By Susan Bromley
Hair cuts and manicures aren’t typically thought of as mission work, but they were very appreciated by some Costa Ricans in need, as well as refugees.
Kim Parsons, a hairdresser at Amedae Salon in Brandon Township, wasn’t able to take all the tools of her trade, but she made great use of the ones she did— including nail polish, scissors, clippers, curling irons and straighteners— when she traveled to San Jose, Costa Rica, along with a small Ortonville contingent on a church mission trip earlier this month.
“I was supposed to do a kids camp in the morning and hair in the afternoon, but I did hair all week, outside,” said Parsons, who was joined by her daughter Mackenzie, who will be a Brandon High School senior this fall. “There were so many lined up to get their hair done, they waited for hours… Most of the people we were helping were from a refugee camp. This is something they can’t get done. I did a lot of haircuts and I always made sure I styled them because I wanted them to go away feeling good. They would be so happy and hug me, they all wanted a photo afterward.”
The Parsons were joined on the trip by Mackenzie’s fellow BHS seniors Cora Paul and Courtney Rose, as well as Courtney’s mom, Khristine Rose, Brandon Fletcher Intermediate School sixth grader Aiden Ashley, and his father, Joe Ashley. The group was on a mission trip organized through Kensington Church, and altogether, 68 people went to build houses, work at a medical clinic, and play with children in a special day camp.
Mackenzie Parsons took blood pressure readings, height and weight measurements and assisted in the pharmacy at the clinic in which impoverished Costa Ricans or refugees who ended up in the country waited in long lines to receive free medical care. Common complaints included aching feet from improper shoes.
“They were wearing holey tennis shoes or flip-flops in which they had walked miles and miles to get to the clinic,” said Mackenzie, who noted some of them come back year after year. “One boy broke his femur a year ago
and he had metal screws for a brace that went into his leg. They told him he had to wear it another year.”
Mackenzie and Cora, who also worked in the clinic, made up bags with toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, shampoo, bandages, antibiotic ointment, and Advil to give to all who came to visit the clinic, some who had never seen a doctor. Some came just to get the “goody” bag.
Cora made a snap decision to go on the trip when someone else dropped out and there was an opening. She is glad she did.
“Everyone always says mission trips are a life-changing experience and it’s not everyday someone says, ‘Next week you can go to Costa Rica,’” she said. “I didn’t know much about it, except the Zika virus, but I wasn’t really worried about it. It was a pretty eye-opening experience, every there all lives kind of the same— no running water or anything, but they were super nice… I definitely learned to be grateful for everything we have and that even people who don’t have anything can be very happy. There was a communication barrier, but that can be overcome.”
In the kids camp, there were lots of games, a free lunch for the kids every day, and lots of smiles.
“All the kids were super loveable, super sweet and polite,” said Courtney, who grew especially attached to a little boy named John, and even though they didn’t speak each other’s language, his smile upon seeing her everyday spoke volumes to her. “It’s awesome to see how God works through you and the people you are on the trip with. The relationships you make are incredible.”
This was Aiden Ashley’s first mission trip, but his father Joe has been on missions before, as has Aiden’s older sister Darien.
Joe wants his kids to experience what it means to give to those in need and to also be grateful for what they have.
“I think I’ve learned that no matter where I’ve been in life, there is always someone less fortunate,” said Joe, a police officer with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office. “I am blessed with more than I need and its easy to give back. These trips show there is a lot of good that still can be done in the world and it feels good to do my part.”