Mission trips this summer took Marion County youths south, where they saw a different side of life than what they see at home.
Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church’s youth group went on an annual mission trip to Anadarko, Okla., and young people from Parkview Mennonite Brethren Church went to the border of Mexico in south Texas.
Four sponsors and 19 students worked with Christian Center of Anadarko to provide vacation Bible school July 12 to 17.
Billed as the Native American capital of the world, Anadarko is riddled with crime, sponsor Greg Brown said. With a population between 6,000 and 7,000, it has a higher crime rate than Oklahoma City.
Brown said he probably was more worried about safety than the students were, but they took precautions for safety nonetheless.
“I appreciated how much they connected with the kids,” Brown said.
The first thing Franny Gottsch saw as a first-year participant was a girl running up and hugging Spencer Brown. The girl had recognized him from the previous year.
Seven of the youths who went on the mission trip gathered Monday. All seven said they had been in contact with one or more of the Bible school students since returning to Hillsboro.
The Bible school had a sports theme for children ages 3 through high school juniors. Crafts and singing also were part of the program, but singing wasn’t very popular with the children.
“It’s not cool to sing songs,” Spencer Brown said of the children’s attitude.
The youths also worked with the center’s soup kitchen. First-time participant Krista Reimer said she was helping to carry boxes of food to people’s cars when a woman who clearly needed the money donated $5 to the Bible school.
She tried to give the money back to the woman, but the woman refused.
“A really cool thing we got to do was witness to people and love people who don’t get much attention,” second-time participant Jake Wiebe said.
Parkview Mennonite Brethren Church youths helped with SOAR South Texas July 13 to 25. The trip served several towns, sponsor John Wiebe said. Eight adults and 29 students participated in the mission trip.
Amy Bartel was in a group that presented a Bible school and carnival for children ages 2 to 14 in Garciasville, Texas. Garciasville is about three miles from the Mexican border. The theme of the Bible school was “A Tiny Adventure.”
Despite recent frightening news from Mexico, she wasn’t afraid for her safety.
“The people are really friendly there,” Bartel said. “They treated us like family right away.”
It was her first mission trip, and she said she would like to do it again.