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Searching for Community: MVNU’s Service-Learning Trip to Cactus, Texas

Back in late April, many students headed home to enjoy two weeks of spring break. But a small group, led by Dr. Hank Spaulding, left for another home, a home of refugees in Cactus Texas. Spaulding recalled, “I honestly had no idea what to expect. I had never visited Cactus, Texas nor worked with refugees.”

They found a diverse community of people uprooted from their homes around the world. Many came from countries plagued by war, persecution or financial ruin. The team was sent to aid the Cactus Nazarene Ministry Center in caring for the refugees. According to Spaulding, “The needs are vast for the local population. The main need is medical care. The center provides the only medical aid near to the community. Many of the community are untrustworthy of medical facilities and organizations because of ICE and deportation. There is also a need for citizenship services and aid with social services. The center also teaches ESL courses for the adult refugees.” Medical and political expertise notwithstanding, the MVNU students helped any way they could. They cleaned, gardened, participated in the after-school education programs and tried to shoulder as much of the work as they could with the time they had.

One of the students joining Dr. Spaulding, Jordan Roush, recalls why he wanted to participate in this ministry. “When I was serving in El Salvador, there was a local news story about a man that had attempted to cross the border into America through a river and had lost his life and his child’s in the process. Hearing this story was extremely saddening and I knew that I wanted to help refugees. So, when I was looking at the options for the service-learning trip, I was extremely intrigued by this small town in Texas that housed many refugees… I am very happy that I went.” The entirety of the trip consisted of service to the locals. The Cactus team came away with dirty hands, tired backs and broadened horizons. As Dr. Spaulding put it, “My main take away was that forced migration is about broken communities. I believe that those who were relocated to Cactus desired community more than anything else.”

As the world deals with COVID-19, what will happen next in this community is uncertain. Like the rest of the world, they’re doing what they can – there is hope they will pull through. After all, “they were very strong and resilient.”

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