The scenic hills of eastern Oklahoma delighted students from two United Methodist campus ministries—the Wesley Center at OCU and the UCO Wesley Foundation—as they traveled to their destination of choice for Spring Break 2011.
Eleven students, along with directors Jennifer Long and Leslie Long, traveled there to share in ministry at Cookson Hills Center on March 13-18.
They soon learned picturesque drives and lovely lake homes were not reality for many who live in that area. Cookson Hills Director Meri Whitaker told them about the violence and poverty many residents face, issues that shape the center’s ministry. Touring the facilities, the students learned how this UM mission center offers people so much more than short-term help.
Cookson Hills provides health services, a senior citizens ministry, and child care. It supports and houses small businesses including a thrift store, a gift shop stocked with homemade goods, embroidery and printing services, and mat-making.
At the end of the tour, the students were inspired to serve on tasks to encourage this vital outreach.
Their work at the center included raking lots of leaves, cleaning out the Thrift Store, and prepping the children’s play area for spring.
They also assisted at some homes. They built a barn floor for a woman turning 70. They cleared trees at the request of some residents. The timber will become firewood, distributed by the mission to grateful low-income residents whose homes are heated by wood stoves.
The students learned annual income is $2,000 for some local senior citizens; purchasing a rick of firewood would cost them about $150.
The time at Cookson Hills was not all work. Each morning began with a Celtic devotional service, and students led evening worship.
The group ate lunch with the senior citizens and celebrated an early Saint Patrick’s Day with the daycare children, who delighted in pinching those not wearing green (it was a day early, after all!).
Love Not Hate Day
The third annual observance of Love Not Hate Day was sponsored April 13 by the Wesley Center at OCU and SPECTRUM. A total of 1,000 T-shirts was given away, and a free dinner, donated by Sodexo Food Services, was served outdoors on the OCU quad.
Stations offered tie-dyeing; making unity chains; and the reception of mission donations, including clothing for Skyline Urban Ministry, soda-can tabs for Ronald McDonald House, and items for Making Promises Happen (a camp for disabled children). A giant slip-and-slide proved popular.
A ministry of stress relief was the Wesley Center’s theme for Finals Week. It began May 2 with a special Evensong Worship that included a blessing of the seniors.
Wednesday at the Wesley, the free lunch and Bible study, featured a "Third-Grade Comfort Food" menu: macaroni-and-cheese, chicken nuggets (faux nuggets for the vegetarians), applesauce, and popsicles/ice cream sandwiches.
That evening the Wesley Center hosted a Jungle Pong Extravaganza, with snacks and fun from 9 p.m. to midnight.
The week also called students to think about the needs of others. The campus community was encouraged to participate in a clothing drive for Skyline Urban Ministry and to donate UMCOR emergency kits.