During the second week of March, 168 middle school and high school students and group leaders from eight churches across Texas served in Waco, TX, through BOUNCE Student Disaster Recovery. BOUNCE is a Texas Baptists ministry that mobilizes students to assist communities with disaster recovery and community rehabilitation projects.
Using materials generously provided by Grassroots Community Development, a Waco-based non-profit with a mission to build healthy neighborhoods, 11 BOUNCE ministry teams constructed and installed wheelchair ramps, steps and porches. They also completed siding repairs and painting projects.
Meadowbrook Baptist Church in Robinson, TX, hosted the ministry teams, providing lodging, meals and space for evening worship so that students and leaders could recharge. Carlos Montoya, associate pastor at the South Oaks Campus of Fielder Church in Arlington, TX, preached and Ty and Madison McAllister of Fort Worth led worship.
Over two days of service, BOUNCE ministry teams reached four neighborhoods across Waco with 13 home repairs, nine spiritual conversations and 33 additional acts of kindness such as yard cleaning and lawn mowing.
“We see God work in a number of ways during these trips,” said BOUNCE Director David Scott. “The biggest way is seeing people’s quality of life improved and their hope restored－not only the people whose houses we work on but others in the community too. They are always encouraged by these students’ willingness to step up and serve where others might not be physically able.”
Spiritual maturity through service
Two of the BOUNCE ministry teams came from Mobberly Baptist Church in Longview, TX, and were led by Junior High Minister Will Hagle. The teams, composed mostly of passionate 7th and 8th graders as well as a few construction-savvy adult leaders, focused on replacing and painting rotted siding.
“One of my favorite things about serving with BOUNCE is seeing the work the students do,” Hagle said. “Adult leaders are really just there to provide guidance. The students are allowed to do most of the work.”
During community rehabilitation trips, BOUNCE ministry teams not only provide much-needed physical assistance but spiritual blessings as well. Unlike in disaster recovery situations, when many families are displaced from their homes, community rehabilitation trips provide more opportunities to engage with the community spiritually.
“One of our teams shared the Gospel with two adults and a child living in the house they were repairing,” said Hagle. “The students also explained the why behind what they were doing to many passers-by, even an ice cream truck driver. This often led to spiritual conversations.”
These interactions not only benefited people in the community, they also had big effects on the students who were serving. One Mobberly student, 7th grader Kate Myers, shared what she learned on the trip.
“God taught me that being neighborly is more than just knowing your neighbors,” she said. “It is being a neighbor to people at school, strangers, and even family. It is about helping others out even if you don't know them and if it isn't fun.”
Mobberly youth have participated in BOUNCE trips for many years. They continue to do so because there are many opportunities for spiritual growth.
“BOUNCE is many of our students’ first real mission experience. It is where they learn to own their faith. This means not just doing actions outwardly but having the right purpose behind those actions,” said Hagle. “I can tell stories about how I’ve seen God work, and that may sustain students for a while. But at the end of the day, students need to have their own experiences if they’re going to stay close to the Lord when they leave for college. BOUNCE gives them those experiences.”
Seeing the bigger picture
Middle school and high school students from First Baptist Church in Tyler (FBCT) made up three BOUNCE ministry teams. These groups worked on multiple sites, building a deck and ramp to allow safer and easier home access for elderly community members and working on an exterior painting project.
“It was pretty hard work, but that just made it even more rewarding to see what we built after we finished it,” said junior Timothy Humphries. “BOUNCE taught me how to be grateful for what I have and helped encourage me to be more neighborly towards other people. I loved being able to join in work and worship with my friends and being able to glorify God by serving the community around me.”
The FBCT teams ministered spiritually alongside their physical service.
“Each site has a designated ‘evangelism recorder.’ This student’s job is to engage in spiritual conversation with both the homeowner and people who pass by the site,” said FBCT Minister to Students Casey Cockrell. “One of our middle school girls was excited to take on this position. She did a great job monitoring activity around the site and taking every opportunity to share the Gospel with community members.”
FBCT has been actively involved in BOUNCE for five years. Cockrell said his students continually go because they know their service makes a difference.
“On BOUNCE trips, there is a bigger picture than just completing one construction project, and the students see that. When we pull out at the end of a trip, many local organizations that partner with BOUNCE are there to stay,” said Cockrell. “Students know that they’re part of a lasting effort. They see the larger system put in place to make sure change continues to happen. This is one of the main reasons we love taking part in BOUNCE.”
Effects of COVID-19
BOUNCE organizes multiple mission trips during both spring and summer breaks. This year, the second week of Spring Break mission, which was scheduled for March 15-18, was canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“It saddens me that we had to cancel our second mission opportunity, but we must take into consideration the health of our students, team leaders, volunteers, ministry partners and communities,” said Scott. “We want to err on the side of caution.”
BOUNCE will make decisions regarding its summer trips in the coming months as Texas Baptists continues to monitor the developing COVID-19 situation.
“As of right now, our prayer and plan is to mobilize students this summer,” said Scott. “We have so many students who are eager to go. They could choose to do any number of things during their holidays, but they chose to serve－getting up early in the morning, working outside all day, sleeping on air mattresses in a church and showering in disaster recovery trailers. It’s not glamorous work, but it is valuable, and the students know that.”
To support BOUNCE efforts across the state of Texas and beyond, click here.