When Bobby Catt, minister of students at First Baptist Church in San Angelo, Texas, discovered a student mission trip opportunity in Wimberley in the Texas Hill Country, he knew he had to sign up his youth group right away.
Catt called the small town, with a population of just over 2,500, home for many formative years. Last Memorial Day weekend, numerous Wimberley residences sustained severe damage after record amounts of rainfall caused flooding across Central Texas.
Nine days after the flood, Catt and three members from his church traveled to Wimberley to begin relief work.
Nearly 10 months later, he heard about a spring break mission trip through BOUNCE Student Disaster Recovery, an opportunity he was eager to get his youth group involved in.
“I was able to get a group [of students] together from San Angelo and come back to my hometown to serve where I spent the first 18 years of my life,” he said.
BOUNCE, a ministry of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, responds to community needs following disasters by coordinating mission opportunities for middle school and high school students over spring break and summer.
Eighteen volunteers with the FBC San Angelo youth group were assigned to a house that bordered the Blanco River, which was a primary source of the flooding on May 23-24 of last year. Not surprisingly, Catt had a story to share about that very house.
“A guy that I know grew up in this home. We played little league baseball together,” Catt said. “We’ve known each other for 30 years, so there’s a personal connection here. It’s not just leading students to serve (just anybody) but to serve somebody that I can share the story about.”
Students spent the week demolishing a portion of the house, so the owners could begin repairing the foundation.
Catt said he was thrilled not only to show his students where he grew up but to see them taking time away from their spring break vacation to serve the community he once called home.
“Some of the kids that I brought with me would probably be eating cereal in their pajamas on the couch right now, but instead they woke up at 5:30 a.m. and are spending all day not just thinking about themselves, but thinking about God and thinking about the needs of other people,” he said.
Ryan Moran, one of Catt’s students, is no stranger to mission trips. After having attended about 15 trips in his life, he said he would not have done anything else over his spring break.
“Call me crazy, but I love this kind of stuff,” Moran said. “This is my time at the beach, I guess you could say. I have a blast doing it and hope to help people along the way.”
After having multiple experiences with BOUNCE, Catt said he believes that manual-labor mission trips teach people the application of what they learn in a classroom.
“All people, but especially teenagers, learn better by doing than by sitting in a classroom in a Sunday school room or even in a worship service,” he explained. “Those things are important and they’re a part of what we do, but if we don’t get them out and teach them what it looks like to serve and love their neighbors, they might learn a lot in their head but they’re not going to experience it with their hands and their feet and their whole bodies.”