In May 2022, Oklahoma Christian University students will head to Brazil for mission work. Mel Latorre, missionary in residence and adjunct Bible professor, will be head coordinator. The trip was discontinued in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19, and Latorre is continuing the tradition after 30 years on campus.
Latorre said the churches in Brazil look forward to the energy the students bring as they work with the people.
“The essence and reason for the trip, which was true then and is still true now, is for two reasons,” Latorre said. “It really has an energizing and encouraging benefit to the churches we interact with.”
The trip will be broken up between different cities throughout the month-long trip.
“It is a very culturally mindful trip,” Latorre said. “By the time you are done with the trip, they will have a really deep sense of Brazil, Brazilians, the food, the culture.”
Sophomore Carolyn Clark said the trip has been on her radar for a while because she grew up knowing Latorre and has taken his classes.
“I’m looking forward to getting to know the culture,” Clark said. “I’ve never been outside of the country before, so getting to learn about another country and how they live will be really interesting to me.”
Latorre grew up in Brazil, and he was a teenager when the Brazil program began and Oklahoma Christian came to his hometown.
“Having been on both receiving ends of the trip to Brazil, I can see how those that go are changed by it,” Latorre said. “This means the student gets to see that the world is bigger than their own little reality; they get to see that God is acting in ways and in places they didn’t even know existed.”
The trip is not a study abroad program. It is hosted by the Center for Global Missions on campus and is solely based on missions.
“All of the activities he told us we would be doing to spread love and Christianity around sounds like a great thing to do,” Clark said.
Latorre said the trip to Brazil is still in the planning stages.
“Since the trip is very relational, it might make it difficult to interact with the people, depending on how COVID-19 progresses, which might be part of the assessment on whether to go or not,” Latorre said.
Clark said the uncertainty of COVID-19 does not bother her.
“I do not have any worries about COVID-19. I am fully vaccinated and the COVID-19 numbers recently have now been near as bad as they were when the pandemic started,” Clark said. “I trust Latorre and he will do a great job of keeping all of us safe and healthy.”
The relationships and community are the main priorities for the students going on the trip with Latorre.
“My main goals are to meet new people and make more friends, get to know the culture and spread love and happiness,” Clark said. “Also to help the churches there and invite people to come worship.”
Latorre said he wants to help the churches they visit make connections for the community around them to grow as believers.
“The goals for the group of students are for them to develop their faith, have a broader sense of culture, and a deeper understanding of the human condition,” Latorre said. “They will be able to ask themselves if God is calling them to something greater.”
Latorre said he is hoping to have more informational meetings for those interested in going. Spots are still available and students at Oklahoma Christian who are interested in going can contact Latorre through email if they wish to go in May.