Tag Archives: Peru

To Finish The Work: A Father and Daughter Go Together

Phil Sheridan Peru 1

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”.

Phil Sheridan Peru hut

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 Sheridan Peru 1

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.

Katie Sheridan Peru jungle path

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.

Katie Sheridan Peru 2

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.

To Finish The Work: Gwen Kovac’s Story

gwen Kovac 2010

Gwen Kovac is a retired missionary who calls Timberline Church home. The following is part of her story about a lifetime of service … and the faithful supporters whose giving and prayers made her ministry possible. (Yes, we know this post is longer than our usual blogs, but Gwen’s story is huge and amazing! It’s worth reading to the end as a challenge to all of us about what God can do through obedient hearts.)

Missions has been part of Gwen’s life for as long as she can remember. Her parents strongly supported missions and often hosted missionaries in their home. Even as a child, Gwen felt drawn to Spanish-speaking people. At the age of 16 or 17, a visiting missionary talked about unreached tribal groups in Alaska and being obedient to God’s call. Gwen remembers her heart breaking for the unreached in a greater way, surrendering to God’s lead, and even giving her month’s paycheck in the offering.

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On her 21st birthday in 1966, Gwen headed to Matagalpa, Nicaragua where she would teach choir, music, typewriting, and English to community members at the Bible school. The following year, she worked with John and Lois Bueno in San Salvador, El Salvador. While she returned to the United States to continue her studies and later taught in Loveland, she still made multiple trips to Central America, Mexico, and even worked for a month at a coffee house ministry in Spain.

In 1989, she sensed God’s leading to go to Guatemala first as a missionary associate and then as a fully appointed missionary in 1993. From her base in Guatemala City, Gwen worked with 18 schools across the nation to develop curriculum and train teachers before branching out to develop a dental program and open a counseling center. In 1999, Gwen transferred to Lima, Peru to help establish a Christian educational program but her responsibilities expanded to include serving as a youth pastor, teaching in the Iquitos Bible school, conducting seminars in churches across Peru, and hosting evangelism and medical teams from the United States.

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However, she became increasingly burdened for the isolated pastors, congregations, and unreached tribes in the Amazon jungles around Pucallpa in the eastern Ucayali province, a 24-hour bus ride from Lima. So, in 2002, Gwen moved to Pucallpa and over the next eight years, she planted the first Assemblies of God church among the Shipibo tribe and worked with leaders to organize and maintain an extension Bible school. (By the time she left, there were at least four new churches and over 40 Bible school graduates.) She also established relationships with the local people while assisting with construction efforts in primitive areas, digging water wells, church planting, developing feeding programs and ministries for children, organized compassion outreaches for teams from the United States, mentored pastors, trained teachers, and twice even pastored problematic churches to restore unity.

For security reasons, Gwen moved to southeastern Peru in 2009. With the help of nationals, she planted the first Assemblies of God church among the Uros. In June 2010, God opened the door for her to return to the Ucayali province. She retired from full-time missions in June 2011 and returned home to Fort Collins.

Peru Team 2014 Uro ladies cooking trout from Lake Titicaca

While Gwen witnessed many physical healings during her years of ministry, her greatest joys came as people experienced reconciliation with God and each other. She also led nationals in taking the gospel to five neighboring tribes. Others have called her a trailblazer in education, pioneer missions, church planting, and evangelism with her dedication to God and love for people as a living illustration of Christ’s love and sacrifice.

But in Gwen’s eyes, she couldn’t have done any of it without the prayer and financial support of others. As she said, “I have been the blessed upon blessed as a beneficiary of mission’s giving by my home church Timberline, many wonderful friends and relatives, plus supporting  churches throughout Rocky Mountain District, New Mexico, Idaho, etc.   It is such an honor to know that people believe in God’s call upon your life. Many people gave an upfront one time offering, and many gave faithful monthly pledges for years. Over these many, many years, people have said that they were praying and God impressed upon them that I needed help financially.”

Gwen recalled one time when she ran out of money and didn’t even know it because she hadn’t had time to read the financial report that came by snail mail to the jungle.  “It was a shock to my system to be below -0- in funds.  I had been using my own savings to finish constructing the beautiful structure of  La Esmirna. Well, God knew our needs before I even asked.  A pastor in Colorado Springs wrote telling me how that we were going to raise these ‘matching funds.’ What’s that?  Needless to say … his church and Timberline made the matching funds, and this frightened missionary knew again … God supplies our needs.”

Gwen Kovac La Esmirna

“I might add that the La Esmirna prayer team and I had spent many different moments in fasting and prayer plus one all night vigil praying about this problem before the incredible Colorado Springs pastor and Timberline solved the financial problem.  I had never realized how important it is to the people to have a decent church building until then. The community looked with more respect and trust upon the church people.  The water well that we dug helped bring water into the community and that was a source of the River of Life, the healing to a conflictive area of Pucallpa.”

Gwen also discovered there were benefits to being a full time Assemblies of God World Missions (AGWM) missionary. For instance, the Rocky Mountain District Women’s Ministries helped with offerings to buy appliances. Gwen said, “During the majority of my mission years, I traveled. Of course, I was super grateful for the material blessing of a dryer, refrigerator, and a propane stove, but a washer was always my favorite appliance. Maybe I was weird but I would hug the washer and pray a prayer of blessing on those wonderful women for thinking of my needs. ”

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One other tremendous material blessing as an approved missionary of AGWM was the provision of a vehicle provided through a commitment by the youth of the churches of each district.  Gwen said, “The Rocky Mountain District provided the 1999 Mitsubishi that served me well in Peru from 1999 to 2011.  It was my one and only Speed-The-Light car.  This ‘misionero’ (what the Peruvians called her car) was kept in top condition and used mostly for ministry reasons in the jungle, the big city of Lima, and the high mountains of Puno.  Thank you, Timberline youth, for your part in providing this car that was an identification for me.  No matter where I lived, the people always knew where I was and my car became a statement of what we did. Before I left in 2011, I asked if we could sell it to Pastor Daniel.  And in 2014 when we went back to the highlands (read the trip report here), we were honored to ride in my former car.”

Gwen Kovac car

Seeing financial and material provision was an incredible faith builder for someone who was uncomfortable mentioning her required monthly budget, usually set by AGWM. While it was Gwen’s responsibility to raise those funds, the money belonged to the mission to be used with good stewardship.  “It wasn’t always easy making out the financial reports, but if one has finances, then one can train pastors and leaders in the Word, build and roof churches, dig wells, buy boats, give Bibles, etc. I always tried to live as safely as possible but use extra funds left over from housing or other expenses to supply the Bible school funds  and so on.”

Gwen sometimes received letters from supporters saying that they weren’t able to continue giving.  “I remember the first letter.  I was devastated and cried. Then, I got up and wrote a letter of thanks for all that they had already done and blessed them. Sometimes the donor had miracles and could continue to help out, and sometimes I never heard from them again. But, the sure fact was that when one donor would leave, God would bring miracles from people that I had never met or even heard of.”

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Gwen sees giving to missions in four different ways:

  1. Instantaneous. Like as a teenager when she gave to help the unreached tribal groups, she gave without thinking about it. People without Christ who had nothing compared to what she had? An instant decision to help.
  2. Fun. Like a spurt that makes her heart burst with the desire to just bless someone and may be an answer to that person’s prayer. Gwen recalled times when someone in a visiting group would say, “I just want to bless so-and-so. Is that okay?” Usually Gwen already knew the person’s need and was blessed to see God at work through the generosity of others.
  3. Serious giving in response to an appeal or need. Gwen recalled a time in February 2011 when the Ucayali River region was inundated with flood waters and many folks lost everything. Using funds from Timberline and supporters, Gwen bought disaster food supplies and sent people up the dangerous rivers and passable roads. But when she brought the need to the attention of others in the regional church, she was soon inundated with finances and bags of clothing.
  4. Commitment giving. This might be in response to an appeal, but usually involves giving on a regular basis with a pledge to or through an organization that requires stewardship and accountability with the funds.

Beyond financial giving, Gwen was blessed by the commitment of others to pray. “One lady told me that she prayed for me three times a day.  When Mom and I visited her home, she showed us my pictures and how she kept me lifted up to the Lord all of those many years. Traveling during the different itineration times was difficult and tiring but it was so exciting to meet supporters who not only gave offerings, but they were praying for Guatemala, for Peru, for me, for my Mom, and so on.”

Gwen Kovac’s lifetime of service was made possible by her obedience to go … and the faithful support of others to pray and give so that she could stay.

The Mullaney Family Summer Adventure 2014

Mullaney family PR-HRM-DJM-Skype

What happens when one family from Timberline Church devotes their summer to a Kingdom adventure? Lives change. The Mullaney family (David, Roxana, Hannah, and DJ) wanted to join God in His plans for the people of Peru and Puerto Rico. So, in 2014, they began serving as Team Leaders for Life Tree Adventures (a branch of Group Publishing) and all four led in different ways.

The parents led 38 other “gringos” into the Peruvian jungle for a week. The Peruvian mission involved riding five hours up river from Pucallpa to the village of La Palestina. Their work revolved around building the first part of a training center and playing with the children of the village.

Mullaney family 1

Meanwhile, the Mullaney “kids” shared leadership responsibilities with other young adults leading hundreds of short term missionaries to various locations in Puerto Rico during June and July. The teams embarked on many varied projects from simple home repair to a complete home replacement.

For many of the participants (including David, the dad), this was a first-time mission trip. It was exciting for the Mullaney family to see how God equipped and blended the teams, resources and opportunities leading to strong, personal connections with the people they met. Along the way, they experienced strength, exertion, rest, safety, and recovery.

Mullaney family PR-HRM-DJM-Iguana

One highlight from Peru came when a support beam for the roof broke and two of the local Peruvians were in very real danger of crashing down across the open beams below. God provided protection by eliminating panic and mobilizing a team of short-term missionaries to bring the men down safely. Meanwhile, in Puerto Rico, Hannah shared the story of an 85-year-old man whose home had been completely robbed. The city requested a skilled team to rebuild his house and two days later they learned a skilled team was coming from Tennessee. Over an incredible four days, the team rebuilt the man’s house while the local pastor explained the Gospel and led the man to Christ!

What’s next in terms of serving God this fall? God has already introduced the Mullaneys to many wonderful local neighbors and internationals in Fort Collins and those connections are strong. Hannah and DJ are attending CSU, including participation in campus ministries. Roxana has new clients requiring language interpretation in the clinics they visit. David transitioned from contractor to full-time employee with the State of Colorado, a Disaster Recovery project management position that is a natural extension of his previous flood and fire response with SERVE 6.8.

 

Serving the Beautiful People of Peru – 2014 Trip Report

Peru team 2014 overlooking city of Puno

From the Uros and their floating reed islands high in the Andes Mountains at Lake Titicaca to the Shipibos in the jungles of Ucayali, the six-member team from Timberline Church spent their days serving the beautiful people of Peru.

After arriving in Peru, the team first traveled to the city of Puno on Lake Titicaca and adjusted to the 12,500 foot altitude. The next morning, they traveled to one of the Uros reed islands to enjoy a delicious grilled fresh trout dinner prepared by some ladies of the island followed by a tremendous time at the reed island church with a gospel presentation, prayer, and fellowship with local families. They delivered school supplies to the children before returning to Puno for an evening service where several gave their lives to Christ.

Peru Team 2014 Uro ladies cooking trout from Lake Titicaca

On Saturday, April 26, the team held a Children’s Education seminar for about 40 leaders and taught them how to do a “Kid’s Church” service followed by more fellowship and another church service. On Sunday, they had the privilege to see 65 children reap the immediate benefits of the training in addition to a chicken dinner lunch, a celebration time, sharing of testimonies, and an evening service challenge to fathers.

With their time in Puno complete, the team rose very early Monday morning to fly to Lima and on to city of Pucallpa in the Ucayali region with little time to rest before leading a Youth Seminar training for 75 youth and young adults followed by a delicious chicken dinner for everyone in attendance, prepared by ladies of the host church.

Peru Team 2014 youth seminar at church in Pucallpa

On Tuesday, they traveled by boat to the village of San Francisco to minister to the indigenous Shipibo tribe through a church service for the youth and children followed by chicken soup (with more chicken bought by Timberline Primetimers) and time spent with the families. One highlight was seeing the coconut trees behind the San Francisco church that the Timberline Joy Team planted with the Shipibo youth in 2003. The money from the harvested coconuts goes to support the church.

Peru team 2014 coconut trees

The team’s last day of ministry in Peru was spent hosting a Christian Education Seminar in Pucallpa with over 200 in attendance. They ended the day with a chicken dinner for everyone in attendance and another church service that evening which ended with prayer for the team before they prepared to return home by way of Lima.

While the team members were tired after their busy schedule, it was a “good tired.” Especially blessed was team leader Gwen Kovac who was able to reconnect with the Peruvian “family” she faithfully served for so many years.

Team Heading to Peru

Peru team 2014

On Thursday, April 23, a six-member team from Timberline Church will be headed to Peru. Their first days of ministry will include a Children’s Ministry seminar and supporting local churches near Lake Titicaca in the Andes Mountains. The last half of their ministry will take place in the Ucayali Jungle region ministering to children and youth as well as teaching local pastors and leaders about Christian Education. Throughout their trip, the team will be blessing the local people with chicken dinners, school supplies, stickers, key chains, sewing kits, and other prizes thanks to many donations from Timberline friends including the Primetimers. The team will return to Colorado on May 3rd.

While they are gone, please pray for:

  •  A positive political atmosphere
  • Receptive hearts to receive Christ and understand His Word
  • Wisdom and Divine anointing on the team
  • Health and strength (especially when walking around at 12,500 feet elevation!)
  • Travel and weather protection
  • Favor with immigration and customs