In January, graduate student Kelsey Ricks traveled to Belize for the first time. She went as a member of Oklahoma City University’s OKVIM* Student Mission Team.
On June 5, she returned to the Central American nation with an open-ended ticket.
Originally Ricks had planned to go in 2015 with OCU’s Student Mission Team, but family health concerns prevented that at the last minute.
"Since the ticket was non-transferrable and already paid for, I told her to be sure to use it for a personal trip sometime in the next year," said Charles Neff, OCU vice-president for church-relations and team leader for both mission trips.
"I was surprised when I received a call in October from Kelsey, asking if she could join the 2016 team. She already had the plane ticket, and we still had one seat left in the van, so I said, ‘We’ll make room.’"
Thus Ricks joined the January construction team working at Belmopan Methodist High School. On the last night of that trip, following worship with a Methodist congregation, the missionary owners of the camp where the volunteers were housed asked her to consider returning in the summer.
They asked her to conduct a day camp program for the village’s children.
Email conversations followed and, by April, Ricks was ready to say yes to the opportunity. She graduated in May.
"One opportunity led to another and now here I am, right where God wants me to be," said Ricks after arriving back at Camalote Camp near Belmopan. "The OCU mission trip in January opened me to a world of new possibilities. I’m excited to see what comes next!"
She is the daughter of United Methodist pastor Ricky Ricks of the Texas Conference.
(*Oklahoma Volunteers In Mission)
OCU expands mission focus
For the 2016-17 academic year, OCU will expand its missional offerings to students, faculty, and staff.
In January 2017, Rev. Neff will lead another construction team to Belize, in conjunction with a team from the OCU Kramer School of Nursing, whose members will focus on community health initiatives.
In March, Elizabeth Horton-Ware, the new OCU director of religious life, will lead a domestic mission trip.
And in May 2017, Neff plans to lead a second international mission trip.
For the first time, students can earn college credit for these missions. By participating in a special preparation session before travel and writing a reflection paper after returning, one hour of credit is earned. Students also will have the opportunity this fall to enroll in a course titled "Mission Studies," worth two credit hours. The class will be co-taught by Neff and Jeremy Basset, director of the Oklahoma Conference’s Office of Mission.
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Kelsey Ricks helps build a high school in Belize, Central America, in January.
Ricks prepares to board a flight from Oklahoma back to Belize in June.