Nov 21, 2019

School of the Ozarks students travel for annual mission trips

Students gather in front of the Hope Center dome
Students gather in front of the Hope Center dome after participating in service projects. Front row (L-R): Will Burney, Ariel Fansler, Leah McBride, Hadley Houston, Cassie Ellett, Blake Hudson, John Carswell, Ashley Fountain. Second row (L-R): Ben Evans, Hannah Sattazahn, Sara Janke, Macy Sanders, Brenda Forker, Jack Hamilton, Gage Vogt, Nehemiah Thompson. Third row (L-R): Rocky, Hope Center staff; Carson Cunningham, Kyle Anderson, Luke Johns, Sam Mutrux, Daniel Terry. Fourth row (L-R): Titus, Hope Center staff; Karson Johnson, Luke Martin, Kyeden Goodwin, Ben Sparks, Braden Nettleton.
S of O students with children in gymnasium
S of O students play catch with children in the Tower Grove Christian Academy gymnasium.
S of O student at 15th Street Baptist Church
S of O students gather in front of 15th Street Baptist Church after organizing clothing and supplies.
Student at table organizing art supplies
Students organize and prepare art supplies for distribution to the community.

POINT LOOKOUT, MO. — School of the Ozarks high school students embarked on mission trips this fall to St. Louis, Nov. 15 – 17, and Kansas City, Sept. 28 – 29.

St. Louis mission trip

A group of 23 S of O sophomores volunteered at Tower Grove Christian Academy and 15th Street Baptist Church on the weekend of Nov. 15 – 17. The students served the community by tutoring students, picking up trash, packing food baskets for Thanksgiving, face painting with younger children, organizing food and clothing pantries, and loading bags from a clothing drive onto a box truck.

The students were accompanied by sponsors Brad Dolloff, dean of School of the Ozarks; Abbey Vogt, associate professor of social studies; Faron Usrey, assistant professor of science and his wife, Jennifer; and Debbie Presson, School of the Ozarks counselor and her husband, Jay.

This was the seventh year for School of the Ozarks to visit St. Louis and volunteer at 15th Street Baptist Church, a church that sits on a corner across from a liquor store where drug dealers and prostitutes are commonly seen. When the students began picking up trash, residents exited their homes out of curiosity, but ended up helping the students collect trash. The members of that community recognize the mission of S of O students and respect them for their efforts, so the team has never felt unsafe.

“We want our students to understand first hand that the safest place to be is right in the center of God’s will,” Dolloff said.

This year students also tutored younger children and served as peer models at Tower Grove Christian Academy, a school that educates numerous children of refugees and immigrants.

“Our students learn to break down barriers,” Dolloff said. “When you learn to become the hands and feet, and the heart, of Christ, you don’t see things like geographic differences, racial differences, or economic differences. You see human beings who need love and need the gospel.”

“Watching our students dive in and spend eight to 10 hours working, and not having to ask them to work, was incredible,” Dolloff said. “When the students completed one task, they would seek out another all on their own. I loved seeing the students worship, participate, demonstrate the love of God, and be recipients of the love of God.”

Sophomore Titus Thompson learned that small things can make a big impact.

“It just takes a hug, a high-five, a smile, or even just sitting by the kids and being their partner to make their day,” Thompson said. “The little things we did to show them love made them so happy and really let me know the little things do matter.”

Sophomore Jaylyn Presson was nervous about spending time with children at Tower Grove Christian Academy.

“I was afraid most of the kids would ignore us,” Presson said. “But as soon as we walked into the room a little girl pointed at me and said, ‘She’s my partner, I want her.’ It was amazing to see that they really did accept us, and we really were making a difference. Sometimes we think we’re going to mess up, but they don’t care; they’re just thankful that we’re there with them in the moment.”

In addition to volunteering at 15th Street Baptist Church, students visited the St. Louis Gateway Arch and shared dinner at the home of The School of the Ozarks 1965 graduate, Lieutenant General Gary Hughey. They concluded their trip by attending a Sunday morning service at the church.

Kansas City mission trip

A group of 25 freshmen volunteered at the Hope Center in Kansas City, Sept. 28 – 29. Students participated in service projects such as pulling weeds, picking up trash in the neighboring community, deep cleaning the school’s kitchen and cafeteria, and organizing school supplies. Students also spent time getting to know the Hope Center staff and some of the elementary students who attend the Hope Center school.

The students were accompanied by sponsors Amy Martin, associate professor of humanities; Faron Usrey, assistant professor of science; and Wesley Saunders, instructor of vocal music.

This was the sixth year for School of the Ozarks to visit Kansas City and volunteer at the Hope Center, which is a community outreach center focusing on spiritual, educational, medical, economic, and family-based initiatives. The executive director of the Hope Center is former Branson resident Marvin Daniels.

Freshman Macy Sanders said this trip also allowed her to learn from her classmates.

“We had a lot of teamwork,” Sanders said. “We worked together really well and were able to use our gifts. Some of us are really good at organizing, and some of us are better at leading. Seeing those in our class step into a leadership position was amazing.”

In addition to volunteering at the Hope Center, students visited the World War I Museum, the Nelson Atkins Art Museum, and attended worship at the Mosaic Bible Fellowship.