FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – While some students used the winter break to relax with family or take winter courses, 27 Southwestern students had an opportunity to go to Mexico to assist churches.

Originally, the mission trip was to be led by College at Southwestern associate professor Chuck Carpenter, but an emergency surgery prevented him from going. Instead, the day before the trip, associate professor Travis Dickinson found out that he would lead the group.

“It all of a sudden went from tagging along to leading,” Dickinson said.

But despite the last second change, the team still departed on Jan. 8 for the weeklong trip south of the border.

The team stayed at a local orphanage in the small town of Tekax in the Yucatan Peninsula, but they spent much of their time traveling to communities as far as two hours away to assist churches.

The group split into two teams, each having students participate in craft, drama, or sports teams. At each location, the teams led programs for the area’s children during the day and often delivered an evangelistic message for the community during the evening.

Members of the team also came prepared with sermons for these services. One student got to preach for the first time, using a translator.

Dickinson, who has led mission trips before, said he thinks the trip was “great in every way,” adding that one of the key impacts of the trip on the students was getting away from some of the affluence in the United States and seeing the joy of believers in that part of Mexico who had so little.

“It’s a good reminder for all of us,” Dickinson said. “It’s a good challenge for all of us. But for some of them that have never seen it before, it’s life-changing.”

Music education student Laura Baskin said young Juanito was a perfect example of this—the young boy amazed just by their letting him use their markers to color with.

The students experienced the culture change themselves when they traveled to places where families lived in huts with dirt floors or when they visited a church that consisted of just four walls and a roof. Each night the students even slept in hammocks.

“I just think that makes for a good trip,” Dickinson says. “You see another world and the way people live, and you get to really just minister to them the whole time.”

Although only a week long, Dickinson said the trip was still beneficial both to the students, the lost they came in contact with, and especially the churches they helped.

“It really creates a boost for the church and pastors,” Dickinson said, “especially the fact that [we] were Americans was enough to draw people.”

Baskin said she enjoyed getting to help the ministries in Mexico.

“That’s one of the biggest things about short-term mission trips,” Baskin says. “You not only get to encourage believers who are there, but you get to expand the ministry they’re already starting and help them to reach further out than they maybe can by themselves”

Dickinson says the trip encouraged students to become sympathetic to and supportive of missionaries, whether they plan to become missionaries themselves or not. Already, Dickinson has heard of students planning to return to Mexico over the summer or support the missionaries there with their church.

Baskin, who has been a children’s minister for three years, said she is not sure whether she is called to overseas missions or not, but she saw the trip as a great opportunity and a way to help her own ministry, which includes reaching out to a Hispanic community surrounding her church.

“I just want people to know Jesus,” Baskin says. “So I’m trying to start somewhere.”

Over the course of the week, the team saw more than 20 people accept the Gospel and the gift of salvation.