A 2013 graduate of Houston High School, Hailey Dodson, right, and Dadeville native Tyler Pringle have both been chosen for a Southwest Baptist University mission trip to Thailand in May. The girls are both freshmen at the Bolivar school.

Few Americans ever set foot in any part of Thailand, let alone the northernmost section of the Southeast Asian country sandwiched between Myanmar to the west and Laos to the east.

But 2013 Houston High School graduate Hailey Dodson has the opportunity to do just that after being named to a team of 10 Southwest Baptist University (SBU) students eligible for a Christian mission trip this spring to Chiang Mai, a city of about 150,000 in the northern Thai province by the same name.

Dodson was recently selected by a “board of missions” at SBU from among close to 60 applicants for the Thai trip based on several criteria, including an interview with the team leader, letters of recommendation from a home church and church member, paperwork submitted by an SBU residence assistant (or RA) and answers to essay questions regarding personal qualifications.

“A lot of things factored into being chosen,” Dodson said.

Prior to the trip – scheduled for May 21 to June 5 – participants will attend a special intercultural studies class to prepare them for what they’ll encounter in Thailand.

“We’ll learn their way of speaking and living, so we don’t act in an improper manner when we’re there,” Dodson said.

After flying halfway around the world, Dodson and her SBU cohorts will partner with a local orphanage while in Chiang Mai province.

“We’ll help build new facilities and teach them about Christianity,” Dodson said. “All that’s there now is Buddhism; it’s a totally different world than what we’re used to.”

When visiting rural and remote areas outside the city to work and spread the gospel, Dodson and other students will ride elephants as transportation. They’ll also have bodyguards with them and be schooled in safety appropriate to the region.

“There’s a sex trade market there, so that’s something we have to be aware of and we will have a protection team with us,” Dodson said.

Dodson is majoring in neonatal and prenatal nursing care at SBU.

“I get to work in an orphanage over there, and I think that’s going to be a great opportunity,” she said. “For the first four days I’ll actually be in the nursery, which is an ideal way for me to get experience I couldn’t get any other way.”

Dodson said one “fun day” is planned during the excursion that will include a visit to the Chiang Mai zoo. In order to be included in the mission, she must first raise $4,000 to cover her travel, medical and food expenses. She has fundraising goals to meet along the way: $1,450 by Jan. 19 and $2,175 by April 15.

“I think I’ll get there – God will bless me,” Dodson said. “I’m doing this for Him, so I think it will work out in the end.”

Dodson said it’s hard to wrap her mind around the fact she’ll be in such an unusual setting doing many charitable tasks.

“We’ll be teaching the gospel, but we’ll be doing so much more, too,” she said. “There will be so many windows of opportunity and I’m very excited. I mean, how many people from Houston, Mo., go to Chiang Mai, Thailand?”

Tax-deductible donations to help fund Hailey Dodson’s mission trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand can be made through Southwest Baptist University’s Center for Global Connections (CGC). To donate online, log onto www.sbuniv.edu/cgc/GlobalConnectionsOpportunities.htm and find “Thailand.” Donations can be made in general and would then be split amongst all 10 participants, but it’s also possible to target a specific student. To obtain more information by phone, call the CGC at 417-328-1900 or Hailey Dodson at 417-217-3218, or email Dodson at haileydis@gmail.com.

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