Making a difference half a world away
Society employees make a difference half a world away
In late February 2020, a group of employees from the Good Samaritan’s National Campus and Loveland, Colo. left the prairie for one of the most impoverished neighborhoods outside of Bogota, Colombia, called Soacha. The warmth they experienced in this South American country had little to do with the climate. The light of God’s love clearly played a part.
These employees joined Rev. Greg Wilcox, vice president of mission integration and senior pastor at the Society’s National Campus, on a seven-day trip for Project Outreach, a program supported in part by gifts from the Society’s employees.
Gifts help seniors directly
Project Outreach began as a way for residents and employees within the Good Samaritan to participate in world missions. The idea was two-fold: 1) to help people around the world with their physical and spiritual needs, and 2) through helping others, help residents and employees experience a profound sense of engagement and meaning. Employees Care donations go to three Project Outreach sites in the countries of Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and Colombia.
In Colombia, funds provide critical services such as medical care and meals. Gifts also provide for social activities, clothing and help with housing. Where do the mission trips fit in?
“In addition to traveling, working and eating together, the group worships with a few small Lutheran congregations,” Wilcox says. “Some years, we complete a work project such as painting, but others, we bring practical gifts for the seniors.”
Employees pay their own way for these mission trips, which are an opportunity to experience the impact of Project Outreach firsthand and be a part of its mission.
A long tradition of helping seniors
Project Outreach mission trips to Colombia started in the mid-2000s when former Society executive Cindy Mogenberg and her husband, Ron, went to Colombia with Pastor Natanael Lizarazo, a native Colombian and former minister at First Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls. The Good Samaritan partnered with the Lutheran Church in Colombia to build a senior center and soup kitchen in Soacha. Today, the Society continues to send at least one mission trip to Colombia every year.
“We become part of the elders’ lives,” Wilcox says. “We listen to their stories. We pray and eat and work and play with them. The impact we have is as much on us as it is on them.
“This trip is really intended to be an experience in Christian community,” Wilcox says. “If more money was given, we could help more seniors in Soacha and perhaps provide them with some additional medical and food assistance.”