A New Ministry
The John Wesley staff, which then included Harrison as chaplain, turned this dilemma into an opportunity to create a new ministry. In 2001, the Sheltered Workshop La Esperanza, with 12 students and Harrison as director, opened in a small, rented house near the Wesley school. Within a year, the General Assembly of the Methodist Church in Chile approved La Esperanza as a conference mission, recognizing it as another means of outreach to persons with handicapping conditions and their families.
Currently the mission serves 18 people ranging in age from 21 to 69. Day-to-day activities at the workshop give them the opportunity to explore, identify and use their many God-given talents in a non-threatening environment while simultaneously learning how to better care for themselves. Arts and crafts made by the participants provide them with a sense of accomplishment and productivity, as well as monthly wages.
Although many of the adults at La Esperanza live at home with their families, others are in elderly care facilities ill-equipped to meet their needs. With Dora Canales, the workshop’s chaplain, Harrison has established meetings and a series of retreats to help families begin to make arrangements for future care of their sons and daughters.
Long-term plans to offer residential care at La Esperanza became an urgent priority last fall when conditions at an elderly care facility endangered two people. From November through February, Harrison shared her own apartment with them, providing a safe and comfortable space.
With the blessing of La Esperanza’s board of directors, a house to serve as an emergency shelter was rented in Janauary 2004. Soon afterward, mission groups from Conway, Ark., and Centreville, Va., helped clean and furnish it for the first two full-time residents and a volunteer family, who moved in later in February.
Harrison’s ability to meet such daunting challenges doesn’t surprise Bruce Stanley, who served as her field education supervisor at Duke and later, as the N.C. Conference director of missions, her advocate to the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries. “Shana is probably the most powerful person I have known,” says Stanley. “She has both an academic interest in missions, and the willingness to undo her life for the vocation.”
An ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, Harrison made a rare return from Chile in the summer of 2001 to officiate at the wedding of friends Tracy Anne Allred D’97 and Mark Chancey G’99. Allred, who has visited La Esperanza, describes Harrison as “a person who lives her life finding Jesus in the struggle for justice with those she serves.”
Community worship at La Esperanza is a dynamic experience, says Harrison. The traditional sense of reverence and order in the liturgy may be enhanced by the unexpected scream of a disabled child expressing joy or a believer who interrupts the liturgy to touch a cross behind the altar and show Christ’s immediate presence.
Her goal, says Harrison, is to “provide a place where all are loved and accepted. A place where, in return, these adults can thrive and show others the face of Christ.”
Harrison publishes an electronic newsletter, Spilling the Chile Beans, for friends and supporters of the workshop in the United States. To request a subscription, or for more information about La Esperanza, contact Harrison at email@example.com
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