Café au Laity

Shokrina Beering journeys to Panama to assist the Guaymi Indians

Published in 2008 Indiana Super Lawyers — March 2008

It’s a jungle out there. That thought and many others occurred to Shokrina Radpour Beering as she rode with her family through pastoral Central America to the Panama Christian Evangelism’s (PCE) mission near Boquete in the northwestern region of Panama. Beering serves as general counsel for the not-for-profit PCE, which serves many of the 125,000 members of the indigenous Guaymi Indian tribe who live on the “comarca,” or reservation.

Beering spent two weeks in July 2005 at the mission with her teenage daughter, Amanda, and husband, Peter, a Homeland Security emergency preparedness expert. “We drove up into the mountains in Army trucks to hold an open-air medical clinic for the 150 patients lined up for our arrival. The trucks could take us only so far, and then we had to walk up the last few miles, carrying Rubbermaid tubs of medical supplies. I physically couldn’t carry the tubs. It was all I could do to get myself up the mountain,” laughs the 48-year-old partner at Cohen & Malad.

In addition to the mission’s medical facilities, Beering says, “there is a church with a dining hall, kitchen and classrooms for the 500 people who attend services every Sunday.”

On the mission grounds, fully equipped clinics made of cinderblocks are run by two retired Indianapolis physicians, Alan and Debbie Handt. The Beerings were immediate assets––EMT-trained Peter is the eldest son of former Purdue University president emeritus Dr. Steven C. Beering. Amanda, now a Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School senior, tutored the children. And Shokrina, the daughter of Mary Ann and Dr. Shokri Radpour, a retired otolaryngologist, worked in the pharmacy and did the mission’s laundry.

But Beering’s work began long before her trip to Panama. “Shokrina helps our mission with hours of pro bono work,” says Alan Handt. “She is not one to talk the talk of her work. Instead, she walks the walk of her convictions.”

The mission is supported by donations of medicines, supplies and cash—and the hard work of the Guaymi. Thankfully, the slopes of nearby Volcan Baru, an inactive volcano, are perfect for raising Arabica coffee plants. Beering created Mission Coffee LLC to export and distribute the coffee, with all proceeds going to support the mission and the tribe.

The coffee plants themselves are tended by the Guaymi, who live in huts with no indoor plumbing, electricity or potable water. “When we ship items there, the people convert the shipping containers into housing,” Beering says. “They cut out windows and doors from the containers.”

Beering has been volunteering for most of her life. Growing up in Kokomo, she was a member of the Sunshine Society, a leadership and service organization. She’s also served as president of The Villages, the largest private provider of services to abused and neglected children in the state.

Through it all, Beering has tried to live by her family’s credo: “From those to whom much is given, much is expected.”

If that means lugging heavy tubs of supplies up mountains, so be it.

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