Along with discipline-specific trips, Baylor Missions has developed lasting relationships with global partners. Global partners are individuals or organizations that have established ministries around the world and work to meet the needs of their specific communities. By fostering relationships with global partners, Baylor Missions is able to discern and support specific needs of communities around the world. We can then target specific skill sets in order to form a team of students and faculty who can best meet the needs the global partners perceive in their communities.
For Melanie Smith, M. Ed., International Program’s Coordinator for Baylor’s Center for Global Engagement, and leader of the Kenya Women’s Leadership team, global partnership is about shattering stereotypes and sharing life together with brothers and sisters in Christ across the globe. Melanie prepares her students before the trip even begins so that relationships with global partners can become established before meeting face to face. Smith was able to take initiative in establishing global partners for Baylor Missions—after she was given an initial contact in Kenya, she began emailing non-profit groups and pitching her collaborative vision to them, which was “to teach leadership from a faith based model, and to empower women that were working in marginalized areas of Kenya.” Smith would tell these non-profit groups, “Baylor wants to connect with you, and become a friend—we don’t want to come in and take pictures of you, do a Vacation Bible School, and leave—we want to see what your needs are. We want to see what your needs are on our first trip, go back home, and see how we can build [for] the next year.” This is the beauty of global partnerships—Baylor faculty and students are able to connect long-term with partners doing ministry on the ground, and each year a team is sent out, together the global partners and teams can build upon the previous year’s work while maintain meaningful relationships.
One of the global partners we work with annually is called Amani Ya Juu, which means “peace from above.” It’s a women’s non-profit operated “by women and for women” in Kenya. The women Amani Ya Juu serve have come out of broken and abusive situations or have been refugees fleeing war torn areas. “They come together with their hearts broken and they’re mad at God,” Smith said, “and Amani Ya Juu brings them to full forgiveness. Then they learn a trade to empower them as women and use that creative part of them that God gave them.” When Baylor women visit the employees at AYJ in Kenya, each student chooses a topic about leadership they feel passionate about sharing, like character, integrity, abiding in God, work-life balance, or purpose and passion.
It’s in these moments that the training Smith does with her team before the trip becomes crucial. Smith shared about an experience of the effects of taking Baylor women through Brené Brown’s shame and vulnerability model:
“The girls started to look at their own life and their own faith walk, and it’s been and incredible work of the Holy Spirit, because when they get to Kenya, they know each other so well—and trust each other—that these girls tell their story, whether it comes from shame, or abuse, or sexual assault. And that’s what reaches the women in Kenya. Because these are women that [have] had that shame in their life, and these organizations are telling them, ‘You are worthy.’ Well, we’re going to come to tell you we’ve been through the same thing—and you are worthy.”
Having gone through training, the students are able to authentically share their stories with the women in Kenya and be transformed by hearing about the Kenyan women’s stories. Thanks to our global partners, we can establish these incredible relationships through long-term commitment to their ministries.
Where has Baylor Missions taken you? How have you seen relationships established and fostered with our Global Partners?