Helping those in need can take you to some faraway places, but distance is not an obstacle to a group of Ozarks students who have gone for the past 14 years to help those in need hundreds of miles away.
By most economic measures, Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Americas. According to the United Nations Development Program, 48-percent of the population in Nicaragua live below the poverty line, 79.9-percent of the population live with less than $2 per day, and 27-percent of all Nicaraguans are suffering from undernourishment; the highest percentage in Central America.
Ironically it is also one of the most beautiful, especially along the Atlantic seaboard, the area formerly known as the Mosquito Coast. It was to this impoverished paradise that the U of O’s Alpha & Omega group traveled in late June and early July, bringing much-needed aid to a pair of small communities near the Caribbean port of Bluefields.
Members of Alpha & Omega pose for a picture during their recent mission trip to Nicaragua.
"Alpha & Omega is a non-denominational Christian organization on campus that meets once a week during the school year," said Kayla Casey, an A & O member on her sixth trip this year. "We meet to have devotion, pray, and have a good time sharing God’s love. Once a year, we host a mission trip to a country outside of the United States. This year, the mission trip was in two little towns in Nicaragua, Haulover and Awas. The primary purpose of this mission trip was to help paint two churches, give away food packages, host children activities, do door-to-door ministry, and most importantly, share God’s love."
"The hardest part of the trip was getting to the exact place where we would be doing the work," Kayla said. "having to take a bus for six hours from the capital, then a two-hour speed boat trip to Bluefields, and then 45-minute boat ride to Haulover." She added that dealing with the weather once they arrived was also hard - it rained a lot because the trip coincided with the region’s rainy season.
But despite these, challenges, Kayla said this trip might have been the best ever. The 18 A&O team members really clicked, and they ended up helping people with everything from getting unstuck from the mud to making food packages. "It is such an incredible experience and a blessing to be able to go on the Alpha & Omega mission trip each year," she said. "Going on these mission trips makes you realize what you have in life and to be thankful for all of the blessings God has given to you. You take back such a knowledgeable experience and become even more humble."
Other participants in the trip agreed. "The Alpha & Omega Mission Trip 2011 was really a huge blessing in my life and the life of the people in the community of Haulover," said Eugene Downs, Alpha & Omega member and mission trip planner. "We overcome every obstacle that was in the way with God’s help. Working with these people in need of spiritual and physical necessities was a wonderful experience. I am really thankful to God for all the members of A & O and to all who donated to this mission trip to make it a reality. The faces of the people from the community showed they felt A & O was a big blessing in their lives."
Dr. Rickey Casey, Executive Director of International Studies at Ozarks, has sponsored these trips for 14 years. "At that time," he said, "a group of our Walton Scholars expressed the feeling that not enough was being done to promote Christ on campus, in the local community, and internationally, so they decided to do something about it."
From that group, Dr. Casey said, Alpha & Omega was born.
"Our first trip was actually to Nicaragua," he said. "When we go, we work through local Walton scholar alumni and parents of current students to find ways to help locally."
He said the students have been on multiple trips to El Salvador, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua. "Really, any country in the world would be up for suggestion," he said. "We’ve tended to focus on Central America because of the number of students we have from there, but there’s no rule saying we couldn’t go elsewhere. The students do a Power Point presentation making their recommendation of where they’d like to go, and they put it to a vote."
Casey said the trips are funded by a combination of church donations, the U of O Student Government Association, and individual donors. "We pay for 40 percent of the student’s plane ticket, and they pay the rest," he said.
Kayla said that Alpha & Omega always welcomes newcomers. "Join Alpha & Omega and be active in the weekly meetings," she said. "It is available to all campus students. It is a non-denominational Christian organization. The more the merrier."
For more information, contact Dr. Rickey Casey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Topics: Student Organizations