Some professionals consider vacation time from work as an opportunity to relax, recharge and re-energize from their daily routines.
Others use the time not only as an opportunity for R & R but also as a chance to venture into a dangerous foreign land in the name of helping others.
Springfield attorney Mark Brinkmann, a partner with The Law Offices of PalmerOliver PC, and his wife, Kelly, traveled Oct. 30–Nov. 5 to Saltillo, Mexico, with a mission group sponsored by Second Baptist Church.
The trip marked the first for the Brinkmanns, with the group helping to build a church.
The area is in a violent part of Mexico, Brinkmann says, and news of gang violence against migrants was evident in daily newspaper reports. For that reason, Brinkmann says he would be hesitant to return to Saltillo.
“It sounds like it’s time for the government or somebody to step in again before missions can continue, which is sad, because those people down there, they loved it,” Brinkmann says.
As troubling as the crime, Brinkmann says, is the region’s poverty, which is constantly visible. Saltillo is a far stretch from Springfield, where he has worked as an attorney since October 2003. But Brinkmann says his mission work is rejuvenating professionally and spiritually.
“The kids were just happy you were there,” Brinkmann says. “They would come up to you, even though you’d never met them before, you’d be carrying blocks or something in your hand, they’d come up and give you a hug. I didn’t speak any Spanish, really, but they’d just smile and were glad to see you.”
Brinkmann and his wife were on a team of 15, but as it turns out, three members of the Brinkmann family made the trip.
“We signed up, and then we found out we were pregnant and she went anyway,” Brinkmann says, noting that his wife was 12 weeks along at the time of the trip.
“There were members of the team who wouldn’t let her do a whole lot,” Brinkmann says. “She was getting kind of frustrated because she wanted to do some stuff.”
Springfield’s National Heights Baptist Church also sends mission groups to Mexico.
Robb Chandler, a pharmacist with CoxHealth and National Heights missions committee chairman, leads the group’s participation in annual Greene County Baptist Association mission trips, including its partnership with the Nazareth Baptist Church in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Chandler has traveled on mission trips with the Greene County Baptists for 14 consecutive years to Guadalajara and, like Brinkmann, finds the experience fulfilling.
“I decided (traveling to Guadalajara) was the thing to do. After going once, I knew I had to go back,” says Chandler, who most recently returned in July along with seven others.
Chandler says his mission group has accomplished two major feats – establishing a self-sufficient vacation Bible school program and distributing 500 pairs of reading glasses.
The Brinkmanns and Chandler hope to continue their mission work and join other Springfield businesspeople who have taken mission trips, including architect and developer Dan Scott, who has been to numerous countries in Asia and Europe, and Dr. Gil Mobley, owner of Dr. Gil’s Immediate Care, who travels to Guatemala a couple of times a year.
Mobley was in Guatemala for the Nov. 19 grand opening of Hospitalito Atitlan, a hospital he’s recruited volunteers to help build the past two years.
“My MO is to gather groups to go down on short-term building trips – community service vacations,” Mobley says. “That allows us to meet short-term goals.”
Mobley’s group will be going to Guatemala again in August. He says the cost of the eight-day trips is about $1,000 a person.
Other Springfield-based nonprofits take their work worldwide and offer volunteer opportunities. Convoy of Hope, an organization that aims to feed the hungry, and the Rainbow Network, whose mission is to end poverty in Nicaragua, each offer volunteer opportunities.
Mission work through Second Baptist Church was something the Brinkmanns gave much thought.
“It’s basically a ministry outreach there, to go on mission trips,” Brinkmann adds. “They kind of suggest it to you, and it’s where the Lord leads you.”[[In-content Ad]]