Jan. 18, 2008
WACO, Texas - After a long cross country season that began in the dog days of the Texas summer, a restful Christmas break sounds made-to-order to prepare for the equally grueling indoor and outdoor track seasons.
Coming off a 17th-place finish at the 2007 NCAA Cross Country Championships, the fourth-highest finish in program history, the Baylor women's cross country team earned the break leading to their Jan. 4 report date.
But rather than spending their break at home with friends and family, three Lady Bears chose to invest the time with those less fortunate.
Head coach Todd Harbour, along with senior Lyndsy Bedell and sophomores Danielle Bradley and Nichole Jones, traveled to Galeana, Mexico for a five-day mission trip as a part of Hands and Hearts Ministries.
The villages surrounding Galeana, nestled in the mountains just south of Saltio, Mexico, are 600 miles from Waco, but the two are worlds apart.
"The people we visited live very humble lives," said Harbour. "A lot of them still live in adobe huts, but they are very happy, simple people. They don't have a lot, but what they do have they are very thankful for."
The group traveled to three of the more than 260 mountain villages as part of a medical mission. While doctors led the trip, opening triage clinics in the modest villages, Harbour and his charges interacted with the families, sharing their faith with the village people.
"We had different clinics set up for the people," said Bradley. "Some were medical clinics for the adults and vacation bible school for the kids. We helped the kids make bracelets to illustrate the Gospel."
Whether they were distributing sunglasses to the village men to wear while working in the fields or presenting a framed photograph to a child who had never seen their own picture, the group befriended the villagers and laid the foundation for building relationships.
"One man told us that he had been praying for eyeglasses because he could no longer see to read his bible," said Bedell. "He was so excited when we gave him a pair of glasses. He said that it was a miracle and that his prayers had been answered."
Of course, they also found time to prepare for the upcoming indoor season, and the mountain scenery and 5,300-foot elevation proved solid training ground for the distance crew. Early morning runs in the dark and mountainous terrain did little to deter the Lady Bears from their daily runs.
"We trained in the morning when it was still dark and we couldn't see," said Bedell. "It was good for me to be training with Nichole and Danielle because they would push the pace and I had to keep up with them because the headlights of our truck were leading the way and I needed to be able to see where I was going."
"I have a new appreciation for mountains," added Jones. "I definitely like running on flat terrain again. I came back with more of a mental toughness. Things seem a little less daunting now."
But the true purpose of the trip was the work being done, not only in the lives of the villagers, but also in the lives of the missions team.
"Before we left for the trip, I was thinking about what I could do to bless the people that we would be visiting," said Jones. "I had a lot of time to think on our drive back and I realized that I probably benefitted as much or more by being there with them. I have a different perspective of people from Mexico. I learned to praise and be grateful for things that I take for granted."
Written by Jon Brown, Baylor Athletic Media Relations