Some might say Juan Shipp has spent the majority of his 84 years pursuing harmony. Be it body and soul due to his spiritual calling, vocals in his longtime work in music production and as a radio broadcaster, or as a cultural wayfarer, promoting travel and volunteer service in the U.S. and abroad.
On a recent Global Citizen Adventure Corps program to Costa Rica with wife Judy, their granddaughter, Megan, several friends, and what would soon become new friends, he reflected on how his early days of travel as a music producer often meant knowing where he – as a Black man – could and could not stay. He pointed out that understandably, that caused fear for some he knew, but harder to grasp, he said, were those he knew who had never explored his hometown of Memphis outside their own neighborhoods and familiar streets.
Judy, his partner in 59 years of ministry for 64 years of marriage, shares his passion for pushing people past where they are comfortable to places where they can be inspired. “They had never been on Main Street … Beale Street. They had never been farther than Nesbit, Mississippi, Jackson, Tennessee, West Memphis, Arkansas. Some of them were 70 years old, 60. I was like, ‘If you plan on going anywhere, you need do it now because time is winding up. You don’t have but one life.”
So, the Shipps took their flock to places like New Orleans, D.C., and Gatlinburg with the hopes of expanding horizons and quite possibly strengthening faith.
“There are a lot of things that people are afraid to do. They have faith. But you got to have faith enough that He is going to take you where you want to go,” Judy underscored.
Pastor Juan has an extensive list of travel destinations in his passport including Belize and Honduras but believes Costa Rica to be unlike any other. Praising the scenery, the diversity, and his fellow travelers who he says now feel like family, he said of the trip, “It was so amazing how the young and old, people of all races came together as one. The participants became a family through the action of GCAC.”
He is now such a fan of the program that he is sharing his enthusiasm with his fans at WYXR in Memphis. A recent installment of his weekly broadcast of gospel music and lively conversations became a mini-reunion of the May program as fellow GCAC participants in Costa Rica reflected on their adventures (and at times misadventures) in the country. Shipp says the station staff and listeners praised the reminiscing about chocolate making, waterfalls, theater tours, and serving at the Rescue Center Costa Rica. He is already planning a second broadcast with the group.
To hear the Shipps and Chelaynn Perez reflect on their experience, check out the captured moment on video found here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1HcKPn9nu9UY3HCUBF3K7wg8w1FP02FGh/view?usp=drive_link.
In photo: International volunteers who next visit the Rescue Center Costa Rica will enjoy the fruits of the labor of GCAC participants. Dependent upon volunteers who spend from one week to several months with them assisting the animals, the Rescue Center offers housing. That housing was the focus of the Shipps and others on the May program. Pathways were marked with tires securely placed in holes; entryways were made welcoming; and this in-process cabin was made fun with paintings and safe and complete with solid construction. Among the GCAC participants working on this particular project were (from left to right) Aiden Koeling, Jeff Franklin, Amy Moser, Laynna Salvador Perez, Judy Shipp and Juan Shipp.