Baylor Students Seize Opportunities to Serve Worldwide

Sept. 15, 2008

by Lauren Venegas, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805

Visiting AIDS clinics, installing hydro-electric generators, tutoring children and building relationships through Christ are only a few of the ways through which Baylor University students impacted the lives of others through six world-wide missions and local service trips offered this past summer.

The extended summer trips to Ghana, Rwanda and three trips to Honduras included approximately 170 students, faculty and staff, increasing the number of participants from previous years. In Honduras The teams represented various disciplines including engineering, education, deaf education, social work, psychology, pre-med, religion and theology.

The extended missions, local missions and service projects are mainly sponsored by the department of Spiritual Life, formerly University Ministries, and work to meet the goals of Baylor 2012, the university's 10-year vision, to help Baylor students "understand life as a stewardship and work as a vocation."

"With the restructuring of University Ministries to Spiritual Life, we will make a more concentrated effort to focus on what missions at Baylor should and could be," said Rebecca Kennedy, director of missions in Spiritual Life.

"The term we call our effort is 'discipline-specific missions.' Locals and studentsWe create opportunities for students to use knowledge from the classroom applied to real-life experience," Kennedy said. "If a student is majoring in engineering and we plan a mission trip for an engineering team to build a generator in a remote village, then we have given students a tangible way to think about their vocation as a mission."

Engineers did, in fact, travel to Honduras with an organization called Engineers with a Mission sponsored by Spiritual Life. Brian Thomas, a full-time lecturer in the School of Engineering and Computer Science and an adviser with the organization, stayed in Honduras for seven weeks, while the group of students stayed for two weeks.

"Most days while I was there, we worked on installing a micro-hydroelectric generator which will end up supplying small amounts of power to about 30 homes," said Jonathan Crabtree, a senior engineering major from Leawood, Kan., who traveled to Honduras with Engineers with a Mission. Working in Honduras "We ran power lines to the homes and installed electrical meters. The best part of each day was working with the people. We worked side by side with some of the villagers each day...as we tried to bless their lives, they ended up blessing ours more."

In Rwanda in Central Africa, students researched the effects of genocide on the culture, economy and religion of the country a decade after a brutal civil war. Abby Taylor, a senior education major from Plano, was one of the students who traveled on the mission trip. The group did arts and crafts, played sports with more than 500 children and sang with the youth of the church where they worked.

"The most significant memory I have was when we visited the AIDS hospital to visit and pray for patients at the hospital," Taylor said. "Initially walking into the first room, I had to leave immediately because it was too heartbreaking, too disturbing." Taylor described a young orphan who had been in the same hospital room for four years with only a very thin blanket and an IV in her arm. The hospital only provides the AIDS medication, so she relied on donations for food and hygiene items.

"The conditions of the hospital do not even compare to the worst of hospitals in America, and the patients just appeared so miserable and hopeless. It really made me realize how incredibly blessed we are, how much power we have simply by being Americans, and consequently how much responsibility we have to make a change," Taylor said.

Local organizations and children were blessed by mission projects as well. Some of the summer service projects in Waco included Ashton Oaks Kids' Club and Parkside Kids' Club, where Baylor students led a Bible Story time, provided snacks and played games with children in a low-income apartment complex.

Baylor students also served at Emmanuel Tutorials, leading tutoring sessions for children whose parents are learning English as a second language at Emmanuel Baptist Church. Waco Community Church Tutorials also was a place Baylor students worked and tutored children.

In addition to tutoring and playing with children, Baylor students also volunteered at Special Needs Ministry, working with the Association for Retarded Citizens and assisting in social events such as bowling and zoo trips. At Hillcrest Hospital Ministry, students visited, encouraged and prayed for patients and their families at Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center in Waco.

"We think about missions as a lifestyle, not a one-time, two-week trip," said Kennedy. "Our approach is to educate and create opportunities for students, faculty and staff to use their discipline as a way to be the hands, feet and face of Christ to the world."

For more mission opportunities throughout the year, contact Rebecca Kennedy at 254-710-3517 or visit www.baylor.edu/spirituallife.

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