People have seen the campus of Mission First go through many changes over the years. One group that has been a part of those changes since 2001 is the Bear Valley Community Church youth group from Colleyville, Texas. Thanks to a member at First Baptist Church Jackson, this group was introduced to Mission First all those years ago. They have been faithfully serving with us ever since.
During their week on campus, Bear Valley dove right in to whatever was asked. Each morning, they worked with Eric Troyer, our Community Development Leader, on various projects which included sanding and priming cabinets for the new kitchen in the Activity Center, edging the community garden, cleaning up the Mission First property, soccer field, as well as the yards of widows in the neighborhood. In the afternoons, the group led the Oasis Summer Program children in Vacation Bible School. By leading our students in VBS, it allows Bear Valley students to grow and stretch their leadership skills in their faith.
Because Bear Valley has served with us for so many years, several of their students have been coming back for quite a few summers. Max Hatcher and Aubrey Werner have both served at Mission First for 5 years. “I really enjoy working with the kids in VBS. I see the Holy Spirit in their actions and their joyful smiles. I feel like Mission First has allowed me to strengthen my faith and find God in everything I do,” Max shared. Aubrey said her favorite part of these mission trips is always leading VBS. Since she has been coming for 5 years, she has gotten to see our students grow up, “hearing how much they love Jesus made my heart feel so full. I just really loved spending time with these kids!” She has known one student, Ryan, since he was in kindergarten and he has entered the 4th grade this school year. Aubrey continued by saying “it’s an awesome feeling to have seen these kids grow up over the years and see their love for God and my love for God grow as well through serving them and Mission First.”
It’s not just the students who are impacted by their time here. The leaders are changed as well. Julia Bauman, Associate Pastor of Students & Community Life at Bear Valley, said “spending time at Mission First always helps me to realign my priorities and put worries into perspective.” She was a student with the very first group from Bear Valley to serve at Mission First. She remembers what was once condemned apartments and now sees growth, change, and lives being transformed by the power of the Gospel of Jesus. “I see a community transformed and the love of Jesus being taught to children. I see adults filing inside for dental and legal help and I look at the community garden, and I taste and see that the Lord is good. I see the people who are blessed by taking refuge in Him, and I am grateful that we can be a part of this community.”
With 15 years of serving Mission First under their belt, they show no signs of stopping. Bear Valley is committed to the people of Mission First and plan to be back every year.