Many thanks to Guest Bloggers: Phil Sheridan and Katie (Sheridan) Lorimer
PHIL: My original interest in doing a mission trip with my daughter was planted many years ago in our former church on Lemay. After each mission team came home, the next Wednesday evening service was set aside for them to share their experiences and testimonies. One night, Stan Myers and his daughter, Kelly, shared about their recent trip together. I was blessed and thought I would love to go on a mission trip with one of my daughters. Sure enough, God provided that opportunity many years later and I didn’t pass it up.
In the summer of 2008, the Mission’s department planned to take a group of Joy team members to join Gwen Kovac in Peru to present a Vacation Bible School program to churches in the jungles and teach the local staff how to present a children’s program. I volunteered to be one of the adult sponsors. Katie helped lead the team and also recruited me to have several parts in the various skits. I have very little dramatic talent, let alone having to memorize my lines in Spanish! It was a challenge to say the least.
I thoroughly enjoyed the trip. I loved the time to travel with Katie. I enjoyed seeing the unique jungle living environment and discovering the culture of the Peruvian people, both in the city and in the jungle. I was totally amazed to see that in the 21st century people could live in such poverty, i.e. grass huts with dirt floors and no utilities. Yet they were very happy and content and loved the Lord with all of their heart. They were also amazingly friendly and generous. At the conclusion of each program at the various churches, they would thank us and present us gifts, usually from the fruits of their farms. I was also impressed that all of the children came to the church, walking on dirt paths, many in bare feet, yet they wore nice clean clothes that were obviously their “Sunday best”.
I really didn’t go with any special expectations, I was open to whatever God wanted to show me. It was a very humbling experience. I saw our young folks do a great job interacting with the locals, laughing, playing soccer, and really taking their roles seriously. I was blessed to see my daughter’s leadership, compassion, and love for these people expressed in so many wonderful ways. At times she was our sole interpreter and did an amazing job. It was a real eye-opener to see the disparity in our wealth vs. these Peruvians. We take so much for granted and yet we complain and don’t appreciate what we have in comparison. I did see God’s presence and love through these people and people who sacrifice greatly, like Gwen Kovac, to love on these people and help them understand the love God has for them. All missionaries are special people.
I would encourage anyone without hesitation to go on a short term mission trip. They will be blessed beyond belief.
KATIE: My story begins long before I actually went on my first mission’s trip. It began as a child when I attended Kids’ Church each week at what was then First Assembly of God. Filling our “Buddy Barrel” penny bank to give to missionaries was a simple way we could learn how to give to missions, but my favorite part was when some of the missionaries who we had saved our coins for would come and tell us stories of the work they did for the Lord. One such missionary was Gwen Kovac who came to tell us about Guatemala.
Fast forward to junior high school, and I started my first Spanish class. I fell in love with the language but for so much more than just words. The words represented connections I could make with Spanish-speaking people. As the earlier missions spark fanned to life, I remembered how Gwen used Spanish as a simple starting point of common ground to ultimately love people into a relationship with Jesus Christ. I wanted to do the same!
By the time high school rolled around, I had the opportunity through JOY team to go on a short term mission’s trip to Peru where Gwen was living by that point. I took the leap of faith knowing it would be great practice for my ever-increasing Spanish knowledge to be immersed in the language and would be a wonderful way to love on my other passion—kids—as we trained the Peruvians in children’s ministry. By the end of this trip, I knew I wanted to go back. My flame had truly been lit for the importance of missions, missionaries, and loving those of all cultures and languages even if it meant sacrificing some comforts.
As I was about to enter college, I chose to spend my summer of transition living with Gwen in Peru. It would be 40 days of truly living the reality of a missionary and taking me from a place of “getting my feet wet” to being submerged in the world of missions. This longer trip required a larger financial commitment, and I was absolutely blown away by the blessing of so many who chose to send me to GO by being the ones to GIVE. In fact, people gave more than I needed, and I was able to leave the country of Peru knowing that their generosity allowed some of my ministry efforts to continue after I returned home for college.
Studying Spanish and education in college allowed me to take my language learning to a whole new level. After studying abroad in Mexico and living there for a semester, I knew I could be used even more for the Lord now that my Spanish was nearly fluent. All of my years of study and passion translated into my dad taking the leap of faith to also GO even though he had been one to GIVE so others could go for years. The summer before my student teaching year of college, I helped lead a team back to Peru for my third trip with my dad by my side.
It was such a privilege for me to get to introduce him to such a big piece of my heart and to have him experience firsthand what it means to go. As I led the Vacation Bible School deep in the Peruvian jungle, I got to see my dad participate in his skits, practice his limited Spanish that I’d been working on with him, and to love on Peruvian children together through all of it while sharing the hope of Jesus with them. Although the trip had its challenges, my dad’s eyes were opened, and my heart was blessed by the opportunity to light another flame of loving missions.
Although it has now been several years since I’ve gone, I’ve been able to use the flame in my heart to influence my Spanish students as their teacher to love the world and embrace other cultures with the hope that someday they, too, will go and go with the purpose of loving people into a relationship with Jesus.