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Students Lead Vacation Bible School in Thailand

September 23, 2014

Each year, dozens of students, faculty and staff take Global Outreach (GO) Trips which carry out OBU's mission to transform lives by equipping students to pursue academic excellence, integrate faith with all areas of knowledge, engage a diverse world and live worthy of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ. OBU's Avery T. Willis Center for Global Outreach mobilizes, trains and oversees GO Trips.

Gary Nickerson, assistant vice president for business affairs and information systems services, and Tina Nickerson, secretary for the college of arts and sciences, served as mentors for the team, including students Lauren N., Peggy M., Haley L., Morgan A., Christine F., Juliana L. and Emily N.

"I wanted to participate in a GO trip, and the trip to Thailand was the door that God opened for us to be able to step through," Gary said.

The team traveled to Chiang Mai, Thailand, a city filled with Buddhist temples and surrounded by mountains and rainforests.

Nickerson said that from his perspective, the most challenging thing was to gain the trust of 2- and 3-year-olds they had just met. "Many of them live in remote areas and rarely, if ever, see another white person other than their parents. Most of them had to make a conscious effort to speak English instead of their adopted country's language. Sometimes, when they were afraid or angry, they would lapse into speaking their non-English language and we would have to gently console them and encourage them to speak English to us," he said.

However, he said the most rewarding part was related to the most challenging. "The most rewarding thing was to be able to establish a relationship with the children quickly and to have their parents acknowledge that when we would see them in the evenings or after the training was completed," he said. "We were able to quickly earn the children's trust and friendship and that was very rewarding. The fact that the parents were able to relax and trust their children to our care while they were training and planning for their work was very rewarding," he said.

Juliana said the most difficult part of the trip was realizing how much of a sacrifice it really is to participate in these trips overseas. "Once you've seen it, you'll never forget it," she said. "Once you've seen what other parts of the world are like, you won't be the same. You'll live differently," she said.

Nickerson explained that it is important for students and faculty to participate in GO trips. "We acknowledge that a part of our mission is to 'engage a diverse world' and one of the ways that happens is through GO trips," he said. "Students talk about the OBU 'bubble' and how our views and experiences are limited by living inside that 'bubble.' Well, one of the ways of bursting that bubble, so to speak, is to actively engage in taking the good news of Jesus to others through a GO trip," Gary said. He added that he plans to be involved in another trip to Thailand in the future.