I don’t particularly like Branson, Missouri as a town, but I just went out of my way to road trip there. It wasn’t for the place, but for the people:
Before you go to a Summer Training Program like OME — where I spent the bulk of last summer — it’s an opportunity, a spiritual training program. Once you’ve gone, it’s still all those things, but it’s also a group of friends, a community, and a cache of stories nobody else will fully understand.
So five of us undertook a five-day trip to visit our friends who are at OME this year. I only knew two of the people in the road trip group before the setting out, but since we were all OME veterans (in the years 2012-2014), it was no problem at all. After our little two-vehicle caravan made it to Branson, we took time to see the town again, to reminisce, relax, and visit Silver Dollar City (for free — perks of knowing people in the program).
But the real reason I chose Branson for a vacation spot was for the people: Five students from the University of Texas at the program this year who I knew from the Navigators on campus, five students from last year returning as team leaders, and the program director and his family who are good friends of mine. I even got to know a few new people as well in between all that. It was good to spend time catching up with old and new friends, hearing about their summers so far, and encouraging them to keep at it — because OME is a ton of fun, but it’s also a ton of work, making it hard to keep up the intensity as time goes on.
The highlights of going to visit OME15 can’t be expressed in photos:
- Hearing the stories of how pursuing Christ was changing peoples’ hearts
- Seeing how members from last year had matured and grown into their leadership roles this year
- Sharing two dinners and great conversations with the director’s family
It was great to pass on advice and encouragement, but visiting turned out to be at least as helpful for me as for them.
Just by chance, our visit overlapped with other friends visiting Branson, so I got to catch up with more people than planned, which was an extra helping of gladness on top of joy. We topped it off by visiting a family in Arkansas who worked with us last summer. The road trip crew parted ways in Dallas and I caught a bus home after an eventful five days.
Experiencing a miniature piece of OME again definitely wasn’t the same as going last year — it’s different every year. But seeing it all so fresh again made me happy to be a part of this community and reminded me of who I want to be in the midst of my present struggles. In the venture itself and in the memories it brought back, the road trip provided a brief glimpse of how following Jesus wholeheartedly always proves worthwhile.