BOLIVAR — Through the Southwest Baptist University (SBU) Center for Global Connections, students are ministering to multiple people groups around the world, but they can’t do it without financial support from a multitude of donors.
With about 350 students having participated on 28 teams in 2012, students raised more than $550,000 to fund those trips.
Teams begin to form during Global Connections Week, held each spring and fall for upcoming trips. Students submit an application and are interviewed before being accepted for a particular trip.
“We try to offer a variety of locations and a variety of ministries for our students,” said Diana Gallamore, director of the Center for Global Connections, the department within University Ministries that is responsible for organizing and sending out student teams on “global projects.”
Team leaders include University Ministries staff members, community members and students, which makes the program unique from those offered by many other universities. About 80 percent of the teams are led by students.
“We use a lot of student leadership, and we spend a lot of time developing students as leaders,” said Kurt Caddy, director of University Ministries. “They lead well. We select them well and train them well. That is pretty significant for students to graduate having led an international team.”
The center’s staff cannot personally train each individual, instead focusing on developing team leaders, who then lead much of the training for team members.
“Our training program distinguishes us from other mission groups,” Caddy said. “I have gone on trips other places where I would meet the team at the airport. Here, we have a fall retreat weekend and a 13-week training session. That is pretty unique.”
SBU also is one of the first campuses to provide in-depth security training for teams going into high-security areas. Other universities have since picked up the model, a practice that Caddy said is pretty common.
“There are many universities that call us when they are wanting to start or upgrade their missions program,” he said. “We are a model for how this is done.
“This is one of the best mission programs in the country. It’s not just how many students we send but the way we do it. We focus on quality, not quantity.”
The center will send 31 teams in 2013 with an estimated 350 participants.
Teams are sent to assist missionaries with the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board and other agencies and churches.
The center recently hosted a Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief training session for students, hoping to form a team of SBU-trained responders who can be mobilized when disaster hits.
“Missouri again is leading the way in getting students involved with disaster relief,” Caddy said.
The center also is connecting with academic departments to collaborate on mission projects that will help prepare students to be missionaries in any professional field.
“We’re seeing that evangelical work is changing,” said Kelly Rehm, assistant director of the Center for Global Connections. “We are seeing more professionals on mission who are employed internationally and have a mission. They are living out their faith as they are working or studying.”
During the training and the hands-on experiences, students learn about diversity, increase their global awareness, receive cross-cultural training, learn team-building skills during a training program that spans a semester, and further develop their spiritual formation and foundation.
“It’s a department that fulfills the mission of the university,” Caddy said. “We are developing leadership, and we do it in a global context.”