CLARKS SUMMIT — After growing up in New York City, attending college for aerospace engineering, deciding not to pursue a career as an astronaut, switching majors to religious education, working in inner city ministries and then settling down as a single missionary in a remote area of the Peruvian Amazon, the idea of marrying at age 38 and moving to Northeastern Pennsylvania to live in a men’s dormitory on a college campus couldn’t have been further from her mind.
But now, looking back, Sherry Boykin, of South Abington Township, said she believes it was all part of a bigger plan God was orchestrating for her life — a plan she couldn’t fully see before gaining the faith to open her eyes and the realization that she didn’t have to “help God look good.”
The author and speaker now hopes to help others to “grow” such faith through her first book, “But-Kickers: Growing Your Faith Bigger Than Your ‘But,’” which was released on Oct. 31, 2015 and is available for sale at Duffy’s Coffee Company and Artists Alley in Clarks Summit and online at sherryboykin.com and amazon.com.
“For so many years, I spoke to audiences about my time on the mission field, my time in the Amazon jungle, because as soon as you say ‘jungle,’ people’s ears perk up, they want to hear the stories,” Boykin said. “And I am a storyteller at heart, so it’s always a pleasure for me to tell stories. And the more I would tell stories, the more I would write them down and then re-read them later, it occurred to me that there was a script from my whole life being written, and each story had a small part in that overall larger script of life. And they were significant. They were life changing. They weren’t random. They didn’t happen without great fore-planning, in my opinion. And they affected other people.”
The 164-page book is a compilation of the blogger’s most popular reads, all with a humorous bent.
She said as a whole, the book is about “how God intervenes in everyday things to show us what his ultimate desire is, to show us something more about him and to show us where we need to change, where we need to grow, and basically what it is that we need to do.”
“I want to talk to people who feel trapped by the doubts, the ‘but I cant,’ the ‘but I could never’ type things in their lives, and I want to explain to them that there comes a point in time when we have to be the big girls that we are, throw away the childish things and say, ‘You know what, this is my story, I’m sorry, I can’t change it, so I’m going to tell the truth as it is.’ …’But-Kickers’ was born literally at my kitchen table, as I was thinking, ‘What is it that I’m actually saying, as a whole, with my story?’ And I’m just saying, if you are able to kick the ‘buts’ out of your life, kick the doubts, you’d leave room…to rise above and trust God for what would otherwise be unbelievable.”
Her own story began in Brooklyn, New York, where she was born and raised by her single mother after the death of her father when she was in first grade.
She went away to college at the early age of 16, attending Syracuse University for aerospace engineering with the intent to one day work for NASA. She quickly realized, however that wasn’t for her. She transferred to Crossroads Bible College (then known as the Baptist Bible College of Indianapolis), where she graduated with a Bachelor of Religious Education. In 2011, she obtained a Master’s in Biblical Studies at Summit University of Pennsylvania (formerly Baptist Bible College of Pennsylvania).
She worked in inner city ministries for several years, first in Syracuse, New York, then in Indianapolis, Indiana. It was during an internship in South America that she said she first felt a passion for foreign missions.
When she moved to the Peruvian Amazon, which she described as “living in a National Geographic magazine,” it was with the mindset that she would remain there, in one part of the jungle or another, for the rest of her life.
“So when Ted Boykin (now her husband) entered the scene, it really rocked the boat, in more ways than one,” she said.
He was a mutual acquaintance of a couple she worked alongside in the jungle. She said when the couple saw during a furlough in the United States, they noticed her name came up a lot in conversation. So they asked her permission to give him her address so he could write to her.
She agreed, thinking it wouldn’t last.
“I lived in a little village at the mouth of the Amazon and Maranon rivers, we did not receive mail, we did not have telephones, we didn’t even have ham radio,” she said.
Her only contact with the outside world came once every four to six weeks when she went to the missionary headquarters in Iquitos, where she could pick up her mail and use a telephone or get on the radio.
“I never actually thought he’d write, because I thought it would be too difficult to keep up a relationship from Clarks Summit, where he lived, to the middle of the Amazon basin. I just did not think that that was going to be a possibility.
But he did, and it was.
The couple went on their first date in March, 1999, when she came to the U.S. on a short visit. Then, when she returned in December of that same year for a regularly-scheduled furlough, he met her at the airport. They were engaged in February and married in June. Since then, they have lived on the campus of Summit University as dorm parents, the first two years in Christen Dorm and then in Loescher Hall.
As a result of an illness that developed during the first years of their marriage, which was first misdiagnosed as multiple sclerosis (MS) and turned out to be a treatable infection from the Amazon, she was told she would not be able to have children. A year-and-a-half after being weaned off the medication for the MS diagnosis, however, she became pregnant with their daughter, Katherine, who is now 10 years old and a fourth grade student at South Abington Elementary School.
Looking back on the various twists and turns in her life, and the ways her story is helping others, she said, “All those things work together and sort of start start to form a mosaic and you can see a larger story come out of that.
“And it makes a difference.”