By Kara Witherow, Special Contributor
Six-year-old Danny was in prison. So was his 3-year-old half-brother Moises.
The two hadn’t committed any crimes, but were living with their parents in a cramped, overcrowded room in the Tapachula, Mexico men’s prison where their father was incarcerated. After he was released, the boys continued to live in prison with their mother, who was in jail for running drugs.
Today, Danny, 21 and in his third year of dental school, is a shining example of God’s redemptive and transformative work through Mission on the Move.
The ministry, founded in 1986 by retired South Georgia pastor, the Rev. Ed Cadle, is dedicated to caring for and educating children in Tapachula. It also runs ministries in Honduras and Kenya. Danny and Moises went to live in one of Mission on the Move’s three group homes in 2002 when they were 9 and 6.
Mission on the Move is now run by Hope and Steve Shearouse, full-time missionaries and members of Springfield (Ga.) United Methodist Church. They live in Tapachula six months out of the year, providing loving, safe, God-centered homes for 40 children who don’t have parents or whose parents are in prison.
‘It takes all we have’
Raising 40 children does not come cheaply, though, and most of the ministry’s budget goes toward the basic necessities and paying for the kids to go to elementary and high school. But the Shearouses are committed to helping the children further their education past high school.
“It takes all we have just to run the home, to feed and clothe the children and send them to primary and high school,” Hope Shearouse said. “It costs about $1,000 a year to send one child to high school.” That doesn’t leave much money left over to pay for college or vocational school.
‘Dishing up’ two recipes
Mission on the Move has graciously shared a couple of the children’s favorite recipes from the Dishing Up Hope cookbook.
Pastel de Elote (Corn Cake)
Corn has always been one of the single most important foods in the Hispanic diet and is used in many different ways from tortillas, to soups and salsas. Add a little sugar and cinnamon and it becomes a dessert.
• 2 cups corn kernels, drained
• 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
• 5 eggs
• ½ cup sugar
• 1 stick + 1 tablespoon butter melted
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• ½ cup dry bread crumbs for dusting casserole
• 2 tablespoons raisins
• 2 tablespoons finely chopped pecans for dusting cake
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon mixed with ⅛ cup sugar, blended
Place the corn kernels, condensed milk, eggs, sugar, butter and baking powder in a blender. Blend until smooth.
Pour mixture into a 13×9″ pan sprayed with vegetable spray and dusted with dry bread crumbs. Top with raisins, nuts, bread crumbs and cinnamon sugar. Bake for 50 minutes, until set. Allow to cool before cutting into squares to serve.
Carne Asada (Grilled Mexican Steak)
• 1 large piece of sirloin per person, sliced by butcher ¼-inch thick (6 pounds of meat)
Quantities below for 30 thin slices of meat:
• 4 garlic cloves, minced with ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon garlic powder
• 1 teaspoon black pepper
• 4 cups teriyaki sauce
• 2 tablespoons powdered chicken bouillon
• Juice of 1 medium lemon or lime
• Small green onions, 2 per person, cleaned and trimmed but left whole
Place meat into a large bowl. Mix all ingredients in a separate bowl. Pour over meat and massage the mixture into the meat. Cover meat with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least four hours, until ready to grill.
About 30 minutes before serving time, prepare charcoal grill. Spray grill grates with non-stick spray. Grill meat until done, about 10 minutes. Place meat across grates to keep it from falling through. Grill onion until charred, about 10 minutes. Serve grilled meat with grilled onions and roasted tomato sauce.
Three of the ministry’s young men are now in college, and families in Savannah and Indiana are funding their educations.
“We have been blessed, but we know that we have a lot of others coming up in the next two years,” Ms. Shearouse said.
Ms. Shearouse and well-known cookbook author Martha Nesbit, a Savannah resident and member of Isle of Hope United Methodist Church, have teamed together to write a cookbook to help raise money to further the education of these children. Ms. Nesbit, who has written three of her own cookbooks, is also known for having collaborated on four cookbooks with Savannah cooking personality Paula Deen.
All of the proceeds from the sale of the cookbook will go towards higher education, which costs $5,000 to $9,000 per student each year, depending on what they’re studying.
Dishing Up Hope: Mission Meals in Tapachula, Mexico, is a 208-page book that includes classic southern Mexican recipes like pico de gallo, tinga de res (beef tingas, one of Ms. Nesbit’s favorites) and carne asada, plus tried-and-true dishes from the United States that visiting teams cook for the children.
The entire cost to publish the cookbook was paid for by donors, and volunteers did the photography, editing and recipe testing. That means every penny from the book’s sales will go toward higher education.
Ms. Nesbit said that they hope the proceeds are enough to send two or three of the home’s children to college or vocational school.
Passionate about teaching and education—she started a charter school in Savannah—Ms. Nesbit requested that the proceeds be earmarked for education.
“I think that is the way to change people’s lives,” she said.
The book is also full of color photographs of food, Mission on the Move’s children and staff, and their stories.
Danny’s story is included, as are a few of his favorite recipes. He learned to bake and cook, and loves to spend time in the kitchen with Ms. Shearouse, or “Ma Hopie,” as the kids call her.
‘Tia Marta, Tia Marta’
Ms. Nesbit has been to Tapachula five times. She first went as part of a mission team from Isle of Hope UMC to relieve the Mexican house parents from their duties at the group homes, but keeps going back because of the relationships she’s developed.
Cooking, cleaning, washing clothes and spending quality time with children are ways to use her God-given gifts and abilities, she said.
“When I walk into the door and they say, ‘Tia Marta, Tia Marta,’ that means something to me. I can certainly hold children on my lap, and wash clothes and cook food; these are things that I’m very comfortable doing.”
Not a fan of the Mexican food that’s typically served in the United States, Ms. Nesbit liked what she tasted when she first cooked and ate authentic southern Mexican food. That’s also when she got the idea to collaborate with Ms. Shearouse to write a cookbook.
“It’s just so delicious,” said Ms. Nesbit, a lifelong United Methodist whose brother, the Rev. Jim Giddens, serves as pastor of Skidaway Island UMC. “As we were eating I was thinking about how we could use this as a way to educate people about the food and the mission.”
Everyone will find a recipe to please their palate, she said, and some, like pico de gallo, don’t even involve cooking.
“There are so many wonderful dishes that are in there that it really does give you a flavor and slice of life of Tapachula. You have to eat some of this food to know just how delicious it really is,” Ms. Nesbit said.
There’s also a section of recipes Ms. Shearouse brought from South Georgia and regularly prepares for the children. One of their favorites is queso de pasta (macaroni and cheese).
“Even if you don’t cook Mexican food you’re going to find some great recipes,” Ms. Nesbit said.
More importantly, though, is that the cookbook will help change the children’s lives by providing them with an education.
“Our kids are founded and grounded in the Word of God and will make a difference in their country and in this world because of who they are,” Ms. Shearouse said.
For more information on Mission on the Move and the Dishing Up Hope cookbook, visit www.missiononthemove.org.
Ms. Witherow is editor of the Advocate, the newspaper of the South Georgia Conference, where this article first appeared.