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Preparations for Guatemala
The Liberty University Spanish Institute will be sending 15 students to Guatemala May 11 to July 6 in order to learn Spanish while also ministering to the Guatemalan people.
Dr. David Towles has organized this trip for each of the past 18 years, combining six credits’ worth of Spanish instruction with global missions.
Students are able to pick what area of missions they want to work in, with options ranging from working with orphans and in schools to helping in hospitals and working with the physically challenged.
“This represents what Dr. Falwell used to call action-oriented curriculum,” Towles said.
“You’re not just sitting in classes learning about verbs, you’re sitting in class learning about verbs and then going outside and using those verbs to share the gospel into homes where nobody speaks English…This is not just studying Spanish so I can be smarter than somebody else.
This is studying Spanish, so I can be somebody else’s servant and make a difference in their lives.”
The trip is broken into two parts, moving students from partial to total immersion in the Spanish language and Guatemalan culture.
The first month’s focus is on learning the language in the classroom and through the various ministry opportunities.
During the second month, students will be totally immersed as they will be staying with a family in Guatemala that does not speak any English, while their focus shifts to full-time ministry.
“When they get in that home and they fall in love with that family, and that family falls in love with them, that is a life changing experience,” Towles said.
“That’s one of the most marvelous things, how people fall in love with each other on the team and in Guatemala. You develop relationships you cannot develop any other way.”
Towles described several students who have remained in touch for several years with the classmates they went on the trip with and with the families who hosted them.
He said that these strong relationships develop as a result of the challenges that students face as they try to understand a new language and a new culture.
“When you confront challenges, that binds people together,” Towles said.
“You’re confronting situations, and some of those are daunting and some of them are challenging, but some of them are in your mind and it’s really not all that bad.”
Once the fear of trying to learn a new language and new culture subsides, students often fall in love with the Guatemalan people, according to Towles.
On several occasions Towles has seen students develop close connections to the villages and the people they served.
“Guatemalan people are so affectionate, loving and caring that I’ve had kids cry when they leave,” Towles said.
While he wants students to have a fun and meaningful learning experience while on the trip, Towles said his real hope is for God to use the trip to move in the students’ lives as well as the lives of the people they meet.
“I want them to have an incredible encounter with God,” Towles said.
“I want to get them away from the United States of America, away from mommy, away from daddy, and down there alone with God where he messes life up in a wonderful way.”
For students who are interested in traveling to Guatemala on a future trip, Towles said they should consider if they want to make progress toward being fluent in Spanish, if they are able to share the gospel in Spanish, and if they want to use that Spanish to make a difference in the world by helping poor, destitute people.
Students who are interested can email Towles at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive information about next year’s trip.
Lapp is a news reporter.