Mission team's efforts mean more than fresh paint

Story and photos by Meghan Eldridge, Summer Intern

Sheila Workman dreamed of hunter green and brown paint for 18 years, ever since moving to West Virginia. She knew if she was ever given the opportunity to have her home painted, those would be the exterior colors, inspired by her love of the mountains.

Sheila Workman and her family stand on a wheelchair ramp constructed by the Korean Church of Queens. From left: Sheila's son, Jonathan Hallock; Sheila; daughter, April Wright; grandsons, Nikolai and Ian Wright, and son-in-law, Troy Wright.

For the past two years, she prayed for someone to help her care for her home in the town of Weston, since she was no longer physically able to do it all herself.

World Vision sent a mission trip team to paint Sheila's home and construct a wheelchair ramp. The team was composed of high school students and adults from the Korean Church of Queens in New York.

"To me, it was an answer to prayer, right down to the exact colors," Sheila says. "I needed so much done to my house, and I didn't know how it would get done."

The team also worked alongside Sheila's son-in-law, Troy, throughout the week to build the ramp—something Sheila has needed in the past and hopes she won't in the future.

In March 2009, just seven months after finalizing a divorce, Sheila was diagnosed with a golf ball-size brain tumor. Doctors gave her two years to live. She has opted out of surgery so far due to the high risk and concern that she might lose her ability to walk and talk.

Members of the mission team and local church members work together to construct a wheelchair ramp for Sheila, who has used a wheelchair in the past and hopes she won't in the future.

During a hospitalization for gall bladder surgery, Sheila's brain swelled. She could not speak or walk when she awoke from the anesthesia. She underwent rehabilitation therapy and was sent home in a wheelchair. Eventually, she regained her speech and relearned to walk.

Sheila hopes to never require a wheelchair again, but knows it may eventually become necessary.

Since her diagnosis, her faith has only increased, though fear does sometimes creep in, she says. Scriptures and crosses fill her home, hanging on walls and sitting on shelves next to photos of her children and grandchildren, serving as constant reminders of God's love and provision.

Sheila believes her life and time is in God's hands and tries to use her experience to touch someone's life each day.

"There are times when I am fearful," she says. "I don't like what I've been through in my life, but I wouldn't trade it. I wouldn't be the person I am without it, and God has taken care of it."

Ian (orange shirt) and Nikolai (white shirt) take a frozen treat break with the mission team from the Korean Church of Queens. The boys offered to help the team, which built a wheelchair ramp and painted Sheila's home.

Throughout the week, Sheila and her family cooked lunch for the mission team. Her son, Jonathan, 20, helped work on the ramp while her two grandsons, Ian, 5, and Nikolai, 10, played with some of the team members and occasionally helped paint.

Working together on Sheila's home bonded the family and the mission team as they made memories that will not be erased, even though the team left for New York at the end of the week.

"More than a wall being painted or a ramp being built, seeing us all work together blessed me the most," says Charlie Park, youth group teacher at the Korean Church of Queens. "I realized through our lunches and conversations together how strong of a woman, mother, and Christian Shelia is."

Between 1981 and 2003, Sheila taught in eight Christian schools until the tumor, at the time undiagnosed, caused her to become too ill and weak to continue working.

She has always had a heart for children and was blessed to share her home for a week with the mission team.

The mission team from the Korean Church of Queens in New York pose with Sheila Workman (third from left), her daughter, April Wright (in sunglasses), and her son, Jonathan Hallock, and his girlfriend (back row on right).

"When they leave here, they don't leave in here," Sheila says, pointing to her heart.

As mission team members drove away from her home at the end of the final day, they left it just the way Sheila had always imagined it: the siding painted brown, with hunter green trim and shutters.


How you can get involved

Learn more about World Vision's mission trips in Appalachia and other parts of the U.S.