During the spring and summer months, many churches and groups put “love thy neighbor” into practice by sending teams of students or volunteers on mission trips. The following are two stories from local groups who recently returned from mission trips.
Vista Community Church
Vista Community Church in Temple sent a team of 15 high school students and seven adult leaders to the north coast of the Dominican Republic.
The team left on June 8 and returned late June 14. Chris Lackey, student pastor, said they served in several villages in the area between Pueto Plata and Sosúa while working with an organization called Go M.A.D.
Lackey said they did a number of things, including visiting a drug/alcohol rehab facility to encourage and pray with the people there.
“So that was just kind of a good time of building relationships and encouraging one another,” he said.
Lackey said they also helped build a playground in the village of Seberet.
“So a group had started that a week prior, so we finished out that playground for the kids in the village,” he said.
The playground was located at a school/medical center. Lackey said they also put in a sidewalk around the building, so the kids wouldn’t have to walk through the mud when it rained. He said they also painted classrooms and helped clean up trash around the village.
The team also worked in the village of Ascencion where they worked with a feeding program.
They have a meal that they make for the entire village every other day,” Lackey said. “And for some of these kids and families, this is the only meal they get – this meal every other day. So we helped them prepare the meal and serve the meal and played with the kids and just spent time with the people of that village.”
He said one of the biggest takeaways for the students was seeing the joy of the people there.
“When you look at it, they don’t have near as much material things as we do here… but they’re so joyful, and there’s such a sense of community there and family and pride in what they do have,” he said. “So when we’re working, they’re working alongside us and they’re so excited and have so much pride in the work that they do and what we’re accomplishing together.”
In May, students from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor College of Christian Studies led worship and served during a special trip to the Cayman Islands.
“I learned so much about the Lord and what He can do through just a short 10 days,” Cory Jo Martin said. “I grew in relationships with my classmates that will continue to encourage me in my faith.”
Ten students and two faculty sponsors from the UMHB College of Christian Studies traveled to the Cayman Islands to preach, serve, and lead worship in seven different local churches.
“I loved getting to know the congregation and its leaders, and getting to love and be loved by them,” Kaitlyn Anderson said. “I have a lot to learn about the culture and the people living in it, but I felt such a connection to the churches.”
Dr. Bill Carrell was one of two faculty sponsors on the trip. One of the aspects of the experience that he found most encouraging was witnessing the interaction between students and the local preachers.
“It was clear that these pastors and their spouses were encouraged by the attention and enthusiasm of our students,” Carrell said. “These faithful pastors serve small churches in a beautiful but isolated and sometimes lonely place.”
The ten students were divided into five teams and sent to churches for Sunday morning and Wednesday evening services.
“It was great to see how everyone on our team grew in confidence as the week went on,” Jacob Chesser said. “[We] could all tell that our presence on the island made a big impact.”
Along with serving in churches, the UMHB students had the opportunity to minister in area schools.
“Since the Caymans are a British territory, Christian ministers have greater access to schools than in the United States,” Carrell said. “Our students led assemblies in the schools with Christian songs, testimonies, and Bible stories.
“Before students had returned home, organizers were already planning future journeys.
“This trip changed my life. I met strangers, who turned out to be [like] my family, and I learned so much more about myself,” Rozzell Barber-Harris said. “[I] committed myself to full-time ministry because the people who were strangers to me made me feel like I had something to share.”