Baylor nutrition class visit Guatemala for mission

By Meghan Hendrickson

Sending a nutrition team on a missions trip is a new trick for an old school— but this summer, Baylor will do just that.

A team of seven nutrition students will embark on a mission May 19-27 to Panajachel, Guatemala. Dr. Janelle Walter, professor of nutrition sciences, will lead the team.

For the past five years, Walter said she has been trying to make way for students to explore the world through their studies.

“Nutrition programs all over the country have gone to Guatemala,” Walter said. “Guatemala’s been studied for decades because it’s so poorly nourished.”

Walter said the team will be teaching children games about healthy eating at a local preschool, cooking and serving food at a nearby center that feeds children each day and observing the children to discover if there are any “signs of overt malnutrition.”

Kansas City, Kan., senior Leigh Sunderland said she thinks the trip will help prepare her for the international nutrition work she would like to do after she graduates.

“We aren’t planning on doing much evangelism, but I will be looking for opportunities to share the Gospel with anyone who is willing to hear,” Sunderland said. “Food and nutrients are the bases of our physical lives, but won’t sustain the deeper hunger in our souls that can only be filled by God. My ultimate vision is to care for those in need by providing for their physical needs, and through those acts of care, to draw them in to hear the Good News that will be the true nourishment they are looking for.”

All seven student team members are enrolled in a special section of “World Nutrition,” taught by Walter, that includes the trip as part of the coursework.

Bandera senior Jennifer Lavallee said the class has met once each week of the semester to discuss the trip, plan itineraries and prepare materials to take to Guatemala, including dietary information and educational games for children.

“Mind you that all of this needs to be in Spanish, so we’re having to stretch our abilities a bit,” Lavallee said. “None of us are fluent, but we are mostly communicative, at least, in the language.”

The team planned on serving in the jungles of Honduras until last month, when Walter decided to change the trip’s destination to Guatemala because of the violence in the area of Honduras they intended to travel.

“I felt like God was closing the door,” Walter said.

Walter said she Google-searched “nutrition missions Guatemala” and came across the website for a United Methodist Church mission initiative in Guatemala.

Walter said her team seemed like a great fit for the work of Mission Guatemala, and it has been arranged for them to serve through that organization.

Walter said she looks forward to students “experiencing being in a different culture and working with that culture in a positive way.”