The girl from the village wouldn’t let Nicole Huff leave her sight. She followed at Huff’s heels and hugged her as the other children played.
It reminded Huff of another girl who stammered in foreign English words, “I love you.”
“The kids are so precious,” said Huff, who returned this month from her second mission trip overseas in two years. “To be able to share with them, play with them, talk with them, you really know they did understand God’s love.”
The 16-year-old Claremore resident visited Panama at age 14 and spent about a month this year in Romania at a village of ethnic Romani, also known as Gypsies.
Considered outsiders in their largely Eastern Orthodox Christian country, the Romani had little knowledge of Jesus, with maybe one Bible between them, Huff said.
Her mission group brought Bibles, toys, prayers and stories of Jesus’ life — translated to the Romani language by an aide from a nearby church.
“It’s important for me to share what Jesus does,” Huff said. “If I didn’t know that, I would want someone to tell me.
“It’s kind of like my calling from God to be able to go and share the gospel with people in other countries.”
The Romani especially appreciated the stories of Jesus’ life and his parables. The moral lessons fascinated the villagers, who sometimes steal for their basic needs, Huff said.
“They’ll be able to trust in (God) more,” she said. “They’ll know he’ll provide for their needs so they don’t have to steal.”
That’s not to say everyone embraced the teachings. A woman in the park seemed to ignore Huff completely.
“It was kind of a shock,” Huff said.
Both of Huff’s trips were with Global Expeditions, a Texas-based evangelist organization that sends teens abroad.
Huff raised $4,000 from garage sales, benefit concerts and donations for her latest trip.
“Since she’s been back she’s been more concerned with her (church) youth group and getting involved and helping others,” said her mother, Diana Huff. “Material things don’t matter as much.”
Huff says the trips have made her more thankful to live in the U.S. and given her a better understanding of the less fortunate.
Less than a month after returning home, she’s encouraging her youth group at Collinsville’s Meadowbrook Baptist Church to volunteer at DaySpring Villa, a shelter for domestic abuse victims in Sand Springs.
“It’s about spreading God’s love,” Huff said.
Diana Huff, who has participated in mission trips for much of her life, encourages other teens to think about going abroad.
“I would just tell the other teenagers who want to go to not worry that they don’t have enough money,” she said. “People want to give.”