Baylor’s medical missions class seeks to encourage students in call to missions

Baylor sends medical teams to help around the world. Photo courtesy of Baylor University

By Megan Hale | Reporter

According to Baylor University’s mission statement, Baylor seeks to educate men and women for worldwide leadership and service by integrating academic excellence and a Christian commitment. By merging classroom education with the Christian values Baylor is based on, students have the opportunity to bridge their future careers with their calling from Christ.

Baylor alumni Dr. Terry Lassiter and his wife, Vicki Lassiter, are empowering and training students to pursue their Christian call to missions by using the gifts and talents they have already been given.

Terry Lassiter is a dentist, and Vicki Lassiter is a physical therapist. However, both believe they have a higher calling that goes far beyond a college diploma.

Making a public commitment as a couple to use their careers to pursue missionary work, the couple have lived much of their life on the mission field. In 1989, they moved to the country of Saint Vincent. However, after 10 years of cultural immersion and ministry, they began sensing that it was time to relocate somewhere with even greater spiritual and physical needs. They eventually found their way to the country of Surinam.

“We were working with a tribal group where they’d never had a dentist, and really, a lot of the people hadn’t even heard the name of Jesus,” Terry Lassiter said. “So it was a whole different level, but we loved it.”

Over the span of 26 years on the mission field, the couple moved where they felt the Lord was leading them to go, including Ecuador, Peru and eventually Waco, where Terry Lassiter opened his dental practice, Alpha Omega Dental.

After speaking as a guest in several Baylor classes — per the request of medical humanities professor Dr. William Hoy — Terry Lassiter stepped into another theoretical mission field and was presented with the opportunity to teach his own course at Baylor.

This course, MH3342, is dedicated to educating students on the methods and tools necessary to combine medicine and mission work.

“Basically, what we do in this course is we want to teach students what we wish we could have known when we went to Baylor in the early 1980s,” Terry Lassiter said. “So that made it easy. With all of our stories and experiences and things that were key to helping us become better missionaries, we just share that with them. As I teach the course, I think, ‘If I was sitting in that chair, desiring to use my dentistry to help people physically and spiritually, what would I want to know?’ And so that makes the course really fun.”

The class, which was first offered in spring 2020, seeks to inform students of the biblical calling to address not only the physical needs of others but also their spiritual needs, in the context of Christian missions.

“When you come to Baylor, you have some courses that are like religion courses, and then you have other courses that are academic vocational courses,” Terry Lassiter said. “This is a unique course where it combines both of those, faith and practice together, which is what Baylor has always been about.”

By listening to their experiences and having a diverse set of lecturers from around the world speak to them, students gain exposure to the reality of life on the mission field.

“I find your generation is very interested in missions, but they might not have a good grasp of what that is,” Terry Lassiter said. “Hopefully, through this class, you get an idea of what I think missions is, where you’re reaching out to people to preach and heal through the mandate of Christ, by meeting physical and spiritual needs.”

Although this course is rooted in Baylor’s Baptist beliefs, students are not required to make a statement of faith prior to enrollment.

“I kind of went into the class expecting that everybody was going to be a Christian, but there are other religions that are in the class too, so that offers a unique perspective,” Boerne junior Jaycie Moore said. “I think the most interesting thing is when they chime in on a conversation that everybody might think that we all understand, they have a different perspective.”

The objectives of this course provide tools for students to take with them into the mission field. These objectives include how to understand and share the gospel outlined in the Bible, understand what the Bible says about meeting physical and spiritual needs, analyze the different medical mission strategies and the pros and cons of each and gain awareness of long- and short-term domestic and international missions opportunities and organizations to aid in medical mission placement.

“I feel like for the first time in my academic journey, I’m taking a class to be a better type of person,” Austin junior Hunter Walker said. “I’m sharpening my character with this and not just my resume or academic portfolio.”

By being exposed to different worldviews and perspectives, students develop a more holistic and meaningful view of both medicine and missionary work.

“It’s given me soft skills and challenged me in those soft skills, like empathy and humility, but it’s also given me practical skills like how can I concisely and adequately present the fullness of the gospel to someone who has never heard it before, and how can I give them space to feel comfortable having a dialogue about that?” Walker said.

Baylor continues to equip students to pursue service and leadership regardless of their future careers or callings by staying grounded in the Christian commitment that defines the university.

“My occupation might be in the health care setting, but my vocation is not health care-related,” Walker said. “My vocation is using health care as a means to meet people’s spiritual needs when they’ve exhibited physical needs.”