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Students serve during break

Wednesday, October 24, 2007  
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By Kimberlee Rhodes

For some students, fall break means relaxation and absolutely no work. A group of 50 students in the Memorial Road Church of Christ campus ministry had a different set of goals for the school break.

The group travelled to Piedras Negras, Mexico, on Memorial Road’s seventh annual Fall Break mission trip with sponsor, Jeff McMillon, and worked for five days. The work included construction on a school for handicapped children and the community’s local church.

The school was destroyed this past summer by a tornado, and the students went back to help rebuild it.

“[The trip] got started when I was introduced to Rick Owens,” McMillon, the campus minister at Memorial Road Church of Christ, said.

Owens, a missionary supported by the Church of Christ in Las Cruces, New Mexico, travels all over Mexico building churches.

“In the Mexican culture, churches need a place, a building, to give them credibility in their community,” McMillon said. “So Rick is essentially a general contractor and coordinates volunteer groups to come provide the labor.”

McMillon was also introduced to a father and son team, Hector and Josue Holguin. These two men had a dream to start a church in their town and to reach the community by starting a school to care for the needs of students with all kinds of disabilities.

“All they needed was support and labor,” McMillon said. “That’s when we knew God was answering the Holguin’s prayer through Memorial Road. Ever since, we have been committed to helping this school become a reality.”

Oklahoma Christian University junior Cody Boyd is glad the group was able to give the people of Piedras Negras something they could not provide for themselves by building the school.

“It’s not all about construction,” junior Cesar Tavard said. “I’m very attached to the people there.”

Tavard, along with many other Oklahoma Christian students, willingly sacrificed their Fall Break to serve others with both their time and their testimony.

“You get a huge rush doing service for God,” freshman Meagan Branch said. “I love seeing the children down there and touching their hearts.”

Junior Miriam Hobbes has previously been to Piedras Negras, and she believes the trip is for anyone with any background as long as they have a serving attitude and are prepared to have fun.

“It’s really neat to get to know the elders, church leaders and their wives who participate,” Hobbes said. “Getting to know them makes you feel more plugged in to such a large campus ministry.”

Hobbes believes it is important to have a willing, serving heart and know God will multiply what is contributed.

“We all felt the bond with these people that is deepened by our common faith in Jesus,” Hobbes said. “It was one of the best memories that people on the trip come away with.”

Besides getting to bond with their peers, students looked forward to connecting and playing with the children of the community.

“We do a lot with the children,” Tavard said. “The first day of construction only a couple of children are there, the second day there are double the amount, and by the third day, there are a bunch.”

The children are very receptive and help lift the morale of the students.

“I love seeing their smiling faces,” Branch said. “It lifts my spirits to see them so happy even though they’re living in such awful conditions. It makes me count my blessings.”

McMillon believes they are building more than earthly structures for the people of Piedras Negras.

“We hope to be laying a spiritual foundation as well as physical ones,” McMillon said. “We hope that one day these children can become a part of the church and their families will come with them.”

Through this trip, students hope to make a difference not just as a group but also individually.

“I just want to show the people there we care,” Branch said.” No matter what happens or what storms come, we’ll be there to re-build and care for them.”

Despite only being one person in a large group, Boyd believes keeping a positive attitude and setting examples were key to accomplishing the goals of the group.

“The best way I can make a difference there is by having a servant attitude,” Boyd said. “I hope that even though I had never seen these people before, I made them feel loved and most importantly, showed them God’s glory.”

Some students are sharing God through the gift of bilingual speaking.

“I usually do a lot of translating,” Tavard said. “There’s only one other person that went this year that can translate, so I made it a point to go and help.”

This trip was junior Leah Willis’ third visit to Piedras Negras.

“I go because I love serving other people and being a part of something where I can help make a difference,” Willis said. “The best part of the trip most definitely is all the kids that come to the work site. Even though there is a language barrier we are still able to establish amazing relationships and share our love with them.”

There are many benefits to going on a mission trip.

“It will stir even the faintest of faiths and truly lift up your spirit,” Tavard said. “There is just something about the combination of other people that love Christ in another language. The children that are so dear to us and the individuals we touch without even knowing it but express their gratitude to us make you feel God’s grandeur all around.”

The trip offered not only an opportunity to serve, but it also gave participants a new perspective.

“Everyone wants to be part of something bigger than them selves, to be someone who helps bring hope and inspiration,” McMillon said. “It’s about the best feeling in the world to help someone out when you know they would do the same thing for you.”

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