Wes and Sherry Koop are GEM appointees who are raising their support to serve in Spain.
The Koops both grew up on the prairies of southern Alberta and accepted Jesus into their lives as children. Christianity became “real” to them in their late teens and then they dedicated their lives to the Lord. Although they are from the same small town, they attended two different churches, and didn’t meet until after Wes went to Bible school in British Columbia. After studying at Columbia Bible College for two years, Wes returned home and began working in construction for a man who happened to be Sherry’s youth leader. The youth leader introduced them when Sherry was 17 and they began dating. The summer after Sherry graduated, she went off to Bethany Bible School in Saskatchewan and when she came home at Christmas, Wes proposed and they were married in the fall of 1983.
The Koop's were first called to the Mission Field in 1984. They started with a 3 month mission trip with YWAM. Wes was involved in the construction of a Christian University, and Sherry filled in where needed. It was there that they received their first clear word from the Lord that they would someday be involved in long-term missions. Two years and another short-term trip later, God confirmed again through their interim pastor that they would be going on long-term missions in the future. As the years went on, they were involved in numerous short-term trips building houses, leading teams, and working in orphanages in Mexico. Wes and Sherry didn’t feel called to go there long-term, but they kept their eyes and hearts open for where God would send them. In the meantime, Sherry became a dental hygienist, thinking she would use the skills to somehow serve in that capacity. Little did Sherry know, God would definitely use her skills as a hygienist to prepare her for missions, but not in the way that they expected!
Every January for 10 years, the Koop's went to Mission Fest in Vancouver (where hundreds of mission organizations join together to share what God is doing through their organizations) as they waited for God’s direction. In 2015 they met two excellent organizations that peaked their interest—they felt the time had arrived when they would finally go! Just before they went on a vision trip to visit these organizations in Europe, they heard about a little cafe along the Camino de Santiago in Spain, where hundreds of thousands of people walked yearly on the world’s most famous spiritual pilgrimage. Although they didn’t get to see this location, they couldn’t get it out of their hearts and minds. After meeting the directors of Greater Europe Mission (GEM) in Spain and hearing more about this organization and this unique ministry, they felt confident GEM was indeed the opportunity that they had waited for all these years.
In the spring of 2016, Wes and Sherry went to serve part-time in the northern mountains of Spain at a cafe called the “Pilgrims’ Oasis” in the tiny village of Viana. The cafe sits directly on the Camino Frances route of the Camino de Santiago, an 800 km trail that runs from the French/Spanish border to the city of Santiago de Compostela, where the alleged bones of James the Apostle are purported to lie. Every year over 250,000 people complete the trek, asking spiritual questions and seeking “God” all the way. Their three month experience there was amazing, with daily opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus with the ‘pilgrims’ who stopped in. As most of these seekers unashamedly admit they are desperately looking for peace and direction in their lives, even in the midst of what is often a new-age or universal worldview, God can break through. The Koop's became friends with a few of the locals (some who did not even speak English) and continue to correspond with them still. In the fall of 2016, Wes and Sherry learned that the amazing couple that set up the cafe were retiring to Chile and they were asked to pray about whether they would serve full-time in Viana. After praying and fasting, they felt God was indeed opening the doors! After years of hope and waiting our faithful God was making a way to fulfill his calling on their lives.
In June 2017, Wes and Sherry attended GEM’s Candidate Orientation in Colorado and were appointed as mid-term (2-3 years) missionaries with the option to continue in long-term service. They returned to The Pilgrims Oasis in July 2017 to serve for three months. They not only served food to approximately 700 pilgrims from around the world (along with ice packs and foot baths for aching joints and feet), but also gave away over 157 Gospels of John in 24 different languages. They prayed with questioning people, shared their own story and read the Bible together with pilgrims during the “Jesus Meditation” events throughout the day. Wes and Sherry were also able to deepen their relationships with the locals by hosting a Canadian Thanksgiving where 31 people from the community joined them! It is relevant to note that in this far corner of Catholic Spain only 2% of the population are born-again Christians.
But ministry is not without its challenges too. The first obstacle is learning the Spanish language, and having to speak it with people who are coming with Spanish dialects from around the globe. In the cafe where the Koop's work each day, they are able to converse with almost every person who comes in, except with those that only speak Spanish or some other foreign language. Most ‘pilgrims’ have English as a first, second or third language, so ministry is already possible in most cases, but they admit that It is only by the grace of God that they have made friends there without fully knowing their language (and them not knowing English). The other challenge will be leaving their family, especially their daughters, behind in Canada, but they are very grateful for the technology we have in this day and age that allows them to stay connected.
However, amidst the challenges God shows up. As they began to explore the region they came into contact with local pastors in some of the nearby cities - one of which exclaimed that their church had been praying for about 10 years for believers to come to Viana! It is a powerful thing to realize that your life and your calling are actually the answer to years of prayers being prayed on the opposite side of the world. Needless to say, the Koop's can’t wait to get back to Spain – not for a short-term trip, but as permanent residents to continue this great ministry. It will take prayer and some hard work—visas and funding are needed beforehand.
Please pray that God will prepare the hearts of the people the Koop's will minister to in the coming years—whether they are those who walk the Camino or the locals they are getting to know. Pray also for quick Visas and open doors for them to be in Spain by April 2018 at the start of the Camino season. Pray that God would provide the financial support and the needed prayer support to thrive in such a spiritually challenging environment. They expect Him to do nothing less than these great things to see a ministry fulfilled that has been decades in the making, and they would be remiss if they missed this opportunity to ask you the reader – what is it that God has called you to do? And is the time to go now?