School and Church Join Forces to Strengthen Mission Trips
by Lisa Tramontana
Not many experiences have the power to bring young people together like a mission trip. Encouraging them to share their faith while serving others creates a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for spiritual growth. Taking them out of their comfort zone gives them a fresh perspective, a new world view, and an instant appreciation for the blessings they take for granted in their daily lives. Leaders at Parkview Baptist School understand this, and have worked hard to help as many students as possible participate in the missionary experience.
In the spring of 2014, Parkview Baptist School and Parkview Baptist Church launched a strategic initiative to partner with each other on several mission trips. The idea was to enrich opportunities for students and their families to participate in church activities.
After all, the school is the largest private Christian school in Louisiana with nearly 1,300 students representing 90 churches and 13 denominations. Combining school and church resources strengthens both. A good example, according to Superintendent Don Mayes, is the recent trip to Diriamba, Nicaragua, which included a team of 25 adults and teens.
Nicaragua – Spring 2016
The group was hosted by Nicaragua Christian Outreach, an organization that works with about 25 teams each year. In Nicaragua, the team participated in house building, community feeding, and worship.
“It was a great experience for everyone,” said Rich Mayfield, associate pastor of Student Ministry, “but especially for the youth members, who were able to work side by side with the adults and even see their teachers in the act of service. We went door to door and fed 125 families. We prayed with them and worshipped with them. As for the people we helped, we built relationships that are just priceless.”
Mayes, Parkview’s Superintendent since 2013, adds that the relationships among the Parkview students are just as meaningful. “It’s a true bonding experience,” he said. “It makes our student relationships stronger than ever. It brings together students who normally would never cross paths with each other. It creates instant friendships among the kids.”
Parkview hosts several mission trips each year, and every single student is invested directly or indirectly. Even the kindergarten classes help raise money and donate gifts and supplies for their schoolmates who are preparing to visit another country. Teachers incorporate the mission trips into their geography and social studies lessons. The young missionaries share their experiences with the school after they return home.
Jamaica – Winter 2016
One trip that is reserved for high school students is the annual mission trip to Jamaica. During the winter break, 15 PBS high school students shared that experience. Their first lesson was an eye-opening realization that Jamaica is a country of extremes. Just past the beautiful resorts so predominant in glossy travel magazines — are the poverty-stricken neighborhoods where residents live in squalor with poor housing and inadequate access to clean water. The Parkview team ministered in St. Mary Parish, the poorest area on the island.
Mayes, who is also a 1988 PBS graduate, was a leader on the trip, and in his online blog, expressed his pride in the students who went through a number of challenges, including a missed flight that created a 22-hour trip just to arrive in Jamaica, and a rained-out beach day at the end of the trip. He wrote:
Our students treated each other with respect, participated in work tirelessly, worshiped honestly, were extremely flexible to the very end, and cared deeply for those they served. They came back with the satisfaction of putting in hard work and with an appreciation for what they have. I believe God used the trip to plant many seeds and to form many perspectives in our staff and students that will produce a harvest of growth and unity on our campus.
New York City – Spring 2015
Some mission trips take place here in the U.S. Just last spring, Mayfield led a mission trip to New York City and students helped the homeless and shared the Gospel. “Every trip we make really opens their eyes,” he said. “It has helped me realize new things as well.”
Mayfield stresses that all of the school’s mission trips combine discipleship and evangelism. It’s an important distinction. As Christians, he said, the team members are disciples sharing their faith. As evangelists, they are reaching out to non-believers and hopefully bringing them to a relationship with Christ.
A Vision for the Future
Although the student ministry program is already strong, Mayes would like to see it grow even more in the coming years. “I have a vision for the school,” he said. “I want our students to look beyond themselves and be sensitive to other cultures. I want them to be grateful for what they have. I want them to be thankful for their parents. Mission work makes them better people, better Americans, with the right attitude and perspective. I want our students to have service and love for Christ in their DNA.”
It looks like that is already happening. On the school website, there are photos and videos of students immersed in their global movement to spread the Gospel, live a life of service, and practice their Christian values.
For more information about Parkview Baptist School, call (225) 291-2500 or visit parkviewbaptist.com.