By Engage on Jan 23, 2012 Robert (Bob) and Evelyn Shea, have served in Honduras since January 1999. They are responsible for coordinating all the Work & Witness and medical teams into Honduras.
Previously, Bob served as Work & Witness coordinator for the Northwest District (USA) for about six years, then served as NMI (Nazarene Missions International) district president for the Northwest District for nine years; after that he served four years as Northwest Region representative on the General NMI Council.
They have three children and seven grandchildren.
Engage: How did you first recognize God’s call to be involved in missions?
Evelyn: As a couple, we had frequently discussed what we would do with our lives after retirement. We wanted to do something for the Lord. We had spent years leading Work & Witness teams to various countries and loved it. We had been to Honduras numerous times and knew the missionary well and knew he had some health issues. Through taking the cross-cultural seminar the general church puts on, and through prayer and Scripture verses the Lord gave me, I felt the Lord wanted me to go to Honduras with my husband to serve.
Bob: I would say the first seed was planted when my mother served as missions president in our local church. Then in 1981, I went on my first Work & Witness mission and after that I was hooked! I couldn’t stay away, sometimes going twice in one year. When we took the Cross-Cultural Orientation (along with Greg Taylor) on the campus of Northwest Nazarene College (now Northwest Nazarene University) in 1995, it was a defining moment in my life because I knew beyond a shadow of any doubt where God wanted us to serve – Honduras.
Engage: What is your favorite aspect of what you do in your present assignment? Share any relevant stories to illustrate this.
Evelyn: I work closely with Work & Witness team members, especially those preparing meals. To see the little hesitation in team members at the beginning of the trip toward the Hondurans turn to genuine love for them is God at work! One lady was so touched by the meager resources a pastor’s wife, Nuvia, had for her two small children, she felt led by God to help. She has been giving faithfully each month. In December, Nuvia’s daughter graduated from kindergarten. Nuvia said she started planning the traditional graduation party not knowing if there would be funds to actually go ahead with it. Then she received the news funds had arrived from our faithful donor friend! Nuvia is praising God for her friend! One Work & Witness trip from Washington state and a family’s life was changed in Honduras! How exciting is that? That’s one reason I love my job!
Bob: Seeing God at work “right before our eyes” changing team members and Hondurans alike. The last week of October 2011 we had a medical team from Indianapolis come and in six clinics saw and treated 1865 people. But that was not the most exciting part! This medical team prayed with most of the people and, in very open, non-threatening ways, led well over 200 people to Christ. I saw many leave the clinics with tears in their eyes as Christ lifted their burdens! A young Puerto Rican nursing student from New York was mightily used of our Lord in leading many to Christ and what that did for her -- realizing God was working mightily through her -- was amazing!
Engage: What are some of the challenges that you face in carrying out your work?
Evelyn: We are in Honduras about seven months out of the year, two to three months at a time. When we are there, we have teams pretty much back to back, so some of the challenge is just keeping up with the groups. Then there is the ever-challenging job of keeping the vans running and safe. Too many stories to tell!
Bob: We have communication challenges. I can communicate in Spanish; however, I am not as fluent and I wish I was. Evelyn alluded to the challenges of keeping the vans running; however, God has been very good to us when we have had breakdowns (transmissions gave out two times, water pump broke down twice, etc.). We have always been at a place where we could and did get help, not in the middle of nowhere! God is good!
Engage: Please share a story of a significant event or moment that has happened in your current assignment.
Evelyn: One of the church projects was located up in the mountains. The team rode an hour in the back of a [four-wheel drive] pick-up truck each day to reach the project. The trip began by fording a river; then the road became a dirt track winding around the mountain. The church site was by the road, but there were only two houses in sight. Where were the people to fill this church?
The pastor and a few members of the church were at the site each day, excited about having a church building at last. The Honduran contractor and his workers had put up the cement block walls prior to our arrival. The team of eight men put on the metal roof and mixed concrete on the ground by hand for pouring the floor.
One of the team members had brought 600 New Testaments to give away. How were we possibly going to find that many people here in the mountains?
One day on the trip up the mountain they started passing out the Testaments to everyone they saw along the road. People gladly took the testaments. The “Word” went out that day and we believe it will “not return void!”
The project was finished and it was time for a Sunday dedication and celebration service. We drove back up to the completed church that Sunday morning with 30 plastic chairs in the back of the pickup and hoped there would be 35-40 people there. We arrived, set up the chairs and the people began to come. There was special guitar music. The people began singing and the families kept coming. The men gave up their chairs to women. Benches were quickly set up using cement blocks and boards. Still the people came. Now there was standing room only. With joyous music, testimonies and preaching, 110 people shared in this special service! God is truly planting His church on this mountain!
Bob: We have seen God change projects and locations within two months of the Work & Witness team’s arrival. That really takes being flexible on the team leader’s part and the local church. A couple of years ago we had a team from Ohio that had a number of young professionals and high school- and college-age participants. Evelyn and I began to feel that God wanted them to do something other than what we had planned, and the more we prayed and talked about it, the more sure we became. I shared this with the team leader and he said, “We are willing to go wherever God leads us.” So we changed locations and projects that gave them much more exposure to a vibrant inner city church.
They “just happened” to go with the youth group of one of the most aggressive churches in Tegucigalpa to the largest city hospital. It was an evening the team will never forget. The 26-member team divided up into groups of eight or nine with the Cerro Grande youth group and went into the huge, understaffed, poorly equipped hospital (the lights went out during a lightning storm and only part of the lights were restored) and shared the gospel and gave out approximately 550 dinners to family members that lined the hallways and saw many receive Christ there that evening! God had a better plan, so we followed His plan and the team was forever impacted!
Engage: How do you maintain a close relationship with God and your family in the midst of the demands of missionary service?
Evelyn: This assignment has been a true partnership with my husband. We each have specific part of the work we do, but every aspect of the team’s care and project is discussed and agreed upon. Seeing God continually at work through the teams and through the support of our friends in the [United] States makes it easy to stay close to God. We share in the team’s daily devotions which are always very meaningful.
Bob: As Evelyn stated we work closely together in praying and planning for each team that comes. I can testify that during the 13 years we have been serving in this capacity, we have grown closer to each other and our Lord! We strongly feel that each team that comes is a confirmation of God’s call on our lives. Sharing in devotions with each team also helps us to maintain a close relationship with our Lord. However, the greatest encouragement is seeing God work through each team in unique and different ways!
Engage: What are the rewards of what you do?
Evelyn: Being where God is working and seeing so many answered prayers is reward enough!
Bob: We have seen God build His Church during the 13 years we have served in Honduras. When I came on my first Work & Witness mission in 1981 there were three Nazarene churches in Honduras. Today there are 107 organized churches and another 25 mission plants that we believe will become organized! Also, seeing children grow into strong, capable teenagers that are leading church services in their own local churches and realizing God allowed us to have a small part in their lives!
Engage: What are some aspects of the culture where you live that you have come to love or embrace?
Evelyn: The open friendliness of the people -- the hugs and even the kisses on the cheek!
Bob: As Evelyn shared, Hondurans are a very warm, friendly people and they are so open and include us in their plans. Once you have made a Honduran friend, he/she will do anything to help you! All you need to do is ask and they will be there asking, “How can I help you, Bob?”
Engage: What do you like to do for fun?
Evelyn: A quiet dinner at a Chinese restaurant with Bob after the team leaves.
Bob: As Evelyn shared, we do enjoy our “quiet times” with just the two of us going out to dinner at Denny's. We also greatly enjoy Honduran cuisine together. We also enjoy searching for rest and relaxation places to take teams.
Engage: What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
Bob: Some people might think that a Work & Witness coordinator would need a construction background to do what we do, however God called and prepared me 30 years in the insurance business -- working with people -- for what we have been doing the last 13 years -- working with people.
Engage: What advice would you have for others exploring a possible call to missions, or embarking on their first missionary assignment?
Evelyn: Seek confirmation from God through godly counsel of friends, Scripture and prayer. Try it out first with Work & Witness trips, volunteering and reading. Realizing God may not give you a step-by-step map of what you will be doing, after confirmation of a call, proceed by faith.
Bob: I would add to what Evelyn has suggested the following: God is very clear in His call if He wants you involved in His mission. Many have confirmed His call after going on their first Work & Witness mission; however, do not limit His call to only go on Work & Witness trips. He may have more to say to you after experiencing His love and direction through several Work & Witness experiences.
Engage: Other comments?
Evelyn: We have just completed our 13th year as volunteers to Honduras and praise God continually He has given us this opportunity in our retirement! We encourage other soon-to-be retired people to try out Mission Corps!
Bob: We are so privileged to be in a place where God is literally pouring out His blessed Holy Spirit on a very needy country – Honduras!