tradition of students providing care in Juarez, Mexico. While in Juarez, students set up free clinics inside a local church and offered complete health check-ups to assess the general needs of children and adults. Medication, prayer and health education were often provided. Clinics also are a way for the local church to make life-long contacts with people in their community, helping them to continue to reach those in need.
"It is a practical exercise in servant leadership, improving health care and gaining skills and expertise as nurses," Spies said.
Another trip is planned for August in Mexico City, where faculty, staff and students will continue to administer health check-ups to the housing community in Mexico City.
Baptist Student Ministries
Baptist Student Ministries (BSM) is a specialized ministry of the Baptist General Convention of Texas aimed at Texas college and university campuses. The BSM offers students the chance to serve not only their community but also the world around them throughout the year. Missions and showing God's love to others is heavily emphasized through different programs offered by the BSM.
The Baylor BSM hosts Missions Week activities for Baylor students to learn about the locations where missionaries serve, as well as discover areas they can provide life-long changes in the lives of those less fortunate. This year Missions Week hosted more than 20 missionaries who spoke in more than 40 classrooms at Baylor. A Global Village was set up next to the Student Union Building and featured ethnic student organizations, ministry organizations, international students and missionaries. Baylor faculty, staff and students could come and learn ways they might participate in mission work.
The BSM participates in weekly community ministries such as room visitation at Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center in Waco, a partnership with the Waco Association of Retarded Citizens for special needs ministry, children's tutorials at two community locations and children's missions in three Waco apartment complexes. These are available to students during the school year.
GoNowMissions is a student missions program the BSM has provided to Baylor students since 1946. Through GoNowMissions students have the opportunity to raise money and serve others for either a semester or for a summer. The program builds leadership, helps enrich student's spiritual walk and teaches them about selfless love and service to others. This year's giving goal was $4,000, and seven Baylor students are currently serving during the 2007 summer both nationally and internationally.
In addition to sponsoring a team to Honduras, the BSM partnered with Habitat for Humanity to construct houses and provide practical relief to the people of New Orleans. These trips held specific purposes to meet the needs of the people in that region.
The BSM also took a trip specifically for international students at Baylor. The trip offered the opportunity for international students to see Texas and get to know each other and the BSM staff better. This year there were seven different countries represented among the Baylor students. The group stayed in churches as they toured Texas, stopping at the Alamo, SeaWorld and the Houston Rodeo. During this time, students were able to talk about their Baylor experiences, their cultural heritage and discuss spiritual needs on a more personal level with BSM staff.
For more information about University Missions at Baylor, contact Rebecca Kennedy at Rebecca_Kennedy@baylor.edu.
For more information about Baylor's Louise Herrington School of Nursing missions, contact David Kemerling at David_Kemerling@baylor.edu or Lori Spies at (214) 818-7982.
For more information about the Baptist Student Ministries at Baylor, contact Rae Wright at Rae_Wright@baylor.edu.