Impacting Lives Around the World: OC Missions Students serve on spring break mission trips

  • OC sophomore James Levi Burkett with a young friend named Sophia in McAllen.
OC sophomore James Levi Burkett with a young friend named Sophia in McAllen.

Stepping outside of your comfort zone can be difficult, trying, and scary for many reasons. Many Oklahoma Christian University students participated in short-term missions before college, but for others, the chance to serve with OC is their first opportunity to experience the mission field. This year, as always, OC sent students to the corners of the world. From nearby Texas to the villages of Cambodia, these students spent their spring break serving and growing in new ways.

Preparing for Mission Trips
Savanna Harris
Senior – Elementary Education Major 

Every trip begins with a launch. Savanna Harris, president of outreach for the mission trips, helped make this year’s trips a reality. We interviewed her to find out how she coordinated the behind-the-scenes efforts of each trip and the importance missions play in her life.

What trips did you help organize? Why were you interested in helping?

I helped organize the Outreach spring break trips to Boles Children’s Home in Quinlan, Texas, and Impact in Houston, Texas. (I didn’t go because I was invited on a study tour to Israel that same week.) At Boles, OC students interacted with and encouraged the children there, as well as helped out with service projects around the campus. At Impact, students helped the church host a Vacation Bible School (VBS) and held a worship service at a nursing home and an assisted living center. Every year, Outreach organizes a couple of spring break trips to provide students with the opportunity to go and serve. It is Outreach’s mission to connect students to mission opportunities locally and around the world.

Would you recommend students participate in mission trips?

Most definitely! Mission trips provide so many benefits all around. First, it’s a command from God to go and serve people in His name. Second, you bless those you’re serving, in more ways than one, by providing for their physical needs as well as their spiritual needs. Third, you grow yourself by learning more about yourself and your interest, reaping the joy of serving and deepening your faith.

Changing Lives Nationally
James Levi Burkett
Sophomore – Communications Design Major

Serving on the mission field or participating in short-term missions is often associated with going abroad. However, you don’t have to travel outside of the U.S. to make an impact. James Levi Burkett traveled to McAllen, Texas, this year and is a prime example that you can serve anywhere and everywhere you go.

Why did you choose to go on a mission trip this spring break?

I grew up going on mission trips, and I’m especially drawn to ones that happen over spring break. When I was a kid, my family started going on the spring break Mexico mission trip with Edmond Church of Christ. I went for nine years before we found out we couldn’t go anymore for safety reasons. These experiences made me fall in love with traveling and missions work. I try to go on as many trips as I can. There’s something about being part of a group that’s working toward the same goal that can give you encouragement like nothing else can. Missions help you grow individually, spiritually, and relationally.

Why did you choose the McAllen trip?

This was the third year we’ve gone to McAllen over spring break. We originally decided to choose McAllen because it was as close to Mexico as we could get. It started out as an interim location until we could go back to Mexico. But three years later, we’ve started to put down roots because we’ve realized we might not be able to go back to Mexico for a while. This year’s trip consisted of work projects, Vacation Bible School, door knocking, and a big cookout aimed at bringing the people of McAllen into relationship with the local congregation there. There were also many work projects that we got to be a part of – from painting houses to fixing roofs to pouring concrete floors.

I try to go on as many trips as I can. There’s something about being part of a group that’s working toward the same goal that can give you encouragement like nothing else can. Missions help you grow individually, spiritually, and relationally. James Levi Burkett

Tell us a little bit about your trip.

The highlight of my week was getting to work with the kids at VBS. I had worked with the videography group all week filming the different projects, so I hadn’t really gotten a chance to dig in and work on my own with a group. So the last day we were there, I decided to help with VBS instead because I’d filmed all that I had needed to. And I’m so glad I did. I love kids, so getting to hang out with them, teach them about God, and play games with them all day was so rewarding.

The first year I went to McAllen, I met a little girl who was 2 years old named Sophia. We hung out pretty much the whole week, but the next year when I went back, I couldn’t find her. So when we went this year, I fully expected not to find her. This year, I spent a lot of time playing games with a boy named Juan who was about 7 years old. The last day we were there – the day I did VBS – something incredible happened. I was playing Frisbee with Juan, and a little girl came up to me and asked me where her brother was. It was Sophia, and it turned out that she and Juan were siblings.

I had trouble committing fully to McAllen because I love the Mexico trip so much. And I was afraid that if I started to connect to the people in McAllen that we would go back to Mexico and I would have to leave the people in McAllen behind. It’s crazy to me how even though I was determined not to put down roots in McAllen, God worked in my heart through these two kids.

Would you recommend students participate in mission trips?

I will always advocate for missions. Some of my best, most adventurous, and exciting memories are from mission trips. I can’t say enough how much I believe that missions help you grow more than anything else. If you’re a student and you’re debating whether to do missions or not … stop debating. No matter your major, no matter your interest, short-term missions are absolutely worth your time.

Changing Lives Internationally
Mit Vikraman
Graduate Theology Student

Why did you choose to go to Cambodia?

I just joined OC last fall, so this is my first mission trip as an OC student. But while I was home in Malaysia, I was part of this event for nine years in Cambodia called Angkor of Faith, AOF, the mission trip that the OC team went to this year and last year. I’ve also had the privilege of organizing the event three times. So this event is really close to my heart, and watching all the great things God has been doing through it over the years has been absolutely amazing! I’ve also been to Cambodia for other mission trips, so I’ve been there a total of 12 to 13 times.

What story will you always remember about your trip?

I used to be a really shy and awkward kid, and so when I went to my first AOF, I was too shy to make friends or actively participate in all the things that were happening.

I remember this 4-year-old sweet girl who would always look for me and sit with me while others were doing other stuff. She didn’t speak English, and I didn’t speak Khmer, the local language. So we would just sit there together and watch others. On the last day, she gave me a 500 riel note (about 12 cents) folded into a heart. When I returned to Cambodia the next year, she still remembered me and would come looking for me every day. At a time when I was so shy and did not know if I could do any good or make any impact, this girl reminded me it didn’t take much to spread love and joy. When I felt like I had nothing to offer, she taught me God can use anyone and anything He wants to make an impact. I don’t know what impact I had on her, but it has been nine years now, and that 500 riel note folded into a heart is still in my wallet. I see it every day, and it reminds me that it doesn’t take much at all to share love and joy.

What is one piece of advice you’d give students who want to go to Cambodia on future trips?

It might be scary to go to a country that is far away and so different from the U.S., but it is definitely a decision you won’t regret. I’ve seen lives changed and transformed on short-term mission trips just like this, so just go for it. And when you do, don’t drink the tap water. Trust me on this: I’ve learned the hard way.

  • OC students, faculty, and staff serving on their spring break mission trip to Honduras.
OC students, faculty, and staff serving on their spring break mission trip to Honduras.

Dr. Dudley Chancey
Associate Professor of Youth Ministry

How many times have you been to Honduras?

One of my friends took me the first time in 1998, and I got hooked. Since then, I’ve been more than 100 times. I’ve gone with OC students about 20 times since 1999.

What story will you always remember about your trip?

I have fond memories of the Baxter Institute, a seminary that trains ministers. It touches me that guys sacrifice a lot to come from Spanish-speaking countries around the world to spend four years to learn how to do ministry.

What is one piece of advice you’d give students who want to go to Honduras on future trips?

Read the book When Helping Hurts.

A Continuing Journey

Going on a mission trip can change your life. From experiencing other cultures to creating lasting relationships with friends old and new, we believe in the transformative power that comes from participating in a mission trip. Learn more about participating in missions with OC here.



Summer 2016

View more stories from the Summer 2016 issue of Vision magazine.