Portland Adventist Academy Spanish students pushed past language and cultural barriers on their mission trips to the Dominican Republic and Peru.
PAA Spanish teacher and Dominican Republic trip leader, Mrs. Barrett, or “Profe,” as she is known by her students, takes mission trip preparation seriously. Students attended several cultural and spiritual preparation meetings. Her Spanish students, traveling on a mission trip or not, wrote children’s books recounting their childhood experiences in Spanish to be shared with Dominican Republic orphans.
On the Dominican trip, students worked at an International Children’s Care orphanage. They did facility maintenance as well as planned and lead a Vacation Bible School in Spanish.
Language confidence grew with daily routines and interaction. One trip rule required each member of the group to pray for a meal in Spanish. The food was only passed around the table in response to requests in Spanish.
“We could definitely see growth in the complexity of prayers given during the second week,” said Barrett. “From Ethan, whose only prior Spanish was in elementary school and Kelsey, whose last Spanish class was two years ago, to Charli Jo who amazed the Dominicans with her fluent speech, everyone used the language with eager confidence. This was a truly wonderful trip.”
Similar experiences were reported from the Peru travelers. They helped build a church in the city of Tarapoto near the Adventist University, Universidad Peruana Union. Using Spanish, PAA students were able to make friends with the university students, present worship services, and lead Children’s Sabbath School.
PAA principal and leader of the Peru trip, Dan Nicola watched the students develop their skills. “You could tell by the end of the two weeks that the students who had taken Spanish class were now using it seamlessly,” he said.
“I never thought my Spanish was very good,” said Will Howard, a Junior at PAA. “But when we got to Peru I was surprised that it came so naturally. I can honestly say I used everything Profe taught me.”
“The way Profe teaches really works,” said Miles Douglas, a PAA Junior also on the Peru trip. “I was proud and impressed that it came as easy as it did. It was great to apply what I’ve learned to connect with people. It was awesome.”
Having the skills to converse with local Peruvians and Dominicans gave students more than confidence in their skills. It enhanced their mission experiences. It helped them navigate the communities and build friendships with people different than themselves. Best of all, their skills and preparation helped to foster a joy of learning language for the greatest purpose; serving and loving others.
“I hope that I can come back to Peru in the future,” says senior Lindsey Kim in an online message she wrote to her new Peruvian friends, “But if not, I am going to live with the hope that we will meet in heaven with our Christ.”