The Gospel in VIETNAM
James Schlieper ’16 taught English to three levels of children (age 4, 8, and 12) at an ILA English Center in Ho Chi Minh City for 15 months in 2017 and 2018. His teaching overseas was coordinated by Friends of Vietnam, a nonprofit started by members at Peace in Jesus in Boise, Idaho (friendsofvietnam.net).
Although teaching English provides a valuable service, James says his main goal was to share the gospel and assist Vietnamese students who wanted to attend a WELS high school. It was exciting work.
“It’s such a blessing to not know exactly what the Lord has planned for me each day,” he says, “but to know that he will present me with opportunities to spread the gospel. Last Easter I was able to teach my friend’s daughter about Christ’s death and resurrection. That was one of the best days of my life.”
Teaching with Love in LIMA
After two years at MLC, Hannah Ruehrdanz (Jerusalem-Morton Grove IL, pictured) and Seth Weide (Christ-Big Bend WI) couldn’t wait to enter the public ministry, so they flew to Lima, Peru, to teach English. “Overcoming a language barrier opens a million doors to people you might never have been able to talk to otherwise. I had a million opportunities to share God’s love with all my kiddos,” says Hannah. “How awesome is that!?”
Seth and Hannah taught at Colegio B-group started by the Berrospid family. “It’s just so obvious that God is working through them,” says Hannah. “Please pray that the mission here in Peru grows more and more!”
“My time there changed my life,” says Seth. “It was incredible experiencing another culture and language while living with a wonderful Christian family. I loved spending time with the kids learning English. They’re filled with energy to learn.”
This year, sophomore Alex Dimke (Good Shepherd-Cedar Rapids IA) is teaching in Peru.
Jenny Proeber ’07 says God has led her on this Spanish journey from day one. The Mexican family who worked on her family’s farm introduced her to the language. Teachers and textbooks imparted the skills, and several study abroad experiences sharpened them. She taught English to Spanish speakers in the Dominican Republic for a year before she graduated from MLC, and then she taught Spanish to English speakers at Great Plains LHS for eight years after she graduated.
In 2015, she moved to Chile to teach English, and in 2017, she founded her own language school, Grace Educational Center, in Linares. She has about 30 students of all ages. People come to the center to learn a language that will make them more employable in Linares, an area with one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. But what they learn goes far beyond language.
“It’s a place where people can come to learn English, but above all,” she says, “a place where I can build connections in the community and share the powerful news of God’s undeserved love for us.”
She also started an “English Corner,” free intermediate and advanced conversation classes at a local café on Wednesdays.
And she studies the Bible with friends and connects them with Iglesia Luterana, an ELS mission in Linares. Volunteers like Caleb
King ’18 (see below) help teach the English classes and read the Bible with new friends.
Chile is a predominantly Christian country, with most people knowing Jesus and identifying with either the Catholic or the Evangelical churches. “Not everyone, however, has had the chance to know what Jesus is truly all about: grace,” Jenny says. “Hence, the name of my school, Grace Educational Center. The name itself is a chance to let people know about the beauty and power of God’s undeserved love.”
“Recently both Caleb and I were able to witness to a student as he struggles with a dear family member’s last days of life.
His grandma is a believer, while he struggles with organized religion. What a blessing to be able to reassure him that if she believes in Jesus as her Savior, then she is going to be dancing in heaven eternally—and without her oxygen machine!
“And then there’s Julio, a retired teacher who wanted to use his extra time to do something he always wanted: learn English. Julio was also caretaker for his very ill wife. A few months after starting English classes, his wife’s health declined and she passed away. The next week he came to class with tears in his eyes and confusion in his heart. ‘I’m both very sad and relieved. Is that ok?’ During the next few classes, we were able to talk about his hope. I could tell that Julio was lonely, so I told him I wanted to introduce him to my church family. He started coming rather regularly to church services and has shown interest in taking Bible classes. Praise God for all the blessings and grace he continues to show Julio!”
The Holy Spirit continues to work through the Word shared at Grace Educational Center. And Jenny isn’t sure just what the future holds, but she’s excited for it. “I’ve had so many plans in my life, and God always goes around changing them on me! I of course have lots of dreams of what I would like to accomplish through Grace Educational Center—like offering other languages or workshops—but I’ve learned to be content with enjoying the present and all the blessings God continues to pour out on his work here in Linares.”
La Aventura Sudamericana
Caleb King ’18 (St. John-Lomira WI) admits he started taking Spanish at Winnebago Lutheran Academy simply because his favorite soccer team was Real Madrid. As a preseminary student at MLC, he continued with Spanish to fulfill his nonbiblical language requirement.
Today he’s a few months into La Aventura Sudamericana, his South American Adventure: a year in Linares, Chile, where he teaches English with Jenny Proeber at Grace Educational Center (pictured below left), assists with worship at La Iglesia Luterana, and reads the Bible with new friends and fellow Christians.
“I know this time away will be an amazing time for personal growth as a Spanish speaker, as an independent person, as someone with a severe case of wanderlust, and as a future minister of the gospel to God’s people of every tribe and language,” he says. “Already, one of my students has asked that I talk about the Bible and God with him in English! It’s been an incredible blessing and opportunity to witness to him!”
Next fall Caleb will matriculate at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary for his final four years of training before becoming a WELS pastor. What a journey! From Lomira, Wisconsin, to Linares, Chile— and maybe someday to your congregation. Read Caleb’s blog at laaventurasudamericana.wordpress.com.
This feature was originally published in the MLC InFocus, Fall 2018 issue.