Nearly 20 years ago, Lorrie Gawryla felt a compelling call to action.
“I had a vision. I heard a voice,” explains the registered nursing and nursing supervisor on the late shift at Ohesson, a Diakon Lutheran Senior Living Community in Lewistown, Pa. “I was directed to go to El Salvador to help the homeless children.”
Following that powerful experience in 1988, Gawryla, an LPN and nutritionist at the time, returned to nursing school. She sought advice from her pastor and talked with missionaries about her plans. Finally, she assembled a small team of volunteers, including some others with medical training, and took her first trip in 1993.
“You get only a short time on earth; when you die, you want to tell the Lord that you did a good job.”
“We helped to set up an orphanage with the government there and held medical clinics for the street children,” she says. “We also visited the prison, where we offered messages of hope and encouragement, gave advice about stress reduction, and shared Biblical teachings.”
The organized effort of Gawryla and her volunteers became the non-profit Hope International Services, Inc.
The group’s volunteers have repeated the mission trip to El Salvador annually since that first time, going at least once and sometimes twice a year. In fact, the volunteer team has grown over time, gaining local support in El Salvador for the organization as well. Beyond providing medical care and outreach services, the group has a goal of bringing clean water to those living in impoverished villages, orphanages and prisons, using filter systems.
Gawryla, who is 65 and has worked at Ohesson for a year, has raised children of her own as well as foster children. Her life has been full and busy, she says, and she keeps going because, she adds, she has “good health and energy.”
“You get only a short time on earth,” she says, “and when you die, you want to tell the Lord that you did a good job.”