Editor's note: A previous version of this story erroneously stated that the Perez family helped found Inola Churh of God.
Family is built on love. And one Inola family is sharing that love with others, spending the next three years on an extended mission trip in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Theron and Morgan Perez and their children Kori (11), Kelli (10), Dani (8), Gabi (5), Abbi (3) and Asher (1) left in January.
Theron and Morgan were born and raised in Tahlequah, but made their home in Inola 10 years ago, and became active members of Inola Church of God.
“We’ve been going to church and trying to do our best to follow the things of God since the Lord got a hold of us about 11 years ago,” Theron said. “Through that time he was continuing to refine us and teach us.”
“We felt a calling that we needed to go out and do more than just sit within four walls,” he said.
They started small, helping other churches with physical needs. But the calling to serve brought them to bigger and bigger service projects.
Then their pastor found an severely underfunded children’s and teen’s ministry in inner city Winnipeg called Living Bible Explorer’s. LBE hosts year-round programs for children and teens to have fun and hear the gospel in a safe environment.
“They do a lot of good helping out the children and families in the area,” Theron said.
The ministry is particularly helpful for the First Nations people of Canada.
“The people here who are First Nations are very looked down upon, and treated kind of like the trash of the area,” Theron said. “This ministry we found, they serve these people and do all sorts of things for the kids throughout the school year and in the summer.”
The Perez family left in January with their pastor, Ash Khalil and his wife Hiedi.
“We are shooting to be here for a ministry term of three years,” Theron said. “We are just waiting on the immigration piece to come through.”
The move from small town Oklahoma to big city Manitoba is a big change for the family in a lot of different ways.
“One of the biggest challenges when we got here was that Inola was very small and there is next to nothing of a crime rate, but when we moved to Winnipeg, they rank it as one of the most dangerous cities in Canada,” Morgan said.
“Some of these children come from homes where both parents are drug addicts or they’ve had sexual, physical or mental abuse. Some kids come hungry because they are not being fed,” Morgan said. “All of these children we are working with are very rough around the edges, and in all honesty, our children were scared of them at first.”
In order to get over their nerves, Morgan would take the kids to go sit and have lunch with the children, getting to know them as people, not as charity cases.
“We are up here to show them love,” she said. “to show them Jesus and the love that he can give.”
Kori said the biggest challenge was all the snow, followed by missing her friends and family at home. Kelli agreed, adding cheerfully, “The bugs here aren’t a bad as the bugs were at home.”
“Our friends, our family and everybody that we love is back in Oklahoma,” Morgan said. “Its hard to explain to children so small how far 12,000 miles is.”
But the benefits far outweigh the hardships, the family said.
“Our children are learning to serve others and finding out that they love it so much,” Morgan said. “They want to get their hands in and they want to figure out how they can help people.”
“LBE has helped us grow even further as a family, learning to love as Jesus loves,” she said.
“The Lord has been refining me in this whole experience,” Theron said, “teaching me to be more loving, to be open to people.”
“He has been showing me a lot of mercy, love and compassion, and it is amazing to see these changes within my children and my wife as well,” he said.
Watch the Perez family adventures on Youtube.