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Impact India 360
Meet the Team!

Hello, fans of CEM! For the past couple of years, getting the team blog re-started has been one of my favorite ways to prepare for an upcoming trip. It gives me a chance to start dreaming and praying for the team and preparing for another adventure with God. An initiative like this would never happen without a great group of individuals who have been called into it. Let me introduce the team in their own words:

Chris Cook: My first trip to India was almost eight years ago, and I’ve honestly been hooked ever since. After a sabbatical from it for a couple of years for school and family, I’m at CEM a minimum of once a year now and sit on the board of CEM USA, the domestic fundraising arm of the ministry. A lot has changed at CEM over the years – permanent buildings for the Grace Children’s Home, an English School for the neighborhood, and the anticipation of a new hospital now under construction – but CEM’s heartbeat for the poor of India has never changed. Funny thing is this: I go, and CEM changes me. I’m especially excited that, after years of seeing the wonder of God’s presence there, I’ll get a chance to see CEM through new eyes as my wife experiences it for the first time.

Jocelyn Cook: I heard about CEM through my husband, Chris, when we were dating. Initially, I wanted to see and experience the things that he had captured in his photography; but at some point I found that I wanted to serve that community and the people there. Last November when Chris was at CEM, he would call me and put some of the kids from the Grace Children’s Home on the phone. They would ask me when I was coming and tell me, “Jesus loves me, Jesus loves you, so I love you.” It was the only English some of them knew, but it melted my heart! I’m really excited about meeting the kids and seeing the work that is being done and the hope that it is providing in the community.

Greg Gortat: I am a 39 year old pharmacist. I’ve been doing mission work since February of 2007 with Rajahmundry, India being my sole mission destination. This will be my fifth trip. God has given me a heart for the people of India and the people of CEM in particular. Having been there four times in two years, it feels like a home away from home! It’s been a win-win situation doing this kind of God’s work. With each trip I am drawn closer to our Savior all while doing His work. This trip should prove to be exceptionally special in that my new wife will be attending with me.

Jessica Harris (Gortat!): I got saved about 2 years ago. I have never been to India or done any mission work. In college, I studied abroad in China for a semester; so I do have some experience with travel and being totally submerged in another culture. I have such a love for children so I’m sure the kids at CEM will steal my heart. I’m also excited (and nervous) to push myself and get out of my comfort zone with this trip. I have heard a lot about India and the children from my husband Greg so I am very excited to experience it firsthand!

Anne Johnson: I became a Christian in 2001 while serving with the Peace Corps in Batouri, Cameroon. After returning to the U.S., I moved to Austin, Texas and to my first real church home, Gateway Community Church. At Gateway, I got involved in service through Gateway Sports and Outdoors where she was able to combine her passions for fitness, God’s magnificent creation, and connecting people in healthy, life-giving community. I now serve as a leader within Mobilization, Gateway’s service and outreach ministry and have gone on mission trips to the Mexico border, Dominican Republic, and within Austin, Texas. Ever since first hearing of CEM several years ago in a church service, I have felt a calling to travel to Rajahmundry to experience this ministry and the beautiful things that God is doing there. With family in Minnesota and Chicago, I spend most of my free time with friends, my Little Sister Ana, and romping about the Texas hill country with my dogs Beau and Olie.

Todd Kilgus: I’m a business owner here in the U.S., but I love to serve and look forward to working with the kids and staff at CEM. I have been fortunate enough to have served in a previous mission to Africa, but this will be my first mission trip to India. It’s an amazing opportunity to love people and honor God.

Tracy Kott: I’ve never been to India or on a mission trip before. I have always wanted to go on one and really felt God telling me now was the time. I’m a nurse in Detroit, and I am really excited to go to India and spend time with the children and the members of our team. I can’t wait to see the work God will do in my life through this trip.

Jim Mayes: I find it difficult to describe my involvement with CEM in only a short paragraph. This will be my 7th trip there and suffice it to say it has become my home away from home. I am so passionately connected to Jaya, his family, the children of GCH, the staff, and all of the people I have had the privilege of meeting over the last couple of years. Each visit brings me a more clear understanding of why Jesus spent so much time talking about and surrounding himself with the poor. And each time I find myself wanting more to be like him. Although my position as CEM USA’s Executive Director has me responsible for fulfilling duties relative to the ministry, it is my heart and love for the people that fuel my passion and keep me connected. I am truly honored to be able to lead this team and I am super excited to see what God has for each member.

Sarah Million: This is my second trip to visit Rajahmundry and CEM. My first global mission trip was in November of 2008 to CEM. I was very excited to experience a new culture, to help out where I could, and connect with God. Little did I know that I would fall in love with the children and that they would be the ones to show me how deep and far God’s love extends. This trip, I am excited to go; but for different reasons. I feel that I am going to back to visit with friends. Ever since I left the CEM campus last year, I have had the children on my mind constantly. When I left India last year, we had the ground breaking ceremony for the hospital. When I return, I get a chance to see physical evidence of God’s ability and willingness to provide for his people. I am so excited to see what God is going to do with our team this year and how He is going to stretch each of us if we will let Him. He never ceases to amaze me!

Liz Overstreet: This will be my second trip to the Grace Children’s Home in India. I fell in love, not only with the children at the orphanage, but the Indian people and culture as well. When I left India in February, I knew I’d be back to be blessed by the people and children once again. So here I am incredibly excited to be returning and so grateful that God has allowed me this opportunity again.

Tracy Richardson: This is my first mission trip. I have a real passion for people and had been following CEM’s story for a long time, and God finally prompted me to see it for myself. I really feel blessed and honored to be a part of it. It’s a little overwhelming to think about sometimes, but I’m most excited to see the impact that God is having on the community through CEM, and how it is going to change the entire team!

Jason Saarela: I am a single dad of two beautiful little creatures – Meghan 13 and Joshua 8. I love kids, serving others, music and sports. Jesus Christ is at the center of my life. I have been to Ensenada, Mexico two times and La Carpio, Cost Rica once and had amazing experiences. This will be my first of hopefully many trips to India. I am so excited to go and share His hope, and His joy. I love to serve others, and I have always had a strong calling to be a blessing and encouragement to kids. I love kids. I am grateful and humbled to have the opportunity to serve.

Margaret Shimkus: I enjoy traveling and being a Nurse Practitioner; so when the two can be combined, I feel as though I’m living my purpose even more fully. I have been to Africa three times, including one trip working the Zulu people on a Kensington mission. This is my first time going to India, a place I have wanted to go for several years. My heart goes out to the homeless children who now have a place to call home. I hope to show them Jesus’ care and compassion; and in the end, I know that I am always the one who is blessed.

Lisha Sterling: This will be my first global mission. God has put on my heart to further reach out to those in need. I am very excited to share the love and grace that God has shown me over the years by pouring into the children of the orphanage and staff members of CEM. God has put together an amazing team and I am excited to see what He has planned for all of us!

No truer words have been spoken, Lisha! Stay tuned over the next two weeks for stories, images and impressions from the team of this amazing adventure!

– Chris for the Team

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