My name is Grace, and I am a senior journalism public relations major and film and digital media minor at Baylor, and I work as a PR intern at Baylor Missions. If you follow our Instagram, @bumissions, that’s me! However, my journey with Baylor Missions began long before I got hired to work at their office. I went to Uganda and Zambia the summer after my freshman year of college for two months, and it rocked my world. I had been on mission trips before at my high school and through my church, but there was something different about this time. Here are the 5 things I learned from my mission trip with Baylor:
- It’s bonding.
I am not kidding you. When you do life with a group of people, serve alongside them, and do hard things together, it can bring you very close. I was one of two on the trip who were freshmen, and going on the trip, I felt intimidated to be one of the youngest on the team. I soon forgot this age difference as I got to know my other team members, their stories and their dreams. I loved working with our global partner, Pastor’s Discipleship Network (PDN). I have been able to stay connected with them over the last three years. Just earlier this year I happened to be at Together 2018 conference at the Texas Motor Speedway, and low and behold, who did I run into except Richmond Wandera, the founder of PDN. He just happened to be speaking at the conference. We greeted each other as if no time has passed since my last visit to Uganda. There is a special place in my heart for all the people I met on this trip, and the relationships I made were invaluable.
- It’s not always a mountain top experience.
The trip was at times very difficult. I did not always feel completely comfortable. One of the memories that remains very sharp in my mind is of a young girl named Juliet. We were about the same age, and we had similar interests—she loved talking with people, I loved talking with people. She was stylish; I like to think of myself as stylish (of course this was back when I was a freshman and got up and tried to look great—Every. Single. Day.). She was passionate about human rights, I was passionate about human rights—you get the picture. But she came from tragic, unjust circumstances having been trafficked at a young age. I did not. As she shared her story with me, I felt guilty that this talented, thoughtful girl who in many ways was so like me had to go through hardships that I could never fully understand. But she inspired me with her words, “I want to be a lawyer so that I can speak for people who don’t have a voice, like me.”
- But when you do have a mountain top experience, lean in.
Pastor’s Discipleship Network hosts conferences and teaches pastors and leaders in several countries in Africa year-round. While in Uganda, I got to be at several of these conferences. People came from all over the place. One older gentleman I spoke with had travelled nine hours on foot to get there. I remember standing in the middle of one of the conferences; the other Baylor students were sprinkled around the room leading small group sessions. As I stood there with my camera trying to capture the moments that were happening all around me, I experienced so much peace. I got to watch people from all different walks of life, from all different generations come together to learn from each other in one place. It took my breath away. All I could do was to lean into the moments I was watching, and to capture them as best I could.
- It can solidify your calling.
I was on a team of accounting and business students. I was the only storyteller photographer, but I did not feel fully equipped to do this job. I didn’t know what it would be like to host interviews and tell peoples’ stories. I also didn’t know if journalism was the right major for me. One thing about Baylor Missions that is incredible, and incredibly different from other mission trips, is that they combine career interests with service. Baylor Missions puts you in the middle of the action in the field you are interested in. And that is exactly how I felt—put in the middle of the action with a camera and a pen. Despite being nervous out of my mind, I set up an interview spot outside of our first PDN conference. I put up my little video camera on a tripod and fixed the lighting. I waited a few minutes and took a deep breath, and then I asked someone, an old Ugandan pastor, if she would like to share her story with me on camera. And the most magical thing happened: she said yes. Our interview began, and this woman, Pastor Vicky Aseru had me laughing so hard, and then she blew me away with her vulnerability. Boy did she have a story to tell. Having this moment with her, and conducting interview after interview over the next few weeks helped solidify for me that I was in the right place and in the right major. I knew from this trip that in my life, I would want to be a storyteller. I believe that stories bridge the gap between desperation and hope by setting people free from the lie that they don’t matter. I discovered that on this trip. Quote me.
- You’ve got to get uncomfortable.
I did some things that made me very uncomfortable but were so worth it. I got to sit between two Cheetahs. I got to bungee jump on the Nile. I got to hear stories of inspiring, incredible people. I got to see the sunset and rise from across the world. I got to go on foot through the jungles. I got to wait 8 hours in an airport in Qatar in an unexpected layover. I got to hear the chorus of a hundred voices singing in different languages. I got to become close friends with people I would never have met otherwise. I got to feel a wide range of emotions. Going on this trip was both thrilling and difficult for me, but it changed my life, and solidified my calling. It was uncomfortable at times, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. I’d even love to go back and have been discussing that possibility with my dear friend Richmond.
You don’t have to go halfway around the world to get uncomfortable. As a close friend of mine likes to say, “When was the last time, you did something for the first time?”
Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you around on Instagram! I’d love to hear and feature your Baylor Missions story, so tag us in photos, comment on our posts, and send your story our way!