Baylor missions offer students chance to travel, teach

By Grace Gaddy

You can’t put a price on an experience that changes your life, according to Denver senior Tyler Kahn.

Khan participated in one of Baylor’s global mission trips to Rwanda. To Kahn, every effort spent raising money, making plans and preparing for the two weeks of the trip was well worth it.

With 2012 fast approaching, Holly Widick, interim missions coordinator, is working to engage and inform Baylor students about the variety of mission opportunities at their fingertips. As an incentive, students who submit applications by Nov. 30 will have the $50 application fee waived.

“The earlier you get it in, you save money, but also get a head start on fundraising too,” Widick said.

The trip’s cost is small when compared to what students gain, organizers said. This is because Baylor missions offer students the chance of a lifetime, Jared Slack, pastoral resident in worship at the Bobo Spiritual Life Center, said.

Slack led an eight-member community development team to Rwanda in May. Students worked alongside local organizations and ministries seeking to effect positive change in the community.

Slack referenced the 1994 Rwandan genocide, which resulted in the deaths of an estimated 800,000 people, or roughly 20 percent of the country’s population. Slack said that despite the scars of this tragedy, God is at work.

“We’re really just going to celebrate what God is doing, and we believe that in our going and serving alongside, ministering to and ministering with these people, that we are transformed in the process,” Slack said. “It’s an amazing story of redemption and reconciliation that’s taking place in this country, and a lot of our students are getting to see it firsthand.”

Portland junior Anna Dearing was one of those students. She said her favorite part of the mission was spending time with the locals.

“It was really cool to just get into their lives for two weeks and just kind of work alongside them in whatever their daily thing was to do,” Dearing said.

Students worked in conjunction with a local pastor, performing ministries that included reaching out to orphans and educating local Rwandans.

Dearing said she remembered walking down the street, into church and around town and feeling welcomed everywhere she went.

“They were really glad that we were there,” Dearing said. “While we were loving on them, they were definitely loving on us. So that was really cool just to have those instant relationships with the people.”

Dearing said her biggest take-away was experiencing the joy.

“They’re always joyful, they’re always smiling [and] they’re always laughing,” she said of the locals. “The majority of them have so little, yet they’re so joyful.”

Dearing compared the experience to western culture.

In America, “we try to make everything so extravagant and like this huge, big production,” Dearing said.

But in truth, the simplest things in life are the most meaningful, she said.

This year, more than 24 teams will again be traveling to Greece, England, Ghana and 10 other countries. The trips will cover a range of disciplines, including child development, music, nutrition, sports ministry, social work and more. Widick said many trips double for course credit, a benefit Bedford senior Jeff Peterson accepted.

Peterson and Kahn were based in Rwanda. The two went as part of a 12-member team focused on bringing positive change through social entrepreneurship.

The team taught locals about starting and managing a business. Peterson said he had his eye on this trip since he arrived at Baylor. In fact, it fueled his passion for choosing his major, he added.

“I really think that business can change lives,” Peterson said. “It’s more than just giving someone a fish; it’s teaching someone how to fish. … If you can teach them how they can generate their own income — how they can make something useful for society — I think that changes lives.”

Widick said interested students should visit the Baylor missions website at. There, students can find everything they need to apply and choose a location and discipline, she said.