For the Clouse family of Harrisburg, summer vacation will mean beginning a new life. Lonnie and Angela Clouse and their three children are selling everything they own, leaving the town, their church, their schools and many relationships, and moving to Mexico to care for orphans.
Lonnie Clouse, originally from New Hampshire, has always been inclined to help others. About 15 years ago, Clouse worked alongside Joe Gibbs of NASCAR's Joe Gibbs Racing while working at Youth for Tomorrow, a boy's home in the Washington, D.C., area. Gibbs started Youth for Tomorrow when he was coaching the Washington Redskins in 1986. During this time, Clouse developed a friendship with Gibbs since they both served at-risk youth.
In 1999, Motorsport Racing Outreach, a non-profit Christian organization based at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, needed a student ministry director for the Sprint Cup division. Gibbs recommended Lonnie Clouse. He accepted, and the family moved to Cabarrus County.
Four years ago, Clouse became lead chaplain for the Nationwide Series of NASCAR. Clouse serves drivers, crew members and community at each race. If someone is hurt or disappointed, Clouse is there to console them. If they win, he goes to victory lane with them. He officiates at weddings and funerals.
This past January, Clouse took a team of 12 NASCAR individuals and a media team on a short mission trip. "I wanted to expose the adults from NASCAR to missions, and for most of them, it was their very first trip of this type," said Clouse. They went to Monterrey, Mexico, and spent five days working at an orphanage run by BACK2BACK Ministries. During this trip, Clouse decided that God was asking him take the next step in his life. "My wife and I both have a huge inclination to serve orphans, and that week, I realized serving orphans is what we had to do with our lives," he said.
Upon his return, Clouse and his wife, Angela, prayed and planned. The Clouse family are members of University City Fellowship Church in Concord led by Pastor David Henderson. Henderson is excited to support the family's move.
"This is a family who have lived in Harrisburg for years and have deeply cared for and served so many people around them," he said. "Our church is really excited to send them out and we look forward to expanding our mission efforts in Mexico as well," he said.
In preparation for departure in August, the Clouses have sold their home and are selling belongings. Lonnie will serve at his last NASCAR race on July 17. Angela will complete her job at Stepping Stones Preschool at the Harrisburg United Methodist Church, and their three children will complete the school year at Pitts Road Elementary School.
"We have loved the town and the schools so much, and will miss the people we have met, but we are all so excited to go and serve," said Lonnie Clouse. The family went to the orphanage together last year, Clouse said, and the kids loved the orphans and the children of other missionaries.
The Clouses will live on the orphanage campus, train for a year and learn the language. "This will be our training ground, and from here we may go to open and direct another orphanage location for BACK2BACK ministries," said Clouse. . "I intend on being an advocate and spokesperson for those orphans and to do my part in breaking this tragic cycle," said Clouse. "I will come back to the United States frequently and speak on the topic, representing their voice."