MATTHEWS – A team of eight Carmel Baptist Church members recently reached across continents and cultures to minister to missionaries in Peru, as well as students attending a school for the deaf in the country’s capital city.
The team, led by Marcus Copolillo, set out for Lima, Peru, on Aug. 3 and returned on Aug. 10. During their time there, most team members spent the majority of the week working on a guesthouse open to missionaries and groups visiting the country.
“The guesthouse is geared toward anybody coming in and out of the country that needs a stop-over for rests on their way to more rural (areas) to do ministry,” Copolillo said.
The team completed a variety of “handyman tasks” on the house, including replacing some light fixtures, sanding down dining room tables and chairs and building a brick wall around a booster pump – something needed to preserve the tranquility intended for guests.
“The concept (of the house) was missionaries are using this as a respite,” Copolillo said. “The noise of the pump was not conducive to resting, so we built a wall around it.”
One team member, however, ministered in a different way.
Audrey Scurfield, the deaf/hard of hearing program specialist for Cabarrus County Schools, works with deaf students daily. But until this month, she’d never been on a mission trip.
Scurfield had been praying for the deaf population across the world one Sunday when she was presented with the opportunity to travel to Lima and minister to students at Señales, a school for the deaf. After hearing more about the impending trip, she said she felt God calling her to go.
“I didn’t know exactly what to expect,” Scurfield said about the mission trip being her first. “But I was real comfortable with the team. A lot of people were very experienced.”
Scurfield spent the week at Señales, working with students and teachers. The students at Señales are ages 16 and older and have “aged out” of government school. During her first day at the school, Scurfield observed how the teachers and students worked together. As the week continued, she taught the students a Bible lesson and worked with teachers, stressing the importance of vocabulary words and learning to write.
The biggest challenge, Scurfield said, was the language barrier. Because sign language isn’t universal and there wasn’t always an interpreter present, communication sometimes got lost in translation – like when Scurfield accidently signed “hungry” instead of “baby.”
“Some signs I could understand, some I was at a complete loss,” she said. “So, it was a challenge, but it was an enjoyable challenge.”
Scurfield said the language barrier opened her eyes to how some parents of her Cabarrus County students don’t speak English, and she got a taste of how the parents might feel when trying to communicate.
“The biggest thing I took (from the trip) was a little more empathy for people I encounter on a daily basis who don’t understand my language,” she said. “… I have more compassion for those here who don’t speak our language.”
Scurfield wasn’t the only team member who had a chance to interact with the students. Copolillo and the other six team members – Jennifer Copolillo, Tom Scurfield, Bill McHugh, Charles Cranford, Dan Miller and Jessica Miller – visited the school one day during the week to work with the students, teaching them to build wooden boxes.
The students were thrilled to discover they could keep the boxes and paint them, draw on them, put jewelry in them and more, Copolillo said. They also learned some basic “handyman skills,” as most didn’t know how to hold a hammer.
“It went so smoothly. The Lord really guided us through that,” he said. “… They’re beautiful people, so sweet. The joy the kids showed when they got to keep their boxes, that was my favorite part.”