Thanks so much to the Baylor Lariat editorial board for introducing the topic of service. I have the privilege of being the director of Baylor Missions, and it was good to see our program get a “shout out.” College is a time for students to discover a sense of calling. Aristotle defined it as “where your talents and the needs of the world cross, there lies your vocation.” As an institute of Christian higher education, it is Baylor’s responsibility and mission to “educate men and women for worldwide leadership and service.” Service is woven into the fabric of our 169-year-old history.
I applaud the author’s warning to check one’s motivation to do service. Service done for selfish gain can have an ill effect on the recipient, as can short-term missions. I am also encouraged that a student is questioning whether a program has the best and/or right motivation. We educate our students to be critical thinkers. I would like to correct a few assumptions made by the author about Baylor Missions. First, “go and be transformed” is only part of our philosophy. The problem with taglines is that the whole story is not being told, so this is helpful feedback as we think about our message.
Our missiology can be summed up by a phrase coined by Dr. Mike Stroope, The M.C. Shook Chair of Christian Missions at Truett Seminary — “People being transformed by people being transformed.” It emphasizes the importance of serving and learning from each other. Second, Baylor Missions does not send missionaries. We do not refer to our students as missionaries because we are not a local church or missions sending agency. We reserve that title to those men and women who have committed themselves to vocational missions. Finally, we do not do short-term missions. The purpose of Baylor Missions is to provide tangible opportunities for students, faculty and staff to integrate faith, learning and service within a Christian worldview.
We call this kind of approach to missions discipline-specific. A faculty from his/her academic discipline leads a team of students within that discipline to do a mission service project utilizing skills from that discipline — engineering professor alongside engineering students install solar panels that provide energy to a school. And while our trips may be short, our commitment to our global partners is a minimum of three to five years.
I have witnessed many students being transformed. And this is a good thing. For when people are truly transformed, they do not selfishly hold tight to that change. They become agents of change for the common good — men and women for worldwide leadership and service.
– Rebecca Kennedy
Associate Chaplain, Director for Missions