First In Line Program Partners with Baylor Missions on Inaugural Missions Experience to Dominican Republic

  • FIL 2019 mission
    Baylor University’s First In Line program, which provides resources to first-generation college students to support student success at Baylor and beyond, partnered with Baylor Missions over spring break on a new missions experience that sent a team of 25 first-generation students and two staff members to Santiago, Dominican Republic. (Photo courtesy of Morty Ortega and Baylor University)
  • FIL 2019 mission
    The First In Line team paired with Casas Por Cristo, a nonprofit organization that builds homes in Mexico, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, to construct a home for a family in one week. (Photo courtesy of Morty Ortega and Baylor University)
  • FIL 2019 mission
    The First In Line team had planned to build the house in seven days but completed the task in only three days. (Photo courtesy of Morty Ortega and Baylor University)
  • FIL 2019 mission
    The first day, the team established the foundation and laid concrete. On day two, they built and installed walls. On day three, they completed the roofing, electrical and finishing touches ¬– including a Baylor flag. (Photo courtesy of Morty Ortega and Baylor University)
April 17, 2019

Media Contact: Lori Fogleman, Baylor University Media and Public Relations, 254-710-6275
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by Gabrielle White, student newswriter, Baylor University Media and Public Relations

WACO, Texas (April 17, 2019) – Baylor University’s First In Line program, which provides resources to first-generation college students to support student success at Baylor and beyond, partnered with Baylor Missions over spring break on a new missions experience that sent a team of 25 first-generation students and two staff members to Santiago, Dominican Republic.

For many of the students, it was their first experience traveling internationally, and they combined that excitement with the opportunity to serve together and be part of making a life-changing impact for a family in need.

The First In Line team paired with Casas Por Cristo, a nonprofit organization that builds homes in Mexico, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, to construct a home for a family in one week. Working alongside Casas Por Cristo, the team worked to serve families and restore hope within the community, said T’Erica Hudson, Kokernot Hall residence director and staff leader on the mission trip.

“Casas Por Cristo is such an impressive organization,” said Morgan London, a master’s candidate in international journalism from Overton, Texas. “Every member of their team is uplifting and truly living for the Lord. Their mission to help communities through providing homes is remarkable, and the process of it all is so impressive. They host so many different groups and impact many lives in their everyday work.”

The First In Line team had planned to build the house in seven days but completed the task in only three days, due in part, Hudson said, to the team’s high level of commitment toward the family: a mother, father and two children. The first day, the team established the foundation and laid concrete. On day two, they built and installed walls. On day three, they completed the roofing, electrical and finishing touches ¬– including a Baylor flag.

“By the time that the house was completely built, we all looked at it, and we’re like, ‘That was God. That wasn’t us,’ because none of us would have imagined that we could have built a house in three days’ time,” said Gabriela Fierro, a senior political science and environmental studies major and president of the Hispanic Student Association at Baylor. Fierro comes from generations of strong women, including a great-great grandmother who built her home with “her bare hands in Colombia.”

“They told us beforehand that it would be special, but I had no idea that how it was going to feel whenever we were handing them the keys to their house and whenever we were praying over them,” Fierro said. “This is where I’m going to make change. I’m going to make sure that we develop and grow in a sustainable way and that we’re helping the most disadvantaged, and I thought Latin America was a beautiful place to do that because that’s where my roots are, so going to the Dominican Republic was me living out that realization that I had to give back to Latin America, the place that I came from and I felt very connected to.”

Hear Gabriela Fierro’s experience in her own words about serving with the inaugural First in Line missions experience to Santiago, Dominican Republic. “Growing up, my mom always said that God isn’t only in church. Your work shouldn’t be separate from your faith. It’s all something that is intertwined and God should be what energizes and flows through all of the things that you do.” Video by Morty Ortega, multimedia specialist, Baylor University Marketing & Communications.

Through this mission trip, students learned about the community in Santiago, but they also learned more about their own Baylor community and peers, London said.

“Through this trip I learned how little I knew about the Baylor student population,” London said. “There were so many unique and diverse students on the trip that I had never interacted with, yet we had so much in common. It was incredible to build relationships and community with fellow students while giving a life-changing gift to a family in need.”

“We all have something to give”

Baylor has many opportunities for students to get involved, make a difference and learn about different areas of the world. Students can become more aware of their privileges and how social and governmental issues affect certain populations differently, Hudson said. Despite the difficult living conditions and lack of resources, Christ was at the center of the community in Santiago.

“I believe our group took away the concept of ‘We all have something to give,’” Hudson said. “Our students appreciated this phrase and used it as a reminder throughout the week to selflessly give up ourselves to ensure a better quality of life for the Polanco Family. Our students left the Dominican Republic feeling encouraged and empowered to continue to serve the community around them.”

The team was supported by a significant gift from Baylor alumni and Baylor Chapel’s “2019 Change the World in a Day” that covered the cost of building the house and home goods for the new homeowners, as well as student scholarships.

The First In Line Mission’s goal was for students to be able to reflect and integrate their experience on the trip in a way that allows students to better understand the holistic nature of missions, as well as share their story both at Baylor and in the community, so that others might learn and be transformed by the experience as well.

“This trip emphasized how blessed I am to live in America with ‘basic’ aspects of life that I take for granted such as hot water, drinkable tap water and good health care,” said Aaron Rangel, a freshman interior design major and First In Line student from Yorba Linda, California. “This trip opened my eyes more to how materialistic and self-centered American society can be where image is everything. In the Dominican, it was joyful to be surrounded by a group of first-generation Baylor students who felt called to come on this mission trip to such a loving and welcoming culture.”

Transformational experience

Over spring break, Baylor University Missions sent 10 teams of 175 students, faculty, staff and friends of Baylor, who integrated their faith with their academic disciplines and hands-on service at locations in Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, England, Japan, Peru and across Texas. Each Baylor Missions experience fostered informed global engagement that brought together faith, discipline-specific learning and service that contributes solutions to real-world challenges at home and abroad, from health care to education, business consulting to hunger and immigration.

“These and the other thoughtful initiatives allow students to present their respective academic perspective and passions to enhance and diversify the way we approach community challenges and solutions around the world,” said Holly Tate, assistant director for global missions-student engagement at Baylor. “We also hope the students who participate in our trips not only enjoy the experience, which is important, but also discover a sense of vocation and calling as they see first-hand how they can use their discipline to serve.”

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

ABOUT BAYLOR MISSIONS

BU Missions seeks to create tangible opportunities for students to understand how they can use the knowledge and skills they gain here at Baylor University to love people around the world and in the Waco community.

As part of the Office of Spiritual Life at Baylor, our Mission is to nurture theological depth, spiritual wholeness and missional living in the students, staff and faculty at Baylor by offering integrated formational programming, transformative missional experiences, competent pastoral care and worship that is responsive to the Christian Tradition and sensitive to the culture.

Global Missions collaborates with faculty and staff from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds along with our global partners to implement spiritually rich and challenging experiences for our students. It is our hope that the students who participate in our trips not only enjoy the experience (which is important), but also discover a sense of vocation and calling as they see first-hand how they can use their discipline to serve.

Learn more at www.baylor.edu/missions.

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