Dylan and Cheri Harris ’98 are Fulfilling their Call with Shelter on the Lake

Dylan and Cheri (Hacker) Harris ’98 are spreading the Gospel to the ends of the earth, or about as close as you can get to that. In 2011, after years of traveling across Asia and Europe and down the Pan-American Highway, the couple settled with their three kids—Ritter, 15, Amelia, 13, and Tobin, 11—in San Carlos de Bariloche, a lake town at the base of the Andes mountains in southern Argentina. Dylan and Cheri decided that this would be the perfect spot to launch a ministry—one geared toward backpackers.

“We spent a lot of time sharing the Gospel with locals on our travels, but they weren’t generally very receptive,” Dylan said. “Backpackers, on the other hand, were much more willing to talk about their faith. They’re searching, exploring, and are open to learning about Jesus.”

The couple runs Shelter on the Lake, which offers up to eight travelers at a time a spot to stay for free. Though lodging is free for guests, most contribute by helping pay for community food and participating in cleaning, cooking, and upkeep projects. Travelers come from all over the world, passing through on their journey north. During the day, guests and volunteers spend time on outdoor adventures including rock climbing, hiking, and paddle boarding.

“We purposefully spend time with them, getting to know their story, who they are,” Dylan said. “It’s when we’re out in this gorgeous Argentine paradise that we talk about Jesus.”

Shelter on the Lake is staffed by a rotating handful of volunteers from the U.S. who spend a few months at a time furthering God’s Kingdom. “When backpackers stay with us, they step into this Christian community where we truly do life together,” Dylan said. “We get to know them and pour into them. They’re overwhelmed by this love in word and deed that they’ve never experienced before.” Before the travelers depart, they’re given a small, lightweight Bible in their language to bring with them on their journey. “Our vision is for them to hear the Gospel, see it in action in the community, and take it with them,” Dylan said.

This ministry is possible because of what Dylan and Cheri learned while students at Azusa Pacific. Dylan worked full-time in the bookstore and helped lead Walkabout with former APU President Jon Wallace. “I was a nobody, but Jon made me feel like the most important person in the world,” Dylan said. “His listening and caring inspired me.” Dylan uses these same skills with guests and while discipling volunteers.

Cheri graduated with a degree in Spanish and Christian ministries and a minor in art. “Our ministry is a direct result of being equipped with the education we received at APU,” she said. Cheri used her creative skills to design the building for Shelter on the Lake, as well as make the furniture, crockery, and art inside. She uses her Spanish knowledge to communicate with locals and run the shelter. The couple also operates a small church out of their house, allowing Cheri to use what she learned in her ministry classes.

Dylan and Cheri are exactly where they want to be. “We’re living our dream. Everything that God created us for—outdoor adventures, travel, ministry, language, art—it all just came together,” Cheri said. “At APU, there were always conversations about doing what God has called you to do. We’re blessed to be doing the work that God made us for.” To learn more about Dylan and Cheri’s work with Shelter on the Lake, arrange a visit, or volunteer for the season, contact them at [email protected].