For 30 years, PLNU has sent students around the world on LoveWorks short-term mission trips. LoveWorks teams go only where they are invited and support the work of local churches and long-term missionaries. In addition to supporting the global church, LoveWorks provides for the spiritual formation of the students — and leaders — who participate. Their training and experiences involve challenge and risk that often shape the rest of their lives. In fact, LoveWorks and the office of Spiritual Development grew up together and remain fundamental ways the university fulfills its mission and helps students discover their callings in christ.
An unexpected storm and a calloused hand changed the course of life for Norm Shoemaker, D.Min. It was Shoemaker’s first missions experience. As a sophomore at Pasadena College, he had gone with his home church, Bresee Avenue Church of the Nazarene, to serve on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico. Near the end of the week, an unexpected blizzard hit shortly after a couple of students had gone for a ride on some ponies they had borrowed from their new Navajo friends. A search party sought the students until 3 a.m. while Navajo church members and students prayed. The students were eventually found safe in a hogan, unaware that “half the state of New Mexico” had been looking for them. Then, just before boarding the bus on the last day of the trip, Shoemaker had a revelation.
“I was holding the calloused hand of an elderly Navajo woman and Loren [Gresham, later president of Southern Nazarene University] was on the other side,” he recalled. “We were singing ‘God Be With You Till We Meet Again,’ and we were all weeping. This woman pulled a piece of jewelry off her hand and offered it to me as if to say, ‘I want to give you something to remember me.’ Inside of me, a kind of explosion happened. I think what exploded was a one mile triangle between my home, my church, and the campus. The people, values, and stories that shaped my life were all experienced inside of that triangle. It was my world! I became more of a global Christian in that moment. I wanted to do more of this and have more cross-cultural experience. In the years after that, I wanted to do whatever I could to give every young person that chance to get out of their provincialism and become a more global follower of Jesus.”
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In 1987, the president of the university was Jim Bond, D.Min., and he hired Shoemaker as the first executive director of spiritual development. PLNU was one of the first Christian universities to create an Office of Spiritual Development.
Shoemaker said of his role as founder: “It was a new kind of a role, not only at Point Loma but for any Nazarene university. In fact, it was a fairly new approach to all the Christian universities.”
Though the role was new, Shoemaker was well-prepared to fill it — and not just because of his experience in New Mexico. His early professional roots were in youth ministry. After graduating from Pasadena College in 1961, he worked as one of the first full-time youth pastors in the Church of the Nazarene at Bresee Avenue. He went on to serve at the largest Nazarene church at the time, Bethany First Church of the Nazarene in Oklahoma. In 1970, Shoemaker became general program director for the department of Youth Ministries of the Church of the Nazarene at its denominational headquarters in Kansas City. During his tenure, Shoemaker launched the Youth In Mission program. The program has sent more than 3,000 college students on short-term ministry assignments in the United States and around the world during their summer breaks.
“I wanted to do whatever I could to give every young person that chance to get out of their provincialism and become a more global follower of Jesus.”
—NORM SHOEMAKER, D.MIN.
Shoemaker brought these experiences into his new role at the university. When he arrived, he estimates that there were about 75 to 100 students involved in seven student-led ministries. But since there was no formal structure, these ministries and participation therein varied greatly from year to year.
“What came to me pretty quickly the first year was that we would need three streams of initiative,” he said. “Upreach through worship, inreach through discipleship, and outreach through ministry and service.”
Upreach was facilitated through chapel, which was already in existence, and the addition of Time Out. Inreach was facilitated through covenant groups (now called discipleship groups). Outreach was designed to happen through student ministries and short-term missions.
“Within a couple years, probably 50 percent of students were involved,” Shoemaker said. “That was a shift in the culture right there that took place.”
The culture shift contributed to the holistic spiritual development and formation of students on the campus and provided support to the chaplain at the time, Gerard Reed, Ph.D.
The first short-term mission trip in what would soon be named LoveWorks was to Belize in the summer of 1989. The students who went participated in a larger initiative called the Cause Project. A team was then invited to serve in Brazil.
“What moved it to a whole new level of engagement was Eastern Europe opening up,” said Shoemaker. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the international political climate made many new places to serve available.
“These student teams were uniquely gifted to open doors and form relationships,” Shoemaker said.
Fifty-two people from the university and sister institutions participated in the first LoveWorks trip to Russia in 1991, bringing Bibles and medical supplies. On that trip, the value of presence — “showing up incarnationally” — in contrast to simply sending aid, was once again confirmed for Shoemaker.
“In Bryansk, Russia, we took 73 green duffle bags of new pharmaceutical and medical supplies into the hospital and the entire staff was there. The director said, ‘Norm, we are grateful for all of these medical supplies you have brought…but what is really important to us is that you came with them. You didn’t just send them; you came, too. Please don’t forget us.’”
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Shoemaker’s early efforts at giving students the opportunity to grow and serve through short-term missions were enhanced by his unique partnership with Dana Walling, who was the associate dean for community life at the time. In his role, Walling worked with ASB and student government, placing him close to the heartbeat of the campus. From the beginning, Walling was an avid supporter of LoveWorks, rallying students and leading trips. Shoemaker said Ken Hills, the vice president for student development at the time, empowered the partnership. By 1992, Walling joined the Office of Spiritual Development.
Brian Becker, current director of international ministries at PLNU, who has led LoveWorks for the past decade, said of those early days: “It was a providential win-win with these two pastors. Norm is a visionary and keen strategic thinker, and Dana was amazingly gifted relationally.”
In 1994, Shoemaker accepted a call to serve as pastor at San Diego First Church of the Nazarene, and Walling took over as director for Spiritual Development and LoveWorks. He served in the role until his passing in 2000.
Jeff Bolster, Ph.D., co-directed international ministries with Walling in the late 1990’s and served as director from 2000-02. Becky Modesto served from 2003-04. Bolster returned in 2004, serving until 2008 when he became dean of students and director of residential life. He was succeeded by Becker.
Shoemaker credits Bolster and Becker with advancing the training students receive before going on missions to the rich experience it is today.
“The seeds were sown in our era, but Jeff further developed the training, and then Brian, and they made it much more comprehensive and intense,” Shoemaker said.
Throughout its history, LoveWorks has been known for only going where teams are invited.
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“There is something really powerful about being invited into someone’s church community,” said Becker. “It’s an altogether different thing that allows for relating and opening up on a deep heart level.”
Becker believes giving students adequate preparation is vital because the impact of LoveWorks on their lives is often lasting. While the typical LoveWorks trip is three weeks long, students spend a full semester learning, praying, and preparing to serve and to be shaped by their experience.
“[Author] Donald Miller says the two things that bring change are crisis and relationship,” said Becker. “LoveWorks is powerfully both of those.”
Where We’ve Been
Beginning in 1988, LoveWorks has sent students around the world to help with the mission and work of the global church. For each of the first two years of the program, one team represented PLNU abroad: in 1988, 19 people went to Belize to serve, and in 1989, 26 people went to Guyana. By 1993, more than 100 (118 to be precise) were sent to eight different locations. By 1997, 177 people from PLNU went as a part of 13 different teams. The most teams sent in one year was 15 in 2014. The most individuals participating in a single year were the 195 who went on 14 different teams in 2007. In the past 30 years, 250 different teams consisting of 2,818 members have been sent to the places represented on this map. Many countries have been visited by multiple teams throughout the years. LoveWorks only goes where the program is invited by local churches or missionaries.
COUNTRIES VISITED: Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Azores, Bangladesh, Belize, Benin, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Fiji, Ghana, Guam, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Hawaii, Honduras, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kyrgystan, Liberia, Madagascar, Macedonia, Malawi, Mexico, Moscow, Mozambique, Nepal, New Mexico, New York, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, San Jose, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Swaziland, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Leon Kugler, Ph.D.
(Longtime LoveWorks team co-leader and retiring professor of kinesiology)
“It’s an amazing formation of team to go someplace in the world where we can encourage and support the people who are in ministry there. The love of God expressed by our team and by the people who host us, they really represent the call of Christ to love people in practical ways. Through these experiences … it is God who is to be trusted. And there are miracles of insight; there are miracles of healing; there are miracles of people coming to life in Christ and maturing in their faith — both where we go and on our team. There’s mutuality in the blessing.”
Courtney Turner (13)
(LoveWorks alum and Global Missions Mobilization staff for the Church of the Nazarene)
“In the summer of 2010, I boarded a flight to Asia eager to live and minister cross-culturally. Over the next two months, our team formed relationships with college students and shared the love of Christ through actions and words. I returned home forever changed. Through LoveWorks, I developed a passion for missions, and I received the foundation and tools necessary for cross-cultural ministry.”
Rev. Gordon Wong (92)
(1991 Russia team member and Nazarene pastor)
“LoveWorks was the building of what I understood to be a life-changing faith. Going to seminary, planting a church, all these things began because back in 1991, going with LoveWorks to Russia, God showed up in a real way for me. So many of the people that went on that trip ended up giving their lives to God in service and in ministry. For those thinking about going on a LoveWorks trip, risk is a big part of it. And the more you risk…the greater the possibility for reward.”
James Bishop (17)
“LoveWorks was important for me as a step outside of myself, outside of my country to get in touch with people around the world. When I came back from the Democratic Republic of the Congo it was a pretty big moment in my life. That’s when the real change began, expanding my horizons, expanding my vision of the world, my vision of the kingdom of heaven, my vision of my faith. I think that change is still happening today. As I look back on my time at Point Loma, LoveWorks was one of the most impactful and influential experiences I had as a student. It has really changed my life.”
Rev. Chishibanji Célestin
(Longtime LoveWorks host in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nazarene district superintendent, pastor, and educator)
“Special thanks to Point Loma Nazarene University and the initiators of LoveWorks missions that have impacted the lives of many people around the world and in D.R. Congo in particular. Since May 2007, LoveWorks teams have been visiting and working with our church. Their impact has been tremendous, creating hope for the hopeless. While many have been afraid to come for a visit and stay with us for even a single day, PLNU LoveWorks teams have sent courageous students to stay with us for at least 18 days. The compassionate students have been with orphans, widows, and HIV+ persons, caring for them, talking to them, dancing and singing with them, visiting them in their setting of life and even sharing their food with them. The teams have shared testimonies that show people all over the world have problems and that the only one who solves problems is God. The teams have helped us build 12 churches by providing iron sheets for roofing. Your impact is huge; keep it up.”
Rev. Sylvia Cortez Masyuk (95)
(Church leader in Ukraine, former PLNU campus pastor and leader of 10 LoveWorks teams)
“I have had the privilege of leading over 10 LoveWorks teams. But my first trip was as a student in 1991, with Norm Shoemaker and Dana Walling as our co-leaders. On that historic trip, dozens of students from different Nazarene colleges partnered in ministry throughout Russia. I’m told that of that group, 70 students later committed themselves to vocational ministry. I am one of those 70.
It truly was a new day in the Soviet Union and what an experience to have been a part of that team! As we engaged in street ministry and performed in concert halls, Norm was constantly encouraging and challenging us to step up and be ministers of the Gospel to a hungry nation. We quickly learned that we would not just be observers on the sidelines, but instead, each of us using our different gifts and skills, would be partners in ministry. He placed a great deal of trust in our ability to minister at such a young age, and this left an indelible mark on my own understanding of leadership development. Even in those early days, Norm modeled a spirit of relational ministry that remains the heartbeat of the LoveWorks program.”
CELEBRATE LOVEWORKS WITH US!
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- Help fund the LoveWorks Norm Shoemaker Endowment.
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