Born and raised in Malvern and educated at Great Valley High School and Millersville University, West Chester artist Mike Morby also works as a young adult ministry leader at Calvary Fellowship Church in Downingtown. But it was a college trip to Mexico with a missionary nun named Lisa Valentini that painted the bigger picture for Morby, now 27.
A year after that first mission, Sister Lisa moved to the Dominican Republic. Then Morby met a Catholic priest named Dan Powell. Friends with Sister Lisa, the two coordinated a Habitat for Humanity trip to the D.R. “I enjoyed it so much that I asked Sister Lisa if I could come and visit on my own,” he says.
She welcomed him with open arms—and palette. In the winter of 2003, he visited for three weeks. After graduation, he spent September 2004 to July 2005 as a volunteer teaching art in the villages to 1,000 students between 5 and 25 years old. “Sister Lisa set me up with housing with a guy named Pablo,” Morby recalls. “The amazing thing is that Pablo lived in the same house I’d helped build two years earlier with Habitat for Humanity.”
While there, he couldn’t help notice a need for school supplies, so he e-mailed his contacts back home. They took up a collection, and three friends brought down the supplies stuffed in their luggage. “We delivered supplies to 270 students in need,” he says.
Morby replicated the effort in 2006 and 2007. And though the trip has become an annual event, this year is different. Morby married Kari Bolesta in February. “Now we might go and serve in Africa or back to Mexico instead,” he says.