The North Bend Eagle


Gerke shares gifts south of equator

by Mary Le Arneal
Published 11/5/14

North Bend’s Carry Gerke has a bucket list. One thing she wanted to do was go on a mission trip. And she can check that off now.

Gerke, with the help of Mary Shanahan, had a garage sale, raising $975. The next week she found out she needed $965 for the mission trip to Ecuador.

“That was the first of many ‘God Moments’ that told me this trip was meant to be,” Gerke said.

Mission tripCarry Gerke cuts the hair of local women in a village in Ecuador.

On Oct. 4 Gerke left Omaha to fly down to Quinto, Ecuador, South America. She went with a team from her church, Church of the Nazarene in Fremont. The pastor, Tom Shaw, was the team leader.

Shaw told those going if they had any special talents to share, to bring it along. Gerke didn’t feel she had anything special to share, but she is a hair stylist, so Shaw encouraged her to bring her scissors along, and she did.

The team was made up of 12 church members, three married couples, one college junior and a recent high school graduate. Most of the people in between 50 and 65. Gerke, 56, knew none of them except for one, Tim Dunker, a former Morse Bluff resident.

Members of the team had been encouraged to bring items to give to the Ecuadorians. Gerke put 50 pounds of canned foods and candy in the suitcase she checked and put her clothes in her carry-on.

The team had been warned that there was a chance items could be confiscated at the airport. When they were going through customs their minister was waved on, but he told the official he couldn’t go through as he had 11 more people with him. Rather than wave them all back for inspections, the whole group was waved through.

“That was a God moment,” Gerke said. “We didn’t lose any of our gifts and other items we had to give to the people.”

The group stayed in a missionary compound when they arrived. The next day the group went to Santo Domingo, a town in Ecuador about three hours from Quinto. They would go out each day to visit people in the poorer sections of town and invite them to come see the Jesus movie, a film about the life of Jesus shown at 6:30 each night. Gerke does not speak Spanish but felt that was no a barrier.

“At all the places we felt welcomed,” Gerke said. “They are a very loving people. They were so grateful for everything we brought.”

One day the group went to Buenos Aires, Ecuador, a small village on top of the Andes Mountains, a four-hour drive from Santo Domingo.

The missionaries were bringing a portable church to erect. As they journeyed to Buenos Aires, they picked up some men to help build the church. Once there the local men joined them in the task. When they came to meal time, the Americans wondered how they would feed everyone. They had brought food for a noon meal for their group of 14.

“It was another God moment,” Gerke said. “We just kept passing out the food and fed, maybe, 40-45 people. With leftovers.”

While at Buenos Aires Gerke had the opportunity to cut some hair. The local women brought out a bowl of water, a precious commodity, and each one would use the same water to wet their hair before cutting. Gerke was able to give each woman a comb. Gerke had also brought fingernail polish, and others polished finger nails while she cut hair.

The locals showed up for the 6:30 p.m. showing of the Jesus movie. One woman had told Gerke that she would come to the movie, but showed up later and said she was not able to stay that late.

“She said she lived a half hour away and had to get home before dark because that is when the poisonous snakes came out and she needed to be home before then.”

The Americans had to head back to Santo Domingo that evening, arriving at 2 a.m. They were told that it is not safe for Americans to be so close to Columbia with all its drug cartels.

The next day, after three hours of sleep, they headed back to Quinto. On Thursday night they went to catch their plane back home. They were leaving a day early because their flight on the 11th was canceled, which they knew before they left home. Their flight to Chicago was late and they missed their connection to Omaha, so they waited for the next one, making their trip home a 24-hour journey.

“It was very tiring, but fulfilling,” Gerke said. “We communicated through facial expressions, hand gestures. A hug is still a hug. A smile is still a smile in all languages.”

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