A LeTourneau Legacy

by Jake Hall

It starts with prayer

A dedicated student leader paces the floor of his dorm, pouring his heart out in prayer for God to use his floor-mates in a powerful way. A family in the jungles of Mexico pleads with the Lord to provide a safe, sound shelter for their church.

Seeds planted.

Students walk the streets of Salt Lake City, whispering prayers of gospel proclamation. A pack of raucous Spring Break partiers huddles in reverence inside a minivan, reciting the Lord’s Prayer.

Seeds watered.

A group of teenagers who wandered into church for some free pancakes recommit their lives to Christ...


The life of a believer is a life drenched in prayer. The Bible is full of stories and parables of persistent, passionate prayer: the man knocking on his neighbor’s door at midnight, the judge who relents to a widow because of her constant pleading, Elijah praying for drought for three and a half years. 

Christ himself admonished us: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). 

And, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matt. 17:20).

Our prayers are like seeds: small investments sown with care in belief they will produce a plentiful harvest. This is also true of the steps we take to share the Gospel. We don’t know if our efforts will be successful, if the seeds we sow will fall on good soil or rocky. But still, we sow, we water, we pray, we wait. And, “neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:7).

LeTourneau University staff and students have sown Gospel seeds for over thirty years on Spring Break Mission Trips. You won’t believe what God has done with the growth.


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Beach Reach Mission participants in South Padre Island, TX.


Short-Term Missions, Long-Term Impact

LeTourneau Spring Break Missions began in the late 1980’s with a student-organized trip to San Luis Potosí, Mexico. Word grew upon the group’s return to campus, and the following year, about 120 students packed onto three buses, headed to three different Mexican cities for the week. Then-LETU President Bud Austin personally visited each site to encourage and endorse the effort.

Seeds planted.

In the following years, the spring break trips grew and developed into what they are today: nine trips across the continent, including ministries to Mormons in Utah, spring break partiers on South Padre Island, Texas, engineering and software-focused endeavors, and two trips to Mexico. In 2022, 131 people participated in this vibrant movement that began years ago with some persistent prayer and a few willing students.

0360_006-1.pngDaniel Huegel (BA, ‘93) helped organize the first spring break trip to San Luis Potosí with his brother and other students, including a group from Tyler Hall 3B. The 3B Resident Assistant (RA) at the time, Daniel remembers, had come to campus the summer before and walked the dorm floor, praying his students would make an impact in the coming year. “I attribute the weeks of prayer on his part to being a big reason why the trips began,” Daniel says.

0359_001-1.pngDaniel was born in Aguascalientes, Mexico, and grew up in Mexico City. He currently serves as Executive Director of Intercultural Ministries for the Centro Cristiano Agape Churches in San Luis Potosí. Not only did he help initiate the annual trips in that city, but he has also witnessed the profound impact they’ve had on the local community. On one of the first trips, a group of students poured and built a concrete floor for the local church. The church families hosted the LETU students in their homes, but with only 20-30 members at the time, it was quite a challenge to feed everyone for the week. However, they stepped out in faith, God answered their prayers, and the floor was completed. Today, the church has over 150 members and points back to the LeTourneau trip as a defining moment in its existence where God stretched their faith beyond what they thought was possible.

paulina-sanchez.jpgAnother story Daniel tells is that of Paulina Sanchez, a woman whose parents went to the nearby jungles to cook for an LETU team working on a church building in the area. Paulina remembers, as a 4 or 5-year-old little girl, being amazed by these students who diligently worked all day, hauling stones to the work site, sweating, cutting, bleeding, as they built this church with their hands. One student in particular would take time to sit and talk with her, and he even wrote her a letter after returning home. Now a grown woman, Paulina has saved that letter for years, and she attributes the beginnings of her faith to that week.

Seeds planted.

Some people underestimate the impact of short-term missions; can truly valuable, eternal work actually be accomplished in a week? Many missionaries labor for decades in one location without witnessing substantial growth or change in the people around them. But, the power of Christ cannot be quantified or measured in human terms, and we never know how God will grow the efforts of a diligent believer, even in seemingly small interactions.

As Daniel puts it: “Even though it’s short, it can significantly make a difference for years to come. Sometimes, we don’t see the effects right away. But, I think the fruits, long-term, make it a very worthwhile endeavor.”


Abundant Varieties of Fruit

This spring, students chose from nine different trips, each led by university faculty or staff. Some chose to serve in a way that pushed them out of their comfort zone: an introvert witnessing to college kids partying on the beach or teaching English in a foreign country. Others opted to utilize natural gifts or classroom skills in a fresh way: computer science majors working on software projects for missionaries or education majors serving in a camp for people with disabilities. These trips are intentionally practical and relational in nature, grounded yet free to follow the movement of the Spirit, focused on very specific needs yet never losing sight of the universal need for all to hear the Gospel. We interviewed a handful of student participants, although not every trip is covered here. img_3623.jpg

SonSet Solutions is a ministry that provides technology-based solutions for hundreds of Christian organizations advancing the Gospel worldwide. Many organizations may not have their own IT specialist or engineer, so SonSet stands in the gap for them. A group of LETU students served at the organization’s base In Elkhart, Indiana, for the week, working on multiple projects and gaining perspective on how their vocation applies to the world.

“The week showed me that what I’m learning in engineering is serving God, and as long as I’m doing it for him, it’s glorifying him. It’s easy to lose sight of that, but it’s good to remember that building things and being creative is mimicking Christ in a way,” (Ryan Bell, ME ‘24).

Freshman Brooke Madsen (MC) adds, “My favorite part of the week was learning how to layout the circuit we had worked to design on a computer and transferring it to a digital PCB ready to print! I also learned how engineering can be used in the mission field, which is something I had never thought of before.”

Seeds watered.

_dsc1044.jpgThe mission trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, had a very simple technical goal of building a small house for a family in the host church. However, it was the relationships God built that left a lasting impression on the students:

“After 5 days of hard work, we looked upon the finished house and realized how much more God did during our time in Mexico. Even though construction was our focus, our team was blessed by valuable relationships with the people with whom we worked,” (William Manchester, ME ‘23).

Peter Lee (CM ’23), adds, “Our joy is complete when we serve the Lord with our hearts. Our main goal wasn’t really to develop a relationship with the church, but it happened naturally through working.”

Beach Reach is a ministry that’s served South Padre Island since 1980; every year, tens of thousands of college students descend upon the beaches of the island to party during spring break. Through Beach Reach, hundreds of Christian college students from various schools join together to give free van rides to the spring breakers, keeping them safe while also verbally sharing the gospel of Jesus with them in the vans.

Gabi Pitman (E1 ’23) and several of her teammates made a deep connection with some of the spring breakers who were drawn to them during an initial van ride. As the week progressed, they repeatedly called and asked for LETU vans to pick them up, even coming to a morning breakfast to play Spikeball and other games. 


“Even though we didn’t see any of them accept Christ as their Savior, we saw them growing their interest in God and wanting to further that. I think they could tell something about us was different, and they said, ‘We would rather hang out with you than go to this bar.’ It was really about becoming friends with them and showing them that life with Jesus can be fun and exciting too.” 

In-person evangelism is also a focus of the Tri-Grace Ministries trip in Ephraim, Utah. Tri-Grace is a ministry that serves those impacted by Mormonism in the area, and LeTourneau partners with them for the week through college campus outreach, door-to-door evangelism, and providing general love and encouragement to families in polygamist communities.

Samantha Hilarides (ME, ‘22) tells a touching story from this year’s trip of visiting the polygamist families, a specific outreach started a few years ago by LETU students who wanted to love on the women in those communities.

Usually, the women are the only ones home during the day as the men are working, but this year was different. A woman in one of the homes happily invited the students in and had a long conversation with them while her husband sat and observed. Toward the end, he made a point to thank the students:

“We really appreciate you guys coming, and we really see the difference in the LeTourneau and Tri-Grace ministries from other groups who’ve come here; they want to argue with us about everything we’re doing wrong and tell us we’re going to hell and things. But you guys just come and encourage us and pray with us. And, I know you don’t believe that works get you into Heaven, and yet you're still here doing good things for us.”

This was further fruit brought forth by the faithful work of students who had gone before.

Seeds watered.

The evangelism experience also impacted Samantha’s personal faith: “While witnessing, I learned to question Christianity, to question my faith, to dig deeper into the word of God, to understand the details and background of everything. I think it’s really important to understand why you believe what you believe...I really appreciate the opportunity to go on these trips because my faith is stronger, and I have a different relationship with God now and a stronger bond with other people on campus that’s really unique to short-term mission trips.”

Beloved & Beyond is a camp devoted to people with special needs/disabilities; sophomore Allison Cook (ME) has served there since she was 13 and attended the spring break trip this year. Her experience has opened her eyes to the love of Christ in a new way: 


“I have a lot of campers who still text me and ask ‘how’s your day?’ [the impact] doesn’t ever leave; one week can translate to a lifetime...It’s really important for students to branch out and learn how to accept a lot of differences. Being able to reach out to the least of these, as Christ has called us to do, can bring so much into your life and allow you to see people how God sees them.”

Another student whose life was forever altered by Spring Break Missions is graduating senior Priscilla Ramirez (CHBY). Priscilla has attended the San Luis trip three times and even spent a summer working with the church there. For her, the focus of these short-term trips is relational: “The driving force behind the trip is to make relationships with people who are outside of what we know, to make friends, to learn about them, and to be encouraged and ministered to by them.”

When asked if students should consider going, Priscilla is adamant: “Yes! Yes, yes, yes. Go, go, go... It’s not a matter of whether you should go or not, it’s which one you should go on. It’s important to take that risk and do something with that week you have. Instead of resting, take a week where you will be challenged and have to pour yourself out in the middle of a hard semester.”

In other words, use your break to go plant some seeds.


A Full-Grown LeTourneau Tree

If we took time to hear from every individual that’s been changed by these trips, we could probably write an article whose pages stretched around the entire university. I’ve been to Beach Reach seven times now, as both a student and a staff sponsor, and my experiences are grafted onto my heart, the memories etched into my soul. I don’t really remember a life without Beach Reach; it’s become a natural extension of the Gospel-centered life God has called me to.

I’m sure many of you reading this could share similar stories. Perhaps you were one of the first Mexico trip participants 30-plus years ago. Maybe you sacrificed your spring break once to travel hundreds of miles to share the Gospel with people you’d never met, did not understand, and could hardly relate to. Or, maybe you and your loved ones have been renewed and encouraged by someone serving on a short-term mission trip.

Many of you have faithfully sown your seeds of time, money, resources, energy, etc. for the good of the Kingdom, year after year, and marveled as the Lord supplied even more seed for sowing while multiplying the seed you planted. You have spent hours on your knees, scratching at the dirt, pleading with the Lord in prayer, persisting in the face of toil and struggle.

The people of the Bible knew well what God could do with just a small amount of something: a handful of flour and a little oil, a slingshot and a few stones, five loaves of bread and two fish. After all, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” Matthew 13:31-32.

Sometimes we plant, sometimes we water, but God provides the harvest. 


Dr. Pat Mays, Campus Pastor, has been a Theology faculty member at LeTourneau for 19 years, a firsthand witness to the life-changing fruit of these trips. He left me with a striking summary, which I will leave with you:

“Ever since I’ve been here, these trips have had a direct impact on students. For a lot of them, they use words like ‘it transformed me,’ or ‘it allowed me to put my degree into action,’ but it also opens up a new world, because many of them have never really done frontline ministry.

Chapel is one thing, floor devotionals are one thing, but this breaks down walls and barriers. Sometimes it’s crossing cultures, or sometimes it’s just crossing a state line. But, it gets them out in the world to realize, ‘Oh, my faith can be alive and active.’

It activates the idea, ‘Oh, as I go into adulthood, this part of my life is super important. It needs to be central, and I need to invest in whatever my church ministry is.’ For a lot of them, it’s an igniter for that. I think it’s an essential aspect of what we have at LeTourneau, and I think it’s a legacy we need to carry on. I think this is one of the central components that has impacted students in the last 30 years.”