Students at John Brown University have a passion for mission work, whether outreaching locally or internationally. JBU has emphasized locally directed missions, and during this fall break, a team of 12 students served the community of Colcord, Okla.
Frank Huebert, director of service and outreach ministries, has seen a need nearby and has the desire to offer local mission trips to students.
“We often spend large amounts of money and resources to travel large distances for trips when we could spend considerably less to do similar good in a community that needs a lot or has a lot to teach but is less exotic,” Huebert said.
“That in no way takes away the importance of these other ‘long distance’ trips,” Huebert added.
“They are very important to the JBU experience. We are just hoping this kind of trip can become a larger part of our vision.”
Huebert didn’t choose the location at random. Instead of starting something new, the team found people at work in Siloam, and Huebert partnered with the local Kind at Heart Ministries.
According to their website, Kind at Heart is “an inter-denominational Christian organization committed to bringing together believers from all denominations to serve Jesus Christ by helping those in need–especially the widows, the elderly and the disabled.”
Often, Kind at Heart works with those unable to do housework and helps with basic maintenance like changing air filters, yard work and cleaning.
Huebert expected to be leading a team in Siloam Springs, but he said that the founder of Kind at Heart, Wayne Thomas, “saw this extended service project as an opportunity to begin meeting a long list of needs that he has had on his list in Colcord.”
Freshman Philip Braun, who participated on the mission team, said he learned that, “You don’t have to tear up your life and move to a strange land to be an instrument for change. There is need 20 minutes away; there is need 2 minutes away. We don’t have to do anything great or worthy of fame; we just have to give a moment of our time, and we can change someone’s life.”
Nick Fields, student ministries leader in training (SMLT) outreach director, worked with Thomas in designing the trip to continue Kind at Heart’s work in Colcord and building connections with the churches there.
Fields said, “It was a great time to get involved in the community and see where we could go alongside the church, not just get in and do our own thing.”
Originally, the team was going to go to Colcord to paint an elderly woman’s home and build her a wheelchair ramp. She was just coming out of rehab and would be unable to walk.
Unexpectedly, the woman passed away the Tuesday before fall break. The team did not build her a wheelchair ramp but decided to paint her home for her family.
Fields also got in touch with four main churches in Colcord. The team met with each church individually to learn how JBU could come alongside and join with what each church was already doing.
Fields said JBU hopes to continue working with people in Colcord throughout the year, which is one of the best benefits of local missions work.
“Things are looking up for Colcord. Even though it is hard to break out of the cycle, if you look at specific stories throughout the community, they are really showing signs of coming out of hard cycles,” he said.
Senior Alyssa Schoenwald was part of the Colcord team and said, “I felt enchanted by the strong sense of community there, but I felt saddened by the extreme poverty of the residents.”
“And I felt regretful for not helping such a need-filled community sooner,”
Schoenwald has served internationally, but she said, “Look to your back door! People need my and your help, and the Colcord community is ready and eager to embrace your help.”
Sophomore Becky Ramirez said, “I learned more about how people in run down areas rely on and build off of each other. The way that some of the kids we met took it upon themselves to help each other showed how God doesn’t just send outsiders to help poor populations; He uses the people raised there as well.”