Baylor students on mission in Africa, Europe, South America

Baylor Men’s Choir students lead girls from the African Inland Church School in Kajiado, Kenya, in a “sic ‘em” cheer in front of the school’s newly painted cafeteria. (Photo courtesy of Matt Oberhelman)

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WACO—Soon after the spring semester ended, Baylor University student groups boarded planes for Ghana, Kenya, Zambia, Uganda, France, Haiti and Guatemala, determined to put into practice in a missions setting what they had learned in classrooms.

baylor haiti400As part of their mission, Baylor Engineers with a Mission played with local children in Ferrier, Haiti. (Photo courtesy of Brian Thomas)Baylor University seeks to provide discipline-specific missions opportunities that integrate faith, learning and service, said Holly Widick, coordinator of Baylor Missions.

“We’re trying to integrate ways they’re learning in the classroom on a global scale,” said Widick. “It’s open to all Baylor students, regardless of classification or major.”

The Baylor chapter of Engineers with a Mission served in Ferrier, Haiti, where they installed solar panels in the community’s training center operated by Mission Waco.

Eight students and two Baylor professors also repaired wells, painted a house, worshipped at local churches and played with the town’s children.

The town has limited access to electricity, said Brian Thomas, senior lecturer in Baylor’s School of Engineering and Computer Science and faculty sponsor for Engineers with a Mission. But he and his team did not plan to simply throw money at the town.

“We don’t want to create dependency. We want to empower instead of just provide handouts,” Thomas said, noting the missions team wanted to “better equip the training center so the training center can empower the people.”

Thomas and the students who participated in the mission trip met several times during the spring semester to prepare.

baylor solarpanels400Baylor Engineers with a Mission members install solar panels for Ferrier, Haiti. (Photo courtesy of Brian Thomas)“We read a book about working in developing countries, and we had some language lessons. We also spent some time on the technical details,” he said.

But the students didn’t just learn new technical skills, speak a new language or meet new people, Thomas said. They also had profound experiences. He particularly noticed deep changes in Josh Daniliuc, an electrical and computer engineering master’s candidate at Baylor, who noted how the Haitians survived on so little, yet were happy.

“The locals in Ferrier, Haiti, have very little resources compared to us, earning about a dollar per day, and yet they possess a remarkable appreciation for life and community,” he said. “Relationships are a big part of their culture, and the interdependence that they have on one another taught us a lot about the raw humanness of living a life unfettered by ego and self.”

baylor kenya400Kyle Walker, senior church music major, plays a game with a group of children outside a Maasai Church near Ngong, Kenya. (Photo courtesy of Matt Oberhelman)Students saw an example of this interdependence when the local church gathered an offering for the poorer people of Ferrier, Daniliuc said. The pastor “placed a bucket on the ground in the front-center of the church, and I was deeply moved to see how, despite most of them owning very little, many individuals came up and tossed in a few coins or crumpled currency into the bucket.”

Welcomed with open arms

Daniliuc was moved to tears when the church also welcomed with open arms a woman who was struggling to provide for her five children, as well as three orphans she had adopted.

“Baylor Missions did a tremendous job of preparing our faculty leaders and us for our respective service-learning trips, and we are thankful to all the staff who dedicated themselves to our growth,” Daniliuc said. “Our team was blessed to be part of this opportunity, and we truly lived out the goal of Baylor Missions, which is ‘People being transformed by people being transformed.’”

Students not only learn a great deal about culture and poverty through the missions experiences, but also about their own Christian calling, Thomas noted.

baylor pokot400Adam Cogliano, a sophomore church music major, interacts with children at Komollion School in a remote village of the Pokot tribe in Kenya. (Photo courtesy of Chris Pillsbury)“I personally feel privileged to be able to lead these student trips and see the transformation that occurs in our students as they serve other people,” he said.

Other Baylor teams carried out community development missions in various parts of Africa.

A team of 10 students and two Truett Seminary graduate student leaders partnered with All Nations Charity Home orphanage in Kumasi, Ghana, to bring music, arts and crafts, sports, a carnival and lots of laughter to children of all ages. Baylor students invested in the Shoot 4 Life basketball ministry alongside founder and Truett Seminary graduate Vincent Asamoah, and they led basketball practices in local schools. 

In Kenya, a team of seven students, three Baylor staff and a university guest served in Nairobi, partnering with City Harvest Ministries and Beacon of Hope Africa, which serve people in extreme poverty and/or those living with HIV/AIDS.

Kenya and Zambia

The Baylor Sports Ministry team traveled to Kenya and Zambia to minister to children through sports clinics and competitions. The Women’s Leadership team spent two weeks in Nairobi, ministering to women and children. Baylor Men’s Choir did the same, but through song and worship.

In Uganda, a Baylor accounting team composed of graduate students in the master of taxation and master of accounting programs conducted business-consulting workshops for small businesses, entrepreneurs and business school students.

Two Baylor missions teams visited Guatemala, including a group of nutrition science students who provided nutrition education at child-care centers and local schools.

Seventeen members of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority and one Baylor staff leader traveled to Antigua, Guatemala, to work with special-needs children in Los Gozosos (“the joyful ones”) orphanage. They also assisted at Hermano Pedro hospital, a multi-service facility providing a home and care for the elderly and orphaned, the mentally challenged and chronically ill, and they worked with a private school, Kairos, in their after-school program.

This month, a group of Baylor MBA students travel to Zambia to teach a two-week intensive business course for students at Northrise University, and the Baylor outdoor recreation and leadership team begins a cross-cultural relational outreach to Albanian college-age immigrants in Greece.

Albanian immigrants

The young Albanians are struggling because their immigrant parents often did not land well-paid jobs in Greece, said Jeff Walter, assistant director for campus recreation facilities. Walter will lead the Greece trip with Kelli McMahan, lecturer and coordinator of outdoor recreation.

“As a group, their dreams didn’t come true economically,” Walter said. “That’s another thing that worries them, that their children might have a lack of initiative. If their parents’ dreams didn’t come true, why even try?”

Walter, McMahan and 10 Baylor students will spend two weeks with a group of young Albanians, ministering to them, teaching them about American culture and learning about Albanian and Greek culture.

“And that’s the mission,” Walter said. “We’re not building a structure, we’re not building a well. We’re building relationships.”

Like the engineering students who traveled to Haiti, students on this trip will experience change and growth, redefining what missions means, Walter said. “Missions is people being transformed by people being transformed.”

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