Archive for Saturday, July 11, 2009

Gospel trek: KU graduate faces risks in 11-country mission trip

Geoff Shepard says he hopes the missionary work he does will make a difference in the lives of others — even something as simple as getting to know a child. Here, he bonds with an orphan in Cameroon in June 2008.

Geoff Shepard says he hopes the missionary work he does will make a difference in the lives of others — even something as simple as getting to know a child. Here, he bonds with an orphan in Cameroon in June 2008.

July 11, 2009



KU grad Geoff Shepard will be visiting 11 countries in 11 months working with the group Adventures in Missions.

He’ll get his passport stamped in Ireland, Romania, Jordan, Israel, Egypt, Uganda, Kenya, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and another African country to be announced.

To learn more or to donate funds, visit http://geoffreyshepard.

Geoff Shepard (third from right) and fellow missionaries Michael (second from left) and Melissa (second from right) meet with students on a university campus in June 2008 in Cameroon.

Geoff Shepard (third from right) and fellow missionaries Michael (second from left) and Melissa (second from right) meet with students on a university campus in June 2008 in Cameroon.

Geoff Shepard plays with children at an orphanage in Cameroon last summer. That experience will help him as he travels the world doing missionary work for a year as part “Team Fuel” with The World Race.

Geoff Shepard plays with children at an orphanage in Cameroon last summer. That experience will help him as he travels the world doing missionary work for a year as part “Team Fuel” with The World Race.

Geoff Shepard will spend his first year as a college graduate seeing the world — living out of a backpack in 11 countries.

But this won’t be the kind of graduation experience that includes staying in hostels and learning to say the word “beer” in a handful of languages.

Shepard, who graduated from Kansas University in May, will be taking part in The World Race. Starting Aug. 1, he will be on the road, bouncing around the globe doing missionary work in countries as varied as Ireland, Romania, Egypt and Cambodia.

While his friends are working their first desk jobs, the 23-year-old plans to help strangers thousands of miles away, living on a $14,000 shoestring budget of which he has less than half-raised.

How he’ll be helping is less certain and will depend on each country, situation, day or minute. He believes he could be comforting an orphaned child in one country or helping AIDS patients in the next.

All the while, he’ll be blogging about his trip at — keeping his family, friends and supporters back home abreast of the year he plans to serve the Lord.

“I’d always loved to do something after college for a year or two years. And I didn’t know where in the world I really felt called or had a passion to go to,” says Shepard, 23. “I hope it’s going to give me a good perspective on the world, since I’m going to be going to Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia.”

Danger and faith

It’s a perspective where the benefits line up with its possible dangers, something Shepard understands after spending a summer working in an Asian country not completely receptive to Christian missionaries.

“I’ve seen some crazy things happen ...,” he says. “When you read through the Bible, it doesn’t say you’re going to be safe. I know it’s not a right that I have just because I’m Christian. I know that’s not something that’s guaranteed.”

He may not wish to spell out the dangers, but his father, John, doesn’t mince words.

“It’s certainly not a sightseeing adventure,” John Shepard says. “Especially when you start talking about countries like Uganda, and Kenya’s had its share of strife lately, and Cambodia ... it’s not without its risk. Especially when you’re in areas that aren’t necessarily receptive to someone wanting to share the Gospel.”

Also apprehensive is friend and roommate Matt Beattie. After spending long nights discussing faith, he is secure in his friend’s beliefs and only hopes it keeps Shepard safe.

“I am worried about that aspect of the trip because people get killed all over the world for talking about the very things Geoff will be talking to people about — namely Jesus Christ,” Beattie says. “A part of me feels like God will watch over them and protect them, but even the chance that he could get hurt or killed is a pretty scary thought.”

Sharing the faith

Shepard has been sharing the Gospel for years, having been raised within a Christian family and then especially moved by teenage youth group experience.

“My high school youth pastor in my church really impacted my life for the positive, really modeled who Christ was for me,” he says. “And since then, I always thought I wanted to do something with youth and Christ.”

In college, he hooked up with Campus Crusade for Christ, first through Johnson County Community College, then with KU. He did summer missions work in South Carolina, Asia and then last summer in the Cameroon. John Shepard says that after his son’s summertime missionary work he wasn’t surprised Geoff wanted to do more after graduation, but the idea of his son being gone for a year, missing Christmas and birthdays was tough to swallow.

“I wasn’t completely surprised ... I knew that’s where his heart was. You know, the yearlong thing was rather daunting,” John Shepard says. “I had to wrestle with it for a while, but eventually it’s one of those things that you have to have faith that his life is in God’s hands and he’s doing what he feels led to do. So kiss them on the cheek and send them on their way, and you tell them, ‘You come back home when you’re done with it.’”

Keeping him company before he comes home with 11 new passport stamps will be Marissa Villa, one of six other team members who will be traveling and working with Shepard on the trip. Villa breaks down the pull she, Shepard and the 80-plus people doing this leg of the race feel toward the mission.

“The people who apply are searching for something more. The majority of us have had everything we could possibly want or need handed to us. We know that the life we’ve lived so far is meaningless without the one free thing that everyone in the world has access to — God’s grace,” Villa says. “This mission isn’t about providing material blessings, although we may do some of that along the way, this is about sharing the one true fulfilling thing we’ve had in life — the love of our God.”

Shepard says that his plan after the race ends next July is up to God. Like many kids his age traveling the world, he hopes to find direction despite the distance.

“I know coming back from each summer I’ve changed in how I’ve viewed things,” he says of past missionary work. “(I’d like to) kind of find where, if I do go into full-time missions, where in the world that would be, if I have a heart for anywhere, and what kind.”


SirReal 8 years, 9 months ago

Even Jesus said he preaches to those who want to listen,... I support Christians and their work, but not missionaries. My catholic church has parterships in third world countries, but would never do anything like missionary work. Forcing religion on others is a way of the 1800's, I hope this becomes clear for you in your journey Geoff.

GeoffShepard 8 years, 9 months ago


Thank you for your concern over my decision to do "missionary work". My heart is absolutely to not force anything on anyone. If someone does not agree with what I believe is the Truth, that is fine. I can agree to disagree with them, and I will be respectful of their right to have their own beliefs. All I hope to do is care for people that are the orphans, widows, poor, and those in despair, and to offer the amazing truth of God's grace in their lives. If you want I would love to discuss further with you what I will be doing. Email here at

seriouscat 8 years, 9 months ago

Wow. Geoff is seriously hot!

Godspeed hot man. Godspeed.

JessicaVanek 8 years, 9 months ago

"I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man's foundations." Romans 15:20

I will be praying for you and the others on this trip and that His light will shine through you!

mdrndgtl 8 years, 9 months ago

While I understand his faith I think he should steer-clear of the AIDS-ridden countries... It may be too late to save anything of value anyway...

bearded_gnome 8 years, 9 months ago

wwow what an attitude, "steer clear of the AIDS ridden countries," you mean like San Francisco or New York?

God go with you Geoff, I'll be praying for you, keep you safe, and go before you to prepare hearts to see your work and hear what you say in your words and actions.

Geoff, I know God will use your travelsmost of all to guide you to your field. Christ did send missionaries, despite what Surreal says. Personally, I hope you might consider work in Ethiopia or Pakistan.

Informed is indeed correct about the work in muslim countries.

None2, most majority muslim countries it is common to have Christians killed, enslaved, or impoverished because of their faith. if a muslim person becomes a Christian he or she is likely to be disowned by family of birth, again maybe killed. in pakistan it is common that young women who are Christians are taken by force and made to be multiple wives of muslim men.

also, besides the in-person work, there are good broadcasts into the muslim countries. this past week was news that several pastors and some average Christians in Nigeria were killed for their faith.

mdrndgtl 8 years, 9 months ago

Whoa, whoa... New York is a state and San Francisco a city. I support Geoff's journey, but I would rather he not return with AIDs, that's all...

sks6cf 8 years, 9 months ago


From a Christian standpoint, it is God's desire for His name to be made famous amongst every tribe, tongue, and nation, so it is quite necessary for Christians to go to other countries and share the Good News.

Danette Seymour 8 years, 9 months ago

There is a huge difference between those called into Missionary work and those that choose to go abroad and "bible-beat" (so-to-speak). If a person feels it in their heart to go abroad and spread love, peace, and compassion in the name of Jesus, that is Mission work. If people go and preach about hell, sin, and fear, that is serving ones own interest.

Geoff, I wish you well in your works. I have no doubt you will bring much peace, grace and love into the lives of many.

Keeping all of you in prayer.

mdrndgtl 8 years, 9 months ago

Pywacket, why don't you just admit your hatred of Geoff? You seem all too willing to throw him into the AIDS-infested fire.

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 9 months ago

Geoff is cuter than the child he is holding. He looks way to naive to venture abroad. There is no respect on here for Catholics. No, we do not read the same Bible that Protestants read. We do not worship Mary, saying the rosary, which I do often, does not indicate that. I have great respect for the Pope as the leader of my church. I would not make fun of the leader of a Protestant church. mdrndgtl are you so afraid that Geoff will not be able to resist the dark skinned ladies he comes across in Africa? I mean, AIDS infested fire? Or, are you assuming he is homosexual? Is he?

maybeso 8 years, 9 months ago

If people want to help others, why can't they just do that and leave out the "spreading the word" part? That's not necessarily helping, actually.

KansasPerson 8 years, 9 months ago

Can't believe the gall of some people who are willing to sit at their computer in their comfy homes and criticize a young person who is about to spend a year denying himself ordinary comforts while he lends a hand to other people.

Can't believe that Marion thinks that not one person should be helped in any other country until there is not one single person in the U.S.A. that needs help. Now don't fly off the handle and call me a jerk again, Marion, because although you did not say those exact words, that is certainly what you are implying.

Can't believe mdrndgtl is anything but a troll.

LarryNative, I don't see why you went off at SirReal like that. Totally not on topic, for starters. Geoff (remember, the guy in the article?) is not even Catholic. But if you hate Catholics so much that you have to reel of a lot of false info about their faith, then go right ahead, I guess. If you want to be more informed, there are plenty of people around who could help you out. I suspect that your goal was just to stir up strife, however.

bearded_gnome 8 years, 9 months ago

thanks None2 and Py.

None2, I doubt you could find equivalent laws of religious oppression in any christian country. western europe is largely lost to christianity and needs real missionaries too. Ironically, south korea is now sending missionaries to our country.

and Irish, if you respect the Pope so much you should take his teaching on human life to heart, along with what your own archbishop has said repeatedly about proabortion politicians.

Marion has obviously sunken to what for him is a remarkable new low.

soldier1 8 years, 9 months ago

Marion wrtites:

Sure I do.

This guy prefers to travel the world to “help” others elsewhere, leaving his own country to fend for itself.

He therefore hates the United States as he is willing to let US citizens suffer in deference to people in other countries.

Let him go and then cancel his passport.

His kind is not needed here. He loves them so much, let him stay in one of the eleven countries which he will visit.

I think Geoff is a fine example of an American, and a good role model for ourselves and other countries to emulate, especially with the anti-American sentiments today. Godspeed, Geoff, my prayers are with you.

Marion- are you that angry at christians that you are willing to make them look bad at the expense of yourself? No need to answer, previous posts have proved the answer is "yes". Why are you so angry, Marion? Why are you criticizing someone/something that has nothing to do with you?

This country is not helpless, and even you know that.

Really, what happened to you that makes you dislike christians so much?

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