Faces of mission – Deacon Sherman and Gisela Otto

| October 6, 2010 | 1 Comment

Deacon Sherman Otto and his wife Gisela served with the Mercy Volunteer Corps of the Sisters of Mercy in Savannah, Ga., and surrounding counties from Aug. 1, 2006, to July 31, 2007. They served people with multiple disabilities (medical, physical and speech), and tried to re-connect them with jobs and services so they would no longer be so alone. After moving from a farm in Annandale when he was in seventh grade, Deacon Sherman attended Ascension parish in north Minneapolis. Gisela attended St. Katharina parish in Solingen, Germany. Today, they are members of St. Francis Xavier in Buffalo, where Deacon Sherman serves as deacon.

How did you become interested in missionary work?

Deacon Sherman and Gisela Otto

We retired from our full-time jobs in 2001. We were grateful to God for our marriage, three healthy children and seven grandchildren, good jobs and housing, so we decided to give back some dedicated time to God.

How was your service connected to your faith? What did it teach you about faith?

Our service required us to live on a fixed minimum budget as MVC missioners so as to allow us to experience, somewhat, the lives of those we were privileged to serve; how it was to have food scarce at month’s end; going into homes of which several were in great need of repair and cleaning; and to experience holidays as being just “another day of the week” because family was not there. Our time in MVC allowed us to experience being loved and welcomed not because we held titles or degrees, or could give what our people did not have, but just because we were there, with them.

Talk about one memorable story from your life as a missionary.

One we remember because it took us about seven months to put into place involved a 50-some-year-old man who had cerebral palsy and other physical, speech and hearing disabilities. He was from a town in Charleston, S.C., but was raised in Savannah. When his parents and brother died, he had no one in Savannah and had by then lost all connection with relatives in South Carolina. He was truly alone and lived in a much worn trailer home. . . . Months and scores of dead-end phone calls later, we finally located a relative. . . . He called us when he was there and wanted to stay longer, and they wanted him to stay longer, but he had to come back. But the delight and joy in his face and heart at being loved and wanted by relatives was truly awesome and worth the search.

Did your missionary experience prompt you to live differently when you returned home?

Yes. We are now more aware of those around us who have need of someone to “be present and patiently listen to them” as a worthy human being.

Tags:

Category: World Mission Sunday

  • Sr. Frances Ann Cook

    This is a heartwarming, informative story. It's good to know that Sherman and Gisela had such a positive experience. It is also wonderful to know that each year, others follow in their footsteps here in Savannah, Georgia. This year's Mercy Volunteer Corp is hard at work carrying on the tradition, working side by side with Sisters of Mercy and their co-ministers. They and their good works are SO appreciated by the gracious and grateful poor and needy of our community. . . and we are SO willing to share our incredibly beautiful city with Mercy Volunteers to Savannah.