By Janet Bresenham, Freedom New Mexico
Sasha Parker and Casey O’Connor know their mission trip this month to China and Vietnam will be life-changing.
The two Eastern New Mexico University freshmen, both 19, said they also expect the experience to increase their faith and deepen their relationships with God.
“I know God’s going to change me and move me by this trip,” said O’Connor, whose 17-year-old sister Tearney, a junior at Dora High School, also will make the trip. “I know I will grow closer to God and become a stronger person and have more faith. I can’t wait.”
Parker, a member of First United Methodist Church of Portales who has been on two mission trips to Mexico, said she is looking forward to working with children at an orphanage in Vietnam as “another experience of being able to go and do God’s work. When you see how people live in other places in the world, it’s a real huge eye-opener.”
Parker and the O’Connor siblings, who attend Victory Life Church, are part of a group of Portales and Clovis residents from several churches who plan to travel to Hong Kong, mainland China and Vietnam from May 26 through June 7.
The group is preparing spiritually and mentally for the mission trip, with weekly prayer meetings and a two-day orientation later this month.
“I’ve been trying to get closer to God and really understand and hear God,” Parker said. “I’m working on my relationship with God a lot. I know nobody can ever give me what God’s given me. Growing up going to church with my family, I realize how blessed I am to have this opportunity.”
The idea for the mission trip to Southeast Asia began during a nondenominational Bible study for college-age youth that meets on Sunday nights in Portales.
Jolene Hale, who teaches the Bible study with her husband Austin, has taken dozens of young people on several mission trips to Juarez, Mexico. But this will be her first overseas mission trip, as it is for most of the group.
Hale, who will be taking her 12-year-old daughter Jordan, said that at 32, she will be the oldest member of the group.
“We’re really excited,” Hale said. “The mission trips to Mexico have been the most life-changing thing for young people that I’ve seen. I had always said that my kids would have an opportunity to go on mission trips, too.”
ENMU graduate JD Brown, who works with Greeley, Colorado-based In Motion Ministries, will lead the group. Fellow ENMU alumna Cristy Clarke, who has lived in Clovis and Portales, will be the group co-leader.
Both Brown and Clarke have traveled extensively throughout Asia and other parts of the world on various mission trips, Hale said.
Caleb King, who teaches and coaches at Dora High School and attends church at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Portales, rounds out the group of local residents going overseas.
Despite frequent political and social unrest in that part of the world, members of the group said they are not worried.
“I don’t think we should be afraid,” O’Connor said. “Jesus is on our side, so we’re pretty well protected. God has a plan and He’ll have it worked out. It’s pretty awesome how God works.”
“If God is sending me, obviously there’s a reason for me to go there,” Parker said. “I think going on mission trips is something I’ll do for a long time.”