I used to think that in order to make an effective mission trip, it was necessary to travel a long distance to a place in extreme and precarious conditions. If there is not a 10 hour long drive or long flight to a foreign country or town, then it is not a real and impactful mission trip.
The idea of going to Colcord, Okla. on a mission trip might not sound as attractive as Africa, Europe or South America. You might ask yourself the question, “Why spend a fall break in a place that is so close to JBU campus?” But I challenge you to start asking instead, “Why not?”
I want to share my experience on JBU’s fall mission trip to Colcord. First, being there gave me back that special feeling you get from people who, no matter their situation, always keep hope alive. Delaware County, where Colcord is located, is known as one of the poorest counties in Oklahoma. This is ironic, considering that it neighbors Benton County, which is one of the richest counties in the state of Arkansas.
Even though people in Colcord might not have the same lifestyle like the average American citizen, those four days in Colcord helped me remember to value the small details of life, which make it so special and valuable.
Among the most valuable experiences I had on this trip was the opportunity to share with the kids. We spent time with the local kids during the Sunday night service at First Baptist Church and on Monday when we visited Colcord Elementary School. Being with the kids helped me to get a deeper understanding of Colcord’s real situation. Kids in Colcord reminded me of what unaltered hope looks like. It is true that some kids suffer verbal and physical abuse from their parents in communities where people are economically challenged. Children always find a way to smile and have a good time even in the middle of hardships. These kids know how to have fun. They appreciated having a good mafia game during Sunday night service.
During our visit to the elementary school, Lili and I, both Walton students from Central America, had the opportunity to share part of our story with them. As Walton students, we come from a background where opportunities are very limited, conditions that might be very similar to the ones the kids in a small, poor town like Colcord are living in. We shared how our ability to dream, trust in the Lord and work hard allowed us to accomplish one of the greatest milestones in our lifetime: coming to the U.S. and acquiring a college degree with a full-ride scholarship.
The best part was not sharing our story, but seeing the kid’s excitement and desire to see their families, their town and themselves progress. They know how to dream that they can become anything they want to and travel as far as their imagination lets them. In the end, this is what we are called to do. To take the good news to those far away and to those who are as close as a 20 minute drive. The Colcord mission trip is not only about what you will give to these people through the hard work and time you spend in the community, but also about all the lessons that you will learn.
This trip challenged the way I approached missions and returned the sense of hope and waiting in God that brought me to JBU.
Salinas is a sophomore majoring in communication. He can be reached at SalinasJo@jbu.edu.