Niata Owens: Returning the Christmas favor

December 23rd, 2011 at 9:36 pm

ARLINGTON – While sorting through clothes hung on a rack at Mission Arlington, a woman stops Niata Owens and asks for some help. She’s found clothes for her husband, but she’s having problems finding a shirt for her young daughter. Niata flashes a bright smile, darts off and returns quickly with several options for the lady the lady to pick from.

Niata and the mother talk about the shirts and which one the daughter would like best. The woman thanks the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor student for being so helpful. Niata thanks her for coming. Niata’s glad she can help. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that she was once on the receiving end of such help.

Mission Arlington twice helped Niata’s family – once when she was two and again when she was seven or eight – so the prospect of serving on a mission trip here through Go Now Missions, Texas Baptists’ collegiate missions program, proved too much to resist. She saw the opportunity to return the care that once was provided to her and her family, a message she shared during the interview process.

“I told them I really wanted to do Mission Arlington because they help me before,” she said.

Niata only remembers a few of the gifts Mission Arlington gave her family, but vividly recalls what it meant to her family. The outreach center’s generosity encouraged her mother and gave her one less thing she needed to worry about during the Christmas season. Mission Arlington reminded the family that other people care about them during their time of need.

“Mission Arlington gave us a lot of stuff,” Niata said, looking back. “I was really thankful. It made a good Christmas.”

During the week Niata is spending serving at Mission Arlington, the aspiring teacher is performing a variety of tasks, including working in the Christmas store, helping people find clothes, data entry, counseling and working in the food pantry. Niata’s glad to do anything she’s asked. She knows each job helps someone find the assistance they’re seeking. It allows someone to experience the hope of Christ, possibly for the first time.

Working in the clothes closet has been particularly meaningful for Niata. There, she had the opportunity to know people better, including the children, which she loves caring for. When she looks into the eyes of the young people she meets, it’s easy for Niata to remember being where they currently are.

And how, hopefully, they will be where she is today.

“It means a lot to me. I really like to help people.”

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