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Oak Hill holds fundraiser for mission trip

BY SCOTT HUNT - shunt@chronicle-tribune.com

For a week in this summer, Oak Hill boys’ basketball coach Kevin Renbarger hopes his program will experience multi-faceted growth, both individually and collectively, yet there won’t be a basketball in sight.

Renbarger and his players are now months into raising funds for a mission trip to Jamaica, where they’ll spend the IHSAA moratorium period during the first week of July constructing three houses in seven days for families displaced by natural disasters in the very recent past.

“We did it six years ago ... taking 34 kids to Belize that summer and that group was very similar to what we have now,” Renbarger said Friday evening. “We’ve got a bunch of kids who are incoming freshmen and even kids like Landry Ozmun and Konnor Cabe, those guys are graduating seniors that are going. They’re real strong in their faith and they’re in a position where they need to be challenged a little bit in that and challenged a little bit culturally. We’ve done it before and we felt like this is the right time to do it again.”

The financial goal for the 42 people committed to making the journey is to raise $1,600 each, or nearly $70,000 as a group. The costs will cover travel expense, lodging, food and work materials. 

Renbarger said they’re more than halfway to their goal and has hopes that an auction/dinner scheduled for April 5 at Roseburg Event Center will push them even closer.

The event will start at 6 p.m. with a preview of the items up for auction with dinner and testimonials given by Oak Hill students starting at 6:45 p.m. The live auction starts at 7:45 p.m. Admission is $10 per person.

“We’ve done some individual fundraisers. Kids have sent letters out to friends and family asking for donations and we’ve been into some local churches to talk about what we’re trying to do with the kids,” Renbarger said. “This auction ... we’re hoping that brings in a considerable amount of money, hoping to bring in a couple hundred people willing to spend some money on a good cause with that auction.

The last time we went it was in the $50,000-range and every penny was provided,” he added. “As stressful as it is you’ve just got to rely on God that it’s going to get provided, and so far it has.”

Six years ago a group of about 30 traveled to Belize and hosted youth basketball clinics and even played some games against local teams. Because of the timing of the trip to Jamaica coming during IHSAA moratorium week, the Oak Hill contingent is making this trip solely about the mission.

“This is an absolute work trip,” Renbarger said, noting the timing of the trip makes it strictly about the mission. “You’re going down to spread the word. You’re going down to work together as a group. ... Several (kids) have gotten passports for the first time and they’ve not been outside of Indiana unless it’s going to Florida for spring break.

“You’re dealing with culture issues, trying to stretch their faith a little bit,” he continued. “They’re not going to Jamaica to be at a five-star resort. Where we’re going it’s called Highgate and it’s in the middle of the jungle. Indiana Wesleyan talks a lot about the fearless mentality and it’s something we adopted about 10 years ago. That’s what this whole trip is geared around, it’s to take that mental fear out of it and put it in the hands of God and trust that everything is going to be all right in every aspect of their lives, including work and culture and everything else.” 

Christian Services International owns a large building in Jamaica that can house around 60 people and also employs a chef and that’s where the Oak Hill contingent will stay. But the mission is what means the most.

“We’re talking small homes, houses that would be large-sized family rooms, but these are families that have been displaced ... as in not living together,” Renbarger said. “The ability to go down there and put three houses together in the span of a week, means you’re taking three families that have been apart and putting them together. They’re just bare necessity homes, no indoor plumbing or electricity, but it’s an opportunity to get three families back together again.”