Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Changing the World, Starting in Hammond, Louisiana

My son wrote this for our church mission magazine about his first mission trip.

By Matthew L. Burton

My first mission trip experience – a construction trip with other youth from Ridgecrest to Hammond, Louisiana – was not what I expected. The bus trip was longer than what I had thought, the sun was hotter than I would have preferred, and the entire experience was more memorable than I had hoped.

Our church worked with World Changers, which is an organization that partners with Lifeway to do mission trips all over the country. These mission trips are project-based and focus on doing construction for people in need. In the process, we can share the gospel with them and their neighbors.

When our work groups were first organized I’ll admit to being a little mad. We were only guaranteed one person from our church in our work group. We had all been told this would happen ahead of time, but it was hard when it actually happened. I remember the first day and how all my friends were being split into groups with people from other churches and states. I wanted to go out and do the work with my friends and have a fun time doing it.

My group was assigned to build a wheelchair ramp for a man who, due to illness, was now wheelchair bound. We got to work on building the ramp in the muggy Louisiana heat. Every day after lunch we would walk and talk to the neighbors and homeowner. We also played basketball with some of the kids in the neighborhood and invited families to a block party we hosted in the middle of the week.

Then that is when it hit me: I was not here to just have fun and work with my friends. I still got to see my friends in the evening and have some fun, but that should not be my focus. I was here to spread the love of Jesus to the people of Hammond.

After I realized that truth, the last two days were easier. Seeing the look on the faces of the homeowner and the neighbors after we got the job done and took the time to talk to them was awesome.

This is the main lesson I learned on my first mission trip: “I am not here to be comfortable and to have fun 100 percent of the time. I am here to get work done for the Lord.”

Although I did have fun at the right times on this trip, I truly learned that I should go out and be the vessel God commanded us to be and make disciples who make disciples.

Saturday, January 03, 2015


Treasured Memories of Doling Park

During the 1970s, students at Ash Grove’s elementary school annually enjoyed a year-end picnic at Doling Park complete with sack lunches and Hiland orange drink. Doing Park in north Springfield became synonymous with cotton candy, dime pinball, skee ball, the Wild Mouse roller coaster, bread eating ducks and roller skating.

I drove to Doling Park last week. The setting has changed -- the rides and games are gone -- but my past memories remain crystal clear regarding the fun times I had in that unique setting.  I recall spending hours -- and probably several dollars of dimes -- playing skee ball with Jerry Dyson, a childhood friend. The skee ball machines at Doling Park were uniquely worn and sometimes generous, providing us with a free game or two. Hitting the elusive 100 point hole was cause for celebration, even if we did climb up the ramp occasionally and manually drop a wooden skee ball in the appropriate hole. Whether we were playing games, running around Doling Lake, or simply having a sack lunch, the day trip to Doling Park always provided hours of fun and independence.

Nowadays, instead of school outings to Doling Park my family goes to Silver Dollar City. One of the greatest attractions there are the roller coasters. Somehow, during my junior high years, I was able to conquer my extreme fear of roller coasters, a fear that may be traced back to Doling Park. I can still recall the sheer terror I felt as a second grader riding the Wild Mouse. After surviving the curves and dips on this rattling ride I was never sure why I actually paid money to experience terror. Other rides -- like the small train and the merry-go-round -- induced far less fear and marked the extreme limits of my thrill-seeking for years to come.

Roller skating at Doling was like traveling back in time to the 1950s. Springfield had two modern roller rinks --Skateland and Skate Corral -- both of which featured slick concrete floors and modern disco lights. That was not the case at Doling Park. The character of this arena was in its worn wood floor and the airplane hanger style building. By the time I was in the sixth grade I still had not mastered roller skating anywhere else except on those wooden floors at Doling.

As a youngster, the whistle of the teacher would beckon us back to the school bus and for our trip back to Ash Grove. Now, the demands of life, family, church and civic groups pull at my free time. Oh, to have one more chance to run around Doling Lake scaring the ducks and geese, stopping only to peak through the iron and wire gates deep into the cave, before scrambling on toward the picnic tables. Unfortunately, I can’t call back time or restore my youth, but my memories allow me to recall my days of youth and fun trips to Doling Park. If a close my eyes real tight I can still imagine being a child at Dolin, spending dimes on skee ball, roller skating, and having a carefree day with friends. Those are treasured memories.

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