Distant sounds of the city were drowned out by the simple strums of a guitar, and voices of Spanish and English sang gospel songs together. It was in that moment, Shoemake realized God reined over everything and everyone – it was in a most unfamiliar place, but a feeling all too familiar.
Shoemake’s journeys with Christ In Youth’s Engage program have taken her to countries around the world where conditions were sweltering, but she treasures every experience – particularly moments when she witnesses God calling and moving in the hearts of students.
A preacher’s daughter out of Northwest Arkansas, Shoemake graduated from Webb City (MO) High School and then obtained her Christian ministry degree in 2009 from Ozark Christian College. She grew up attending CIY events, and joined the organization during her sophomore year of college to work part-time in the outreach department; which would later become Engage missions. Her first CIY international mission trip was to Costa Rica when she was a senior in high school, and she said that trip still influences her life today.
That’s what our trips are about – not about us going and doing, but about us going and being, and being a part of what God is doing.
“It was that trip where I fell in love with how God is working on people’s hearts all over the world and what that looks like in different cultural contexts,” Shoemake said. “I fell in love with culture, differences, recognizing that we’re all made in the image of Christ and He’s always pursuing everybody … I love youth ministry and I love missions, but it really wasn’t until I joined CIY that I saw clearly God blending these two passions of mine – youth ministry and missions – and how beautifully it fit together with what was going on here at CIY.”
Shoemake personally leads four international mission trips a year, but as director of Engage she is directly involved with all 20 of CIY’s trips. In her role, she communicates and coordinates with missionary partners and youth group leaders, researches potential new locations and mission work sites, creates mission budgets and sets up team member training for the program.
Even though Shoemake has years of experience in the mission field, she doesn’t hesitate to share she’s still learning and probably will always will be.
“You become familiar with people and relationships, but every team is so different and so unique,” she said. “Sometimes it’s the aspects of what the team members bring to it, but it’s also the way the spirit moves while you’re on a trip. You can never stop learning about what God is doing, and about other cultures, and about other people, and growing deeper relationships. Every trip is so unique in how God and the Spirit orchestrate what is beyond things we do. We can plan and put in logistics and what we think will happen on a trip but it’s always God at work, doing the things He does best. We simply just get to be a part of that. That’s what our trips are about – not about us going and doing, but about us going and being, and being a part of what God is doing.”
With a passion for joining students in their new walk with Christ, Shoemake said her work never feels mundane. She has traveled to Cambodia the most, cherished the sight of God’s creation in Northern Ireland and remembers when God first spoke to her in Costa Rica.
“I could name something from every place, honestly,” Shoemake said. “I have favorite places for different reasons … What it boils down to is the relationships – the people who are there, the ministry that is happening, watching God grow that and bless that has been so incredible. I feel honored to be a part of that.
It’s so much bigger than all of us, and being able to do that with people all over the world is an honor.”