By Branson Hardcastle | Reporter
Baylor freshman Michael Karr had always dreamed of going on mission trips to help others in need. During the summer of his junior year of high school, Michael got his chance.
Michael is a native of Waco and has been raised in the church. Traveling and missions have been passions of his from an early age. Michael began attending Highland Baptist Church in Waco during his sophomore year of high school. He connected with his youth pastor, Jordan McKinney, who discipled him by doing Bible studies with him. This connection between them led Michael to get more involved in the student ministry.
“I saw Michael as someone who was hungry. He was showing up to church alone. His family and his brother didn’t go to church here at this time. He was just showing up because he wanted it,” McKinney said. “He wanted the Lord. He wanted to be discipled. He wanted to go to a place where he felt like he belonged and get poured into.”
In 2015, the youth ministry at Highland Baptist Church announced they would be going on a mission trip to Canada for the second consecutive year. The trip would cost $900 and would cover food, transportation and various expenses that would take place on the trip. Michael wanted to go the year before, but was not able to. When he heard there was going to be a second trip, he and his family decided to go out on a limb and apply for the trip.
After two months of waiting, Michael got the news that he was invited to go on the mission trip. The Karr family prayed about the situation and decided to do everything they could to raise the funds to send Michael on the trip.
Michael’s friend, who had been on mission trips before, encouraged him to send out letters asking for prayer and, if they felt led, financial support. He sent out around 40 letters to family and friends.
The mission team held a luncheon at Highland Baptist to help raise support for everyone going on the trip. For the luncheon, the students who were going on the trip sold tickets for people to attend. Once people were there, they could also buy desserts from the bake sale and buy shirts from the youth group. The luncheon helped raise money, but Michael still needed more to go on the trip.
It did not take long for his support letters to make the trip back to the Karr residence. His first two letters came back within a week of them being sent. The first letter caught Michael by surprise as it covered the whole cost of his trip. Other letters continued to flow in with more prayer and financial support, something Karr said he did not expect.
“I didn’t know what to expect when I opened them. I didn’t know if it was going to be a big or small amount,” Michael said. “It took me extremely by surprise when I opened it up and it covered the whole cost of the trip. I thought the extra zero that was there on the check wasn’t there, because with the zero it would cover the trip, but without it would just be a great donation that I was thankful for.”
On June 23, 2016, Michael and the rest of the Highland youth ministry team headed to Cochran, Canada. The purpose of the trip was to help spread the Gospel to the Nakoda First Nations People by building relationships with the locals and telling them about Jesus Christ. The youth group worked on the reserve by volunteering at the Nakoda Elementary School, painted a local day care and helped at the Lyahrhe Nakoda Food Bank Society. One of the most impactful parts of the trip was learning about the First Nations People and their culture.
“We got to witness a ceremony that they have only three times a year. It is focused around praying and worshipping a tree that they set up a teepee around,” Karr said. “The entire community parked around the prayer teepee while a member of the tribe had a vision and the chief would constantly pray to the tree for a week.”
On June 30, 2016, the youth group touched back down in Texas. The trip was over, but it left Michael longing to go on another mission trip.
Later in 2016, Highland’s youth ministry announced another mission trip, but this time it was to Villa Nueva, Guatemala. Because of the surplus support he raised from the year before, Michael was able to go on this mission trip as well.
This trip was June 24 through July 1, 2017, and the youth ministry stayed and helped at the New Life Children’s Home. The New Life Children’s Home is an orphanage in Villa Nueva that teaches children about the Gospel. The children’s ages range from 1 to 20-year-olds. The youth would play games, eat and have craft time with the younger kids. They used this time to spread the love of Christ and to build relationships with the kids and the orphanage.
Michael, now a freshman at Baylor, plans on going to England over spring break with Highland’s college ministry. The money that is still left over from his support letters will also help cover some of the cost of this trip. Highland college ministry will go to Northern England, specifically the Newcastle area. They will work with local churches to help spread the Gospel and go to schools talk to students about religion and Christianity.
“I am very excited to go on this trip. It is such a blessing that God has giving me such a clear direction towards missions by covering two mission trips already and helping cover one soon to come,” Karr said.