Please note: Only partial names were used in this story, for security purposes. Last names were intentionally left off for all members of the group for safety reasons.
A group of Oklahoma Baptist University students and faculty traveled to Panama Jan. 2-20, where they assisted and encouraged a local Baptist church. The trip mentor was Assistant Professor of Spanish Cho, and OBU students attending the trip included Rachel, Will and Katherine.
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.
The purpose of the trip was to strengthen and encourage the local Baptist church in El Valle, Panama. The team did this practically by assisting in service projects and by providing an English class at the church’s Vacation Bible School.
Rachel, junior elementary and special education double major, commented on the difficulty of the language barrier.
“I haven't taken a Spanish course since elementary school, and am currently taking French,” she said. “We rely so much on language to understand one another and once it’s taken away, it becomes hard to relate to one another. I relied on my facial expression and body language to speak for me, so I always had to be sure to conduct my body in what I wanted my mouth to say.”
Despite the language barrier, she was still able to connect with the children attending the VBS.
“The most rewarding part of this trip were the hugs that I would get at the end of each day at VBS,” she said. “Even when I thought I did a terrible job teaching them English, they always showed me so much love. Also, hearing the kids chant ‘Dios es Amor! God is love!’ was so rewarding, and if that's the only English they learned, it's still so worth it.”
She encouraged others to go on a GO Trip and experience for themselves all that these trips have to offer.
“I think it's important for OBU students to be a part of GO Trips for many reasons. I would have never met the people I went on a trip with if I hadn't gone, and now I consider them good friends. You learn so much, not only about different cultures, but also about yourself. It forces you to grow, which also forces you closer to God. So many things happen on a GO Trip that will change your life forever.”
For more information on OBU’s GO Trips, visit www.okbu.edu/global-outreach.