Spring break wrapped up on Monday, and students all around me are still talking about the Taylor World Outreach (TWO) short-term missions trips they took last week. From Daytona Beach to Spain, teams of students and faculty spread across the world to participate in evangelism and community service projects, which they hope planted seeds of the Gospel in people’s hearts.
It has been nearly 20 years since Dick Baxter g70 and Brad Pontius established the first TWO Cabinet on the Fort Wayne Campus in 1994. Baxter, retired associate dean of students and director of TWO at TUFW, said that for several years, 10 percent of all TUFW students participated in TWO trips each year. If you were one of that 10 percent, you can probably relate to many of my peers, whose experiences last week impacted them deeply.
One of the ways TWO impacts students is through team unity. Team members pray they will blend in common cause so conflict won’t distract them from their mission. One of the best examples occurred when joint teams from Fort Wayne and Upland took TWO trips together. Michael Mortensen g91, who led many of these teams, reflected on the richness that the diversity of both campuses, as well as the multi-generational aspect of participating faculty, staff, and parents, brought. From Hawaii to Ecuador, he saw teams accomplish amazing things through the unity of the Spirit.
Photo via Dick Baxter
Raising financial support for TWO trips is a faith-building process. Each year, students mail hundreds of letters, petitioning family and friends to contribute to the cost of their trip. Baxter said most TUFW trips cost $1,700 per person. However, I have never met a student who stayed behind for lack of funds. God always provides, even from unexpected places. One year, a team needed to raise funds for a projector, sound system, and DVD player as part of their ministry to remote villages. When Mortensen asked a TWO colleague for prayer, she responded by securing a donation from a Taylor donor who wanted to fund evangelistic efforts. The need was met, and as a result 200+ people came to Christ over the ensuing years.
Students often meet or start dating their future spouses during TWO trips. Missions trips have a wonderful tendency of bringing people together. Serving God side-by-side makes some couples notice their common calling, expanding the idea of “team unity” in a whole new direction. Even without the romantic aspect, many TWO participants receive the call to full-time missions. A “taste” of the mission field is enough to enflame a passion for overseas ministry, which the Fort Wayne campus was particularly known. TWO just might be the gateway for the next generation of missionaries.
Most of all, TWO trips provide students with opportunities to witness and participate in Christ’s redemptive work. During a trip to Ecuador in 2002, a TWO team ran into Steve Saint, son of missionary Nate Saint who was martyred in 1956 by the native Acuas. On another trip, some TWO travelers met Dewy, one of the men who killed Nate. He prayed over them and sang a song of testimony to Christ. Both encounters were a striking picture of reconciliation and redemption, the very essence of the Gospel.
Joey Graves with Steve Saint, photo via Joey Graves
This is what makes students excited about spring break trips year after year. Whether cradling orphans in Russia or serving and worshipping with believers in Jamaica, TWO allows students to expand and participate in God’s global kingdom in a profound way.
How did participating in TWO trips as a student or faculty member impact your life?