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Missions build relationships

Friday, March 28, 2008  
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This Spring Break, 131 college students from Edmond Church of Christ and Memorial Road Church of Christ traveled to various locations in Mexico and Honduras to build structures, encourage people and show love to village residents.

This will be Edmond’s 19th annual mission trip to Mexico. This year, they worked in the villages of Aquiles, LaUnion, San Rafael, La Mesa, Santa Maria, La Cieneguita, El Refugio, Rancho Nuevo and El Naranjo.

This year was Memorial Road’s 8th year to travel to Mexico for mission work. Campus Minister Jeff McMillon he started the trips so students could put their faith into practice. Another Memorial Road group traveled to Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

“I was looking for a way to get our kids to live out their faith, not just talking about it and memorizing scriptures,” McMillon said. “That’s all great, but I felt like we needed something to kind of push us a step beyond that to live it out. It’s mostly a chance to serve and live out our faith and to kind of see the world beyond what we live in every single day.”

Memorial Road has been working on building a school for handicapped children in Piedras Negras since 2005.

“For the last three years, we’ve been working on the same project with the same leadership, same church and the same Christians,” McMillon said. “It’s a huge building project. We’re at a different phase as far as the building goes, but we continue to focus on building a school for handicapped children that’s connected to a church that we’re also helping them build.”

This was junior Kassie Walker’s third year to go to Mexico with Memorial Road. Walker started going on the mission trips as a way to meet more people and to do something different. Walker particularly enjoyed the time spent with the children.

“It is so important to take every opportunity you are given and do something with it,” Walker said.

Last Fall Break, Memorial Road continued their building project by digging a large hole for a physical therapy pool to add to their building for handicapped children. Over Spring Break, they worked on leveling the dirt and pouring concrete floors.

“What’s great is you don’t have to be a construction expect, because I mean, I’m not,” McMillon said. “Our Mexican friends teach us what to do and show us how to do it, and they hang out with us and make sure we’ve got it. You don’t have to be a big shot to know how to do it.”

McMillon said one of the best parts about going to Mexico every year is seeing the progress the church is making with the building.

“I love to continue to see how the project grows and starts seeming more real,” McMillon said. “I want to get that feeling of continued hope that we’re getting closer to our goal of being able to help these kids who have no other help.”

Walker sees the mission trip as more than just an opportunity to build a school but rather, a chance to build relationships with the people and children in Mexico.

“I don’t really like to look at it as what I am getting out of it,” Walker said. “I want to try to look at it as what can I give to make it a better trip and to help us to accomplish more than just building a school. We get to spend a lot of time with the kids there, and that is my real passion.”

Edmond continued to pour concrete floors in houses, deliver care packages, have Vacation Bible School, offer dental work and build water lines this year. They also added fumigating and painting homes to this year’s agenda.

Edmond’s Campus Minister Evan Burkett said the additional projects are more than just cosmetic changes. The paint being used will help hold the villager’s homes together.

“We’re taking on two new projects this year that we’ve never done before. One is fumigating all the homes in several villages, and the other is painting the outside of their mud and stick homes,” Burkett said. “It’s a latex paint and will almost hold those homes together now.”

Burkett said the mission trip is unique because students have the opportunity to build relationships and work together with the community.

“This trip is different than other trips students could take, even different than other mission trips they could take, because we do work projects and interact with the local families and children who are Christians and those who are not Christians,” Burkett said.

Senior Brett Russell has gone to Mexico every year he has been at Oklahoma Christian University.

“I love being able to go back and see people I’ve met year after year,” Russell said. “There is one village in particular, LaUnion. The first year I went, I got to work with that village a lot with all the children there. I really love being able to go back there because so many of the kids remember who I am, which makes it that much more special.”

Senior Leigh Bragg has also gone to Mexico every Spring Break. Bragg is studying to be a dentist and heard there would be opportunities to shadow a dentist while on the mission trip.

“At the dentist office, the people are so nice even though they’re in so much pain. They are just so grateful for everything you do for them,” Bragg said. “The ladies you do house work for are just happy to have people there helping them and seeing what they experience every day.”

Students who have gone on the trip agree going to Mexico and seeing how the people live there is a very humbling experience. Russell said the best part is being able to see Christ in the people of Mexico.

“If you can see how they live, it’s very, very different from the way we do,” Russell said. “All of them are pretty much farmers or they raise livestock. It is a very poor community.”

Russell said even though the people have very little, they are still happy because they know Christ, and they have faith.

Bragg said going on this trip will make students realize they don’t need all of the material things they think they need.

“Here in the U.S., we’re more concerned with material things, and here you have people who don’t have anything, but they’re just as well off as you are spiritually,” Bragg said. “They’re just so happy to have you there, and it just makes you realize you don’t need all the stuff you want. You can be perfectly fine without it.”

McMillon also finds it hard to return without being changed when it comes to material possessions. This trip has shown McMillon God loves everyone, no matter how much they have or don’t have.

“When you come back from things like that, it’s hard to go spend $150 on a pair of jeans or get really upset when my laptop can’t get connected to wireless Internet as fast as I want it to because there are so many people in the world who have much, much less than we do,” McMillon said. “I think it makes us less materialistic. I think it gives us a global picture of how God loves everybody and not just white, middle-class Americans.”

Burkett looked forward to the transition students go through after coming home from Mexico as well as seeing them growing spiritually.

He said the Mexico trip not only produces servant hearts, but it also changes lives.

“I’ve seen this trip change some of our students,” Burkett said. “They are more willing to serve other people, they are more willing to lead other people, and they really grow tremendously while they’re there.”

Interacting with college students is also a high priority on the McMillon’s list.

“It’s a guarantee that I’m going to be closer with all the students who go on this trip when we get home and when we leave,” McMillon said. “As a college minister, my number one priority is having as many deep relationships with college students as I can.”

The language barrier doesn’t stop the interaction between the students and villagers. Bragg said the best part of the trip is being able to understand they are grateful for her help.

“[The best part is] seeing the people’s faces when you’ve done something for them,” Bragg said. “They really are so grateful and even though you don’t speak the same language, you understand they are grateful by their actions.”

Burkett said these trips have helped him realize there are no boundaries when it comes to loving God’s people.

“There really are no borders in God’s kingdom,” Burkett said. “We are part of a larger body of believers in the world, and that has stretched my thinking about the kingdom overall.”

McMillon encourages any student interested in going on the trip to Mexico to go next Spring Break whether it’s with Edmond or Memorial Road.

“God is amazing, and he will do great things through anybody who trusts him enough to just jump in and do it,” McMillon said. “He’s not looking for heroes. He just wants somebody who cares.”

Article written by Talon writer, Tracy Corcoran.

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