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The Side By Side India Crew 2000

The India Crew
The India Crew group photo at training in Minneapolis.

The India Crew is:
(Click on a name to view a profile.)
Casey Christiansen, Holly Gold, Roy Heflin, Jocelyn Johnston, Erica Lambart,
Roberta Moore, Darren O'Hare, Zac Pennell, Tracey Pollick,
Nathan Roemer, Heather Rose, Wendy Schelper,
Shawn Smith, Ian Somerville,
and Becky Taylor.

Some profiles are not yet available.
A profile of each crew member will be available soon.

Casey Christiansen

Casey taking a break in a newly whitewashed room.

Cassandra Lynn Christiansen (casey@sidebysideindia.com) was born on 17 February 1984, which makes her 16 years old now.  She lives in Saginaw, MI, where she attends Valley Lutheran High School.  When asked about her experience in India, Casey said, "To be quite honest, I don't know what made me decide to go on this trip.  I guess it just felt like the right thing to do at the time.  I mean, once I got to India, I realized that I was there to help the people of the Women's Bible College.  But even then, I didn't feel like I had done enough.  Now that I'm home I can really see what an impact we had on those people, and I'm glad that we could help them.   Although, they have helped me as much as, if not, more than what I could have ever done for them.  I feel like I was blessed with the opportunity to go and see India and to 'understand' its culture, and it is an experience that I will never forget."

Holly Gold

Holly covered in whitewash after a hard day's work.

Holly (holly@sidebysideindia.com) is 15 years old, and was born on August 29th.  She lives in Linwood, MI, but she attends Living Hope Christian Church and is a Junior at Valley Lutheran High School, both of which are in Saginaw.  Some of her hobbies include softball, shopping, dancing, singing, and hanging out with friends.

When asked how she felt about her experience in India, Holly said, "I really loved it.  At first, I really wasn't sure why God wanted me to go on this trip.  I had never done anything this big before, so I didn't know why He suddenly wanted me to jump into something like this.  Now, I know that He wanted me there so that those women could learn how to teach each other.  I somehow feel responsible for helping them to lead people to Christ.  I also formed some great friendships that I know God really wanted me to have."

Roy Heflin

Roy taking some time out with two kids at the work site.

Roy Heflin (roy@sidebysideindia.com) is, in his words, "just another servant in Christ" who lives in Lubbock, TX, where he is a Campus Minister at Texas Tech.

"Why did I feel called to go?" Roy asked.   "Well, first of all, it’s because Shawn Smith sent me an e-mail asking me to pray about it, so it’s his fault!  Not really, but his asking--kinda like Andrew asking Peter to come see Jesus--caused me to seriously pray about why God would want me to go.  After weeks of prayer and questioning Susan [his wife] and friends, I decided three things had to fall in place for me to know I should go.  1) Money--meaning sponsors who would support me financially; 2) permission--from Susan and from my supervisor, Rev. Ken Hennings, because I was just starting my new position at Texas Tech; and 3) that plans for this Fall semester at Texas Tech were taken care of before I left.  Well, God answered all of those in the affirmative, so I followed!   But I also wanted to go to learn more about Jesus from a different perspective than I would learn in the U.S.  And I did!!  God is much bigger than I ever could have imagined.  Plus, I learned two life-long lessons: 1) I need to show Susan how much I love her, more than ever, and 2) I need to be more wise about how I spend my personal money, to be a better steward of the gifts God has given me!"

Jocelyn Johnston

Jocelyn on the evening of the building dedication.

Jocelyn Johnston (jocelyn@sidebysideindia.com) is a 19 year old sophomore at Grove City College, where she's majoring in Music Education.   She plays a variety of instruments, but her concentration is Alto Saxophone.   She's a member of various musical ensembles on campus, and also Historian of the GCC chapter of MENC (Music Educator's National Conference).  She also participates in Intramural Basketball, and enjoys other sports.

Jocelyn remarks, "I decided to go on the trip to India because I felt called by God through Shawn's invitation and encouragement.  I've never really done anything big like this to challenge myself; I've always been in a comfort zone.  I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and do something to really serve God and others.  I was very humbled on the trip, and my heart was touched by my crew members and the people of India.  I think the trip has also helped me to challenge myself and take risks more often."

Erica Lambart

Erica is all packed and ready to leave for India from training in Minneapolis.

Erica Lambart (erica@sidebysideindia.com) was born on the morning of Sunday, February 5, 1984.   Erica has always thought that it was unique that God chose her to be born at that time for two reasons.  One of the reasons is that her father is a pastor, and he got out of preaching in order to be at her birth, and the second is because her best friend of 11 years, Allison, was baptized at the very exact time on the same day of her birth.   Pretty neat, eh?!

Skipping to the present day, Erica is 16 years old and a junior at Valley Lutheran High School in Michigan.  She has an elder sister who is 19 and studies at the University of Michigan.  Her father is still a pastor, and he loves to sail to Put-in Bay, Ohio.   Her mother also enjoys sailing, and she works at Dow Chemical.  Finally, Erica's dog, Bosco, is a Chow and was named after the really old chocolate drink.

Erica comments, "I absolutely love to travel.  However, I loathe sailing.  I enjoy playing my guitar and cooking gourmet meals out of the cook book that my sister bought me a few years ago.  As for my future, only God knows, but I hope to attend Concordia Ann Arbor for college, and maybe even become a Director of Christian Education."

Roberta Moore

Roberta worships God by singing a song in sign language.

Roberta Moore is 25 and lives in Wooster, OH.  After years of living the corporate life, she followed her hear to Wooster where she currently works at the Christian Children's Home of Ohio.  She has the daily joy of working with teenagers in need.  In her free time, Roberta enjoys music, art, reading, hiking, and rollerblading.

When asked, "Why India?" Roberta replied, "There were numerous reasons why I wanted to travel to India.  One of the biggest reasons was that I wanted to experience life and my faith from a completely different point of view.  I wanted to 'walk a mile in someone else's moccasins.'  This trip was definitely life-changing in that respect.  I saw lives that were fully dedicated to and dependent on God.  It was a reminder for me to readjust my priorities.  Upon returning, I realized that God had many more lessons for me to learn.  One of the most profound impacts this trip has had on my life and my ministry is that it has restored my hope.  I worked with some of the most amazing Christian young people, and seeing their faith in action reminded me that our future is in very good hands!"

One of the biggest highlights from her trip was seeing the Indian orphanages and interacting with the children there--hearing them singing and seeing the beauty and joy of their smiles.

Darren O'Hare

Darren smiles and cuts his cake on his birthday.

Now 22 years Old, Darren O'Hare (darren@sidebysideindia.com) was born and raised on Long Island, NY.  Straight out of High school Darren joined the Army, and he's now in the reserve while attending college, where he's taking a double major in Business Management and Theatre.  For the last few years Darren has been volunteering at his church working with the youth group, Church Nerds.

Darren shared a little bit about what made him decide to go on this trip and his plans for the future: "I originally heard about the Side By Side program from Michael of Lost and Found.  I talked with my friend, Justin--he is the Youth Director at my church--about his experience with Lost and Found in India.  After hearing about their trip, I knew this was something I wanted to do.  I am deeply grateful for all the support I received from my friends, family, and congregation, and I thank you for making this trip possible for me.  We are now in the process of planning a similar type of mission for the Cherch Nurdz."

A highlight of the trip for Darren was the children from the village next to the work site.  They would come over everyday--even cutting school sometimes--and do everything they could to get us to stop working so we would play with them.

Darren concluded, "This trip was one of the greatest experiences of my life.   Thanks again to all who made it possible."

Zac Pennell

Zac recommends this yummy orange juice drink.

Tracey Pollick

Tracey enjoys a Limca soda with some Bible women.

Tracey Pollick (tracey@sidebysideindia.com) is 32 and lives in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania (a suburb of Philadelphia).  Tracey was born and raised in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, and she attended The Pennsylvania State University, where she earned both her B.S. and M.ed. in Special Education.  Tracey has been teaching for ten years, and she is a special education teacher at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania.

When Tracey was asked why she felt called by God to participate in this trip, she replied, "God works in amazing ways!  I feel that God worked through my dear friend, Shawn Smith, by way of a personal invitation to join the work crew.  God has blessed me with a very special ability to lead youth.  I was excited to be able to use this gift to do God's work in India.  In addition, I welcomed the opportunity to escape my comfort zone and challenge my faith."

In reflection, Tracey feels this trip has profoundly affected her life.  Although the beautiful and humble brothers and sisters of Christ in India couldn't thank us enough for giving them our gifts of love and labor, Tracey feels the people and experiences of India were the greatest gifts she could ever receive.  "I learned the most valuable life lessons during my time in India.  I felt privileged to live among people who were so rich in spirit and joy despite their monetary poverty.  As I was taken from my comfort zone, my faith was tested daily.  Of course, God was with me and carried me through the more difficult times.  Although our wonderful hosts made us very comfortable, I gained a new appreciation for the daily struggles to obtain basic needs, such as food and water.  I have a renewed respect for my freedom of religion, as Christians in India suffer religious persecution daily.  In addition to being a religious minority, I was also in the racial and gender minorities.  I learned what it was like to be treated differently because of the color of my skin.  As a woman, I brought home a whole new perspective on what it means to be a woman.  I admit that, as a strong and independent woman, I had reservations about how I would be treated in India.  Traditionally, women are submissive to men in India, and I thought I would struggle with this concept.  However, I learned that equality does not necessarily equal respect.  Indian women are treated with great respect and reverence.   There is no doubt a father, brother, son, or husband would lay down his life for a woman he loved.  I was treated with this same respect.  In the U.S., I always felt women would never earn true respect until we were perceived as equals to men.   Now, I have stopped fighting those differences.  I am celebrating the beauty and grace that only women share.  I respect myself more for this change and hope others will too."

"I thank God daily for this gift of new life for me.  I carry a piece of everyone I came in contact with in my heart, and I do this to replace the piece of me which will always remain in India.  It is my prayer that God will keep my experiences fresh in my heart and mind forever."

Nathan Roemer

Nathan and his Compassion International sponsored child, Nukala.

Nathan Roemer (Sound Message, LLC Email Form) is 20 years old and lives in Boston, MA, where he is currently pursuing his B.A. in Audio Production at Emerson College.  (Since then, Nathan was graduated with his degree in 2001.)   Nathan is also the owner of Sound Message, LLC, a company that provides creative audio, music, new media, internet, and artistic production services to independent artists and small businesses at an affordable price.  In Boston, Nathan attends Park Street Church and Boston Worship Center, and he is also active in Real Life (Campus Crusade for Christ) and Chi Alpha Campus Ministries, which are organisations of Christian fellowship and ministry for university students in the Boston area.  Food, travelling, and little gadgets keep him busy when he's not doing all that other stuff.

This was Nathan's second trip to India; he went on a Side By Side team to India back in 1998 as well.  Here's a little bit about why he went back:

"I knew after my first trip to India that I wanted to go back sometime.   Little did I know that sometime would be only two years later!  I must admit that when Shawn first suggested the idea to me almost one year ago, I didn't think it could happen.  But, that Shawn is really persistent, and the more I thought and prayed about it,  the more I knew that God was calling me to go back to India."   Nathan served the crew with his past experiences in India as a sort of "cultural advisor," and he also facilitated the crew's ministry through technology (like this web site) and through music (by singing and playing the guitar).   Later on, his passion for food was recognised as he was appointed to choose the yummy Indian food for the crew's meals.  The highlight of the trip for Nathan was the children.  Their discipline in education, their strength in faith, and their sheer joy in childhood were truly remarkable and inspiring.

Heather Rose

Heather and a young girl at the work site.

Wendy Schelper

Wendy takes a ride on Richard's scooter.

Wendy Schelper (wendy@sidebysideindia.com) lives in Minnetonka, MN and attends All Saints Lutheran Church.  She is 15 years old and will be a sophomore this fall at West Lutheran.   Some of her interests include dancing, cheerleading, swimming, hanging out with friends, teaching Sunday school, short-term mission work, and more!

When asked why she decided to go on this trip to India, Wendy said, "I've always had a passion for any kind mission work, and I really felt like this was something that God wanted me to do.  I knew there was a purpose for the desire God had placed in my heart, but I wasn't sure why.  I was told a million times that this trip would impact my life, but I had no idea as to what God can truly do when you give yourself up to His ways!  I know that God "hand picked" everyone in our group and put us together for a reason, and for that I am truly thankful.  Looking back, I can't believe what an opportunity it really was.  I now know that God will provide for His children, and He uses each and every one of us to speak to others in our words, actions, and love.  I was able to see that everyday from the nationals and my group!  I can now say that this experience has touched my life and will be treasured forever!"

Shawn Smith

Shawn is "Big Giant White Man" next to the Indian children!

Shawn Smith (shawn@sidebysideindia.com) is 33 years old and from Clarkston, MI.  He does full time Christian music ministry for a living and served on the India Crew as our crew leader.  Calvary Lutheran Church in Clarkston is Shawn's home congregation.  As a graduate of the University of Michigan with a B.A. in Secondary Education, Theatre & Speech, Shawn often jokes that he is in the 28th grade.  His hobbies include volleyball, photography, digital video editing, reading, and writing.

When asked why he felt called to serve in India, he said, "I felt called to serve the Lord in a meaningful, overseas mission trip, and to share it with young, faithful people I've met in my own ministry.  My original hope was to learn more about our faith by removing ourselves from the distractions of affluence and by learning and "under-stand"ing what it means to be a Christian minority in the 3rd world.  Upon returning from India, my hope and prayer is that all of us on the crew will appreciate our faith more, prioritize our lives accordingly, and inspire others here in America to do the same."  The highlight of the trip for Shawn was a draw between meeting and sharing so many memorable moments with the Indian children; and working on, completing, and dedicating the women's Bible school in Rajahmundry.

Ian Somerville

Ian in the computer room at the Baptist Center

Ian Somerville (ian@sidebysideindia.com) is 16 years old and lives in Port Charlotte, Florida, where he finds his church home at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church.  He enjoys computers, church, sleeping, tinkering with electronic things, thinking and eating.  Before this trip, Ian had no overseas experience, but he agreed to this one when Shawn Smith invited him to go with him on a mission trip to India.  He then encouraged his friend, Zac Pennell, to join him.  What a guy!

When asked why he decided to go on this trip, he responded, "I saw it as an opportunity to enhance my faith.  I knew that it would be a life changing experience for me and everyone else in our group.  I knew from the first day that God had assembled the most exciting, faithful, and all around great group of Christians possible."  He later added, "I think I would really like to go to another country again in the future.  It might be an interesting way to strengthen my faith even more and to meet another really awesome group of Christians."  One highlight that stood out for Ian was getting to meet the natives and learning how to blend into their culture--well as much as he could, anyway.

Becky Taylor

Becky Mae Taylor with her smile full of sunshine.

At sixteen, Becky Taylor (becky@sidebysideindia.com) is a fiery redhead who lives in Caledonia, Michigan.  She attends Grace Lutheran Church in Wyoming, Michigan and enjoys being active through volunteering for many church functions.  She loves to dance and finds herself quite busy throughout the school year.  Some of her other passions include swimming, reading, shopping, talking on the phone, and ice cream!  Before India, Becky had never had any overseas adventures, but now she vows she will fly over the great ocean once again to explore!

When asked why she decided to go on this trip she responded, "The whole experience just sounded like such an adventure.  I was sick of walking around in my comfort zone all of the time, so when God threw this awesome opportunity at me, I was all for it.   I am thrilled about all of the exciting things we were able to accomplish under God, and I can't wait to finish telling the rest of my family and friends all about it.   I met some wonderful people on my India Crew who have touched my life forever.   I know that people like these guys didn't show up by mere coincidence.  I praise God for how he has blessed me through my new, aspiring friendships and facilitated me to be an awesome witness through my mission experience!"

The highlights of the trip for Becky were learning dances from the children at the orphanage and swimming in the Bay of Bengal.  She couldn't wait to go home and tell her family that she had now been swimming in THREE oceans!  Becky strongly encourages anyone considering a mission trip through Side by Side to go for it!

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