Mission project teaches lessons, adds family

Story by Jessica Emerson, staff writer

Putting my bags into the van, the tears started to flow.

It was the last few minutes of the Ozark Mission Project. Hugs and final goodbyes were made as we all gathered into the worship room for the last time. As the closing ceremony went on, my mind drifted to the amazing memories that I made with the best people I have met in my entire life.

I started off the week being absolutely nervous and almost dreading the trip I was about to make. I didn’t want to leave my friends and the routine of sitting on my couch everyday watching “Gossip Girl.” Also, I wasn’t very excited about spending a full week outside in blazing 100 degree weather while wearing long pants.

As it turned out, that full week of sweat and bug spray was one of the best weeks I have ever had.

Ozark Mission Project, OMP, is an organization that is affiliated with the United Methodist Church. It is geared toward helping others and spreading God’s word through service for a week. It’s a whole week where your needs come last.

At OMP, you are divided into groups of four or five, and you don’t know anyone.

They are your family group.

You spend your entire week with them; you eat all your meals with them, do your projects with them, and worship with them.

I bonded with my family group by starting everyday with a cheesy song about Ham and Eggs at breakfast. If it wasn’t good enough, we had to do it again. It was probably the worst part of the day.

My week with a hammer and a nail was pretty interesting.  My group was given the project of building a porch and steps for a woman who could barely get out of her home. I consider myself athletic, but the conditioning you need to swing a hammer a hundred times is different than the conditioning needed to run up and down a basketball court.

Let’s just say, I went through many crooked nails. My family group even voted me “The Worst and Slowest Hammerer Ever.”

We ate lunch with the sweet woman both of the days we were there. She was a truly happy woman and offered us drinks and treats, knowing that we had brought our own. I was shocked to see how much she was offering us compared to how little she had. It made me realize how much she appreciated just having us as company.

I mean, think about it, we get to talk to our friends everyday. This women was just happy to talk to complete strangers for a half hour. It was very eye opening and made me appreciate all the opportunities that I have. It was hard saying goodbye to her. She was almost brought to tears.

Throughout the week, I benefited the most from the amazing people in my family group.

Not only could we be ourselves around each other, and sing off–key showtunes in the car, but we could also share with each other. I grew closer with that group of people than I ever had expected. We knew each other inside and out. We knew each others’ regrets, ambitions, and hobbies.  At the closing of the week, they were the hardest part of leaving.

The Ozark Mission Project was a great experience. It was definitely the highlight of my summer. I spent a week making lifelong friends, eating great food, helping people in need, spreading God’s word, and having fun while doing it. OMP taught me I should put everyone else before myself, and that my needs should come last.

I’m so glad I spent a week being the “Worst and Slowest Hammerer Ever” and singing a corny song about Ham and Eggs.