On a mission: Woman follows father’s footsteps into life of service
Shannon Sims grew up watching her father, Richard, give back.
As a volunteer firefighter with the town of Spencer for more than two decades and an active member of the Spencer Jaycees, he spent much of his life lending a hand to people in need.
“He was the first person that would help others and respond to a need. I remember the excitement he would have about it,” Shannon said. “I remember as a child always being at functions that were centered around the community.”
But Richard’s life of service was cut short in January 2002 when he died suddenly at the age of 46.
It took Shannon years to let go of the sorrow she felt at her father’s passing, but when she finally did she began to heal.
With that healing came a desire to follow in her father’s footsteps of volunteerism.
In order to do that, Shannon started attending church.
“I learned who God was and what my purpose in life was,” she said. “I had to grow through study for a while and learn about the Bible.”
After a lot of praying, Shannon decided to go on a mission trip with Jackson Park United Methodist Church to Guatemala in 2010.
“My eyes were opened to how difficult it was in other parts of the world compared to how life as we know it is here,” she said.
During the trip, Shannon worked in a medical clinic and helped install a water purification system, but her favorite part was ministering to children.
“There was magic in their eyes,” she said.
Shannon’s next mission trip took place in Brazil, where she had more opportunities for evangelism.
“We shared the gospel through music to not only families, but children as well,” she said.
Shannon, now a member of Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte, ended up selling practically everything she owned in preparation for her next trip to South Africa, where she planned to spend 18 months working with a nonprofit organization. But she later realized it wasn’t the right time for a move overseas.
“I decided it wasn’t going to work, so I started looking for another short-term mission trip,” she said.
She found one to Venezuela through World Mission Go, a nonprofit community development organization.
Shannon will host a barbecue fundraiser in memory of her father from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 1 at Park Plaza in Spencer in order to help offset the cost of the trip. The meal will include a barbecue sandwich, chips and drink for $6.
Shannon’s mission trip will take place from July 20 through 26.
“I ran into my dad’s friend, Jack Moore, and told him about my trip and he agreed to help me,” Shannon said. “He wanted an opportunity to do something in memory of dad.”
Moore, the maker of Blowin’ Smoke BBQ Sauce, will be cooking the barbecue.
“(Richard’s) one of those guys who got pure joy out of fixing stuff and helping people when they were in a jam,” he said. “He was a unique individual. There are not many like him out there.
“He did so much for me, this is something I feel like I can do for him.”
Shannon said a lot of her inspiration to help others has come from her father.
“I feel like I’m living out his legacy in many ways because my father had such a servant heart,” she said. “He would’ve been really proud of what I’m doing.”
Shannon said she’s looking forward to traveling to Venezuela.
“Evangelism is a spiritual gift,” she said. “I want to try to locate areas where people have never heard of Jesus.”
During the trip, she’ll spend time with children, distribute groceries and school supplies and travel door-to-door sharing the gospel.
“(Mission work) bring so much joy to my life,” she said. “The trips aren’t about me, they are important because I encounter God in so many ways, so many incredible ways.”
Sims said she hopes people will come out to the fundraiser to share stories about her father and learn more about her mission work.
“Life’s a celebration and that’s what I want this to be,” she said. “It should be a lot of fun.”
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.