New Jersey student missionary finds love speaks two languages 

Release Date: August 21, 2009    

PLAINVIEW – Casey Brazell came back from her summer missions experience with a simple resolve: she needs to be more fluent in Spanish.

The Wayland Baptist University junior music education major from Lubbock traveled to Freehold, N.J., for summer missions work through Go Now Missions, an arm of the Baptist General Convention of Texas’ student ministry.

While there, Brazell and her missions partner, Howard Payne University student Lisa Whitfield, worked with West Monmouth Baptist Church and their work in a central borough with a heavily Spanish-speaking population. While she does know some Spanish, she found her skills not as up to par as she’d hoped.

But that didn’t keep Brazell from ministering to children in the Freehold area and making an impact. In particular, she was responsible for holding backyard Bible clubs in an apartment complex in hopes of building relationships with the resident children and their parents.

The girls started with a one-night event to introduce themselves, with nearly 30 attending that night. The five-day Bible club with a more traditional format did not glean as many attendees with the heavy rain that came down each day, and only a few families attended.

“All the adults and teens came to know Christ that week, though, and that got us in the door at the apartment complex to lead a Bible study for them,” she said. “We also had a one-night Bible club every Friday in the apartment complex for the children, and we’d have between 8 and 18 every time.”

The girls brought a piñata with them to each Friday Bible club, drawing the interest of residents and the joy of the children and parents.

“It’s part of their culture to have a piñata at a party, so we’d tell them it was a Bible party and for them to come join us. It drew a lot of attention from folks too,” she said. The last Monday before they returned to Texas, Casey and Lisa held a block party for the neighborhood with an inflatable bouncer, piñatas and prizes. They also introduced the residents with whom they had bonded to members of the church that would be carrying on some of their work.

Also during the summer the girls painted an apartment at a different complex in exchange for the use of their meeting room in order to teach English as a Second Language. Though the number of attendees was small, the students were dedicated to the task, Brazell said.

They also helped at a free lunch hosted at another partnering church, Colts Neck Community Church, where a couple serves day laborers and others in the area. Their primary duty was to help as needed and visit with the diners, building more relationships.

The team also helped with research for a future church plant that Colts Neck and West Monmouth are partnering to start in the central Freehold village where the girls held Bible studies. Since few residents own cars, they explored options for a location where most folks could reach the church easily. They also researched the needs of the community for a church and what would minister to them.

For one week, the group worked with World Changers along with the youth and university groups from both churches, doing home repair projects in Freehold and the surrounding area as well as neighborhood cleanup efforts. Brazell enjoyed the experience, which was her third time to work with the fix-up organization. The group also did smaller projects with the churches, including regular cleaning of the church building, relational evangelism in several areas and help with Vacation Bible School.

Brazell said she didn’t have any expectations beforehand about the summer, and she only found out weeks after being assigned to Freehold that she would be working primarily with children. She began corresponding with the pastor and was excited even more about the months ahead.

“He told us that children’s ministry would be the key in the door for us, and it was. More of the children speak English than their parents do, so it was natural to communicate with them,” she said. “I got more excited when I found out the type of work we’d be doing because I love working with kids.”

Now that she’s had time to process her summer, Brazell said her biggest lesson was in patience.

“The biggest impression I have is that you can’t always see the results of the seeds that you plant in other people’s lives. You have to surrender the mission to people that stay behind,” she said. “That was a big trust issue for me; you worry about whether they will care about it as much as you do.”

Brazell said she has an interest in returning to the area and truly enjoyed spending time with the children of the city and experiencing “a piece of their lives and their culture.”

And while her future career plans include teaching elementary music, she knows that brushing up on her Spanish will be beneficial no matter where she ends up down the road.