Wayland students spend summer ministering on foreign soil

PLAINVIEW – The blowing winds and flat landscape of West Texas are home for students at Wayland Baptist University at least nine months out of the year. But this past summer, three students traded their usual surroundings for foreign soil in summer missions projects.     

Jalissa King, a senior math education major from Portales, N.M., saw a part of the world most have only visited via TV newscasts, serving on a tsunami relief team in Thailand. Stacy Teague, a senior pre-medical major from Albuquerque, spent six weeks in Tanzania, Africa, doing medical missions with International Service Learning. Bekah Jackson, a sophomore from Olton, spent her summer in Vancouver, Canada, working with Indo-Canadian ministries.

Serving through Go Now Missions with the Baptist General Convention of Texas’ Student Ministries, King was the only female on a ten-person team sent to provide relief services to the tsunami-ravaged area. Her primary role during the summer was delivering uncooked food to residents in temporary camps, having lost their homes in the storm.

“We probably delivered food to 1,400 people a day, and we took dry goods to the camps every two weeks,” King explained. “We’d start the day helping unload the food trucks and organizing the food for our deliveries. If we had any free time, we would help the missionaries there or play with the children.”

King said the summer taught her much about God’s work, especially in areas that have seen so much destruction.

“God really is working and moving. So much is happening to these people, and they are open to what we have to say,” King said. “It was cool to see how much has occurred because of this disaster and how God has used this to change the countries.”

She also felt God confirming the call to missions she had felt earlier, finding herself at home among the foreign people and in unfamiliar territory. Though a self-proclaimed introvert, King said God used the experience to help her open up to strangers.

“I learned how to love people I don’t really know,” she said. “I’m not normally a really outgoing person, so it really changed me.”

King said she was drawn to the opportunity to serve in Thailand because the duties were unknown. The description was purposefully vague, letting student applicants know their flexibility would be key. The experience taught her to let God lead and just be available.

Healing hands

With her eye on a career as a nurse practitioner, Stacy Teague had been seeking a summer missions opportunity that would allow her to blend her love of missions with her career aspirations. After searching for a medical missions trip that would give her real hands-on experience – as opposed to some that only allow students to serve as desk clerks – Teague found the International Service Learning trip to Africa and applied.

For three weeks, she served as part of a group of students who ran medical clinics in the bush area in Tanzania. Teague pointed out that it was the students who actually saw patients, diagnosed their ailments and treated them, with a doctor and nurse team checking their work and dealing with any problems that required extra care. Because of the commonality of certain diseases in the African nation – malaria and AIDS among the most common – the diagnosing became easy after a few days. She estimates the group treated 150-300 people each day, making it easy to become detached and routine.

“Medically, I learned that people are people and not symptoms,” Teague said. “I learned to look at people as a heart and soul and not just as patients.”

For the final three weeks of Teague’s stay, she worked alone in a rural hospital in the Bush, having signed up to extend her trip to six weeks. She also worked in a Lutheran church, under the leadership of a female chaplain who became something of a mentor to Teague during her final weeks. Her duties, however, were completed unexpected.

“God really taught me to be flexible,” she said. “I ended up preaching and teaching at times, and I never expected to be doing that.”

Teague also came away from the trip with other lessons, along with a souvenir for which she certainly would never have volunteered: malaria.

“Two big things God taught me were boldness in my faith and stepping out in faith,” Teague said. “He taught me to share my faith better and to do uncommon ministry, to step out and trust Him when things seemed impossible.”

New beginnings

For Bekah Jackson, missions has been a lifelong joy and a career aspiration. Having known since she was a young girl that she would be a missionary one day, the decision to do summer missions was easy. The work would not prove as easy but would be rewarding.

Jackson was part of a four-person team working in Vancouver with Indian immigrants in the Vancouver, a group that comprises almost 20 percent of the population. The team, along with two similar teams sent through Texas Baptist Student Ministries, was responsible for researching the people group and their culture and customs in order to get churches involved in ministering to the Indo-Canadians.

“We did a lot of research and compiled a huge folder of information,” Jackson said. “We also spent a lot of time building relationships with churches and trying to get them involved in ministry to the people.”

Jackson explained that while the majority of Indians in Vancouver are Punjabi Sikh, there is one protestant church in the city with East Asians, and the group found that church most receptive to working with the Indians.

“They wanted to talk to us and ask us all kinds of questions, so we really got to visit with them and get to know them better,” she said. “That made our summer.

“It was amazing to see the passion they had and see them worship God in their setting.”

Jackson said she enjoyed getting to know the believers there and visit with the Indian families, especially hearing about their lives back in India. She was amazed to hear how many had left wealth in India to live modestly in Canada simply to enjoy the religious freedom of being a Christian.

“I had never had any interaction with Indians before this, and the culture was so neat,” she said. “I developed a deep love for the people and the culture.

“I really got to see God’s heart for the nations on this trip, and just the mix of cultures was awesome.”