This summer, Dawson Davis, Eleanor Earles, Jonathan Gebbie, Peyton Laylock, Emma Osko, Megan Rogers, and Andrew Vick, all students from Lee University’s Spanish program, served in various Spanish-speaking countries on missions projects.
“Lee’s Spanish department is proud of these students who decided to serve overseas, especially in academic institutions, all affiliated with the Church of God,” said Dr. Alexander Steffanell, professor of Spanish at Lee. “Each one of these students showed the love of Christ to others, considerably improved their Spanish and level of proficiency, and impacted these communities they served. I have witnessed how transformative this was for them.”
Mr. Davis, a senior Spanish and TESOL double major and linguistics minor from Polk County, Tn., served for five weeks at Seminario Bíblico Pentecostal Centroamericano, a seminary affiliated with Lee, in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.
While there, Mr. Davis taught weekly English classes to students at SEBIPCA, helped with translation work, and practiced improving his Spanish. Mr. Davis also went to Guatemala in 2020 for a trip with other Spanish majors and decided to go back this year for an experience of “full immersion.”
“My experience in Guatemala allowed me to connect on a much deeper level that has led to lifelong friendships, which would have never been possible without being able to relate with the people in their own native language,” said Mr. Davis. “Because of this, I felt so at home during the entirety of my trip.”
Upon graduating, he plans to return to Latin America in hopes to minister and teach there.
Ms. Laylock, a junior Spanish and pastoral ministries double major from Florence, Ky., served on a mission project in Cuenca, Ecuador, at Comunidad Cristiana El Redil, a Church of God church.
During her two months there, Ms. Laylock helped with projects, teaching, and worship at the church. She stayed with the pastor’s family and shadowed him during the week. Along with attending church services, Ms. Laylock taught English to the community, was involved with various weekly Bible studies, attended church ministry programs, and met with congregation members individually for interviews, baptisms, and other events. Ms. Laylock was also able to see and tour the country during her free time.
“More than anything, this trip improved my confidence in not only my Spanish-speaking ability, but also my ability to engage with other cultures,” said Ms. Laylock. “I’ve gained a new point of view of how other cultures interact with their community and with God, and my calling in ministry has been reaffirmed.”
Ms. Laylock is a senior resident assistant for Residential Life and a School of Religion mentor at Lee. She is also in the process of starting a student-led feminist organization on campus called Beyond. Upon graduating, she plans to pursue ministry outside the United States.
Ms. Earles, Mr. Gebbie, Ms. Osko, Ms. Rogers, and Mr. Vick all served in Cota, Colombia, immediately following a month-long Global Perspectives trip to the country. They decided to stay in the city to further immerse themselves in the culture and experience teaching English firsthand.
In Cota, the group served for several weeks at a local church, Comunidad Cristiana Jireh, and a local school, Gimnasio Jireh. They taught English and math at the school, helped at an after-school program called Risa, and assisted with worship at the church. They were also able to travel and spend time with locals.
“My time in Colombia allowed me to experience a side of life bigger than I imagined,” said Mr. Vick, a junior Spanish, math, and computer science triple major from Toledo, Ohio. “I found new calling, friendship, and home through loving and serving alongside those who have lived a very different life.”
Many of the group did not plan on staying after the original trip was over, but they all agreed it was an enriching experience. “I never thought that I would teach in another country, even for a brief time,” said Ms. Earles, a senior international studies and Spanish double major from Damascus, Maryland. “I can say it was humbling, yet fulfilling, to do something out of my comfort zone. It helped me grow not only in my Spanish proficiency, but also as a person.”
Several of the students are involved with Lee’s Center for English Language and Literacy program and worked together to begin offering online classes for students in Cota. Mr. Gebbie, a senior TESOL major and Spanish minor from Knoxville, expressed his plan to return to Colombia to start the first international branch of CELL along with seniors Ms. Osko and Ms. Rogers.
“My dream is to move to a Latin American country and start an English school that offers free English classes to those who may not have access to English classes,” said Ms. Osko, a TESOL major and Spanish minor from Colorado Springs, Co. “This trip has opened doors and moved me one step closer to my dream and calling to provide resources, training, and leadership development to English teachers in these countries who feel underprepared and overwhelmed.”
For more information about Lee’s Spanish program, visit https://www.leeuniversity.edu/academics/arts-sciences/lang-lit/spanish-licensure-option/.