DETROIT LAKES, Minn. — A couple of times a year or so, the pages of the Detroit Lakes Tribune are filled with stories about area residents going on mission trips — whether it be as part of a church group, service organization or nonprofit — to exotic destinations like Haiti, Ecuador and Jamaica.
Rural Detroit Lakes residents Beau and Jackie Shroyer, along with their five children — Bella, 13; Avery, 12; Oakley, 9; Eden, 6; and Iva, 5 — are making similar plans for next year, to become missionaries in Angola, Africa. But as Jackie is quick to point out, it isn't really a "mission trip," as such.
"This is long term," she said. "We're going to be living there."
Her husband, Beau, will be giving up his work as a realtor with EXP Realty — where he has received his brokerage's highest production award for two years running — and the family will be leaving most of their worldly possessions behind as well.
"We're going to a remote bush village," says Beau — one that doesn't have a lot in the way of amenities. "There's no mail service, electricity, no sewer or water systems ... no things."
Even a trip into the city to stock up on groceries is a three-hour car ride through some very rough terrain.
"The road is a dirt track," says Beau. "It's very rough and prone to washouts."
"There are holes (in the road) as big as a car," said his son, Oakley.
"We're really going back in time," Jackie said, noting that their main charge will be teaching the region's youngest residents about Christianity and God's love.
"Most of these kids have never even heard the name of Jesus," said Jackie. "That's why we're going ... to teach them about the love that the Father has for them — that they are important, and that they matter."
Though Beau and Bella have previously been to Angola on a short-term, two-week mission project, none of them have been to the place where they will be living.
"It's all brand new for us," said Jackie — but that doesn't mean they're not looking forward to it.
"I'm really excited to get into the community and meet tons of people, and form a lot of new relationships," Bella said. "I think it's going to be amazing."
"I'm really looking forward to it," said Avery. "I know it will be hard ..."
"But it's worth it," added Oakley.
"I don't think it will take too long for us to adjust," said Bella. "I'm super excited."
"We are grateful for all the things we have, and the life we've had," said Jackie, "but we're looking forward to what God has planned for us next."
Avery said that she's looking forward to having the opportunity to teach the village's residents about chickens — how to raise them and how to use them to add variety and nutritional value to their food.
"Corn is their main source of food," said Beau, adding that boiled, mashed corn meal is a local staple. "We tried it, just to say we had it once — it was not delicious at all."
"It was kind of spongy," said Bella with a little grimace.
While they are looking forward to their new life, Jackie said, they are also grateful for the fact that they won't quite be going it alone — another local couple, former Lake Park area residents Eduardo and Jocelyn De Souza, will be joining them there. The De Souzas moved to Angola in 2017 to become medical missionaries for SIM — the same organization that is sponsoring the Shroyers' youth ministry.
"There is a bush clinic in the village," said Beau, noting that the De Souzas will be working there. "We'll be very blessed to have friends waiting for us there."
Their reunion with the De Souzas will have to wait a little while, however. First, the family must marshal their finances, get their passports and any necessary shots, and complete several weeks of training.
"We're planning on (leaving) Aug. 1," Beau said.
Even after they are all packed and ready to go, the Shroyers will have several more months of training ahead of them — in Portugal, where they will spend some time learning the language and culture (Angola is a former colony of Portugal, and Portuguese is still the country's national language).
Once they arrive in Africa, there will still be a bit of a communication barrier, as there are two different tribal languages spoken in the region. Nevertheless, they are more than eager to go.
"We wish we could go tomorrow," said Jackie. "Our hearts are there. We cannot wait."
"I feel really blessed, and lucky that we are able to do this," Bella added.
How you can help
The Shroyers' trip to Africa will be 100% funded by donations, Beau says.
"Anyone who would like to contribute can go to the website (simusa.org/give) and enter either our name (Shroyer), or our number (#050611)," Jackie said.
"We are in need of one-time gifts as well as monthly support," said Beau, noting that either will be greatly appreciated.