Taking AFLBS abroad

Contrary to popular belief, AFLBS doesn’t really make you ready to be an English teacher in Ecuador.

“How’s it going there?” friends keep asking. Ah … how do you figure? Do you mean, how are my English classes going? Honestly, attendance is up and down. Some days, everyone seems engaged and attentive and can define terms like “Saxon genitive” (literally a trumped-up name for the possessive “s”); other days, we struggle, flubbing our grammar and botching our syntax. I catch myself using Spanish to make my students understand, cutting off my own work at its knees. At the end of a day I’d set aside for writing two lessons, I realize I’ve finished only most of one, and I’m at a total loss for a devotional for class.

Yet, in the same breath: God is so good to me. I’ve got a family here that treats me like family. I’ve got multiple people I interact with regularly who can speak English with me—which keeps my 21-year-old English-speaking brain tethered to sanity when my relatively 6- to 7-year-old Spanish-speaking brain tries to play king of the hill. The wifi in my host home is strong, and I can talk with my girlfriend and my family on the daily, which has been absolutely inexpressible grace.

The AFLBS Ecuador team’s visit was a godsend, too. Having the opportunity to translate for friends gave my brain the jolt it needed to stretch into some new linguistic territory. Seeing the city and Paz de Dios Church again through their eyes reminded me that there was, in fact, both beauty to seek out and work worth doing here yet. I’m heading home soon, and having AFLBS students around was enough to take the edge off of the waiting.

So, no, AFLBS doesn’t prepare you to teach an English class. (Except maybe a handful of things from Christian Education, actually—Mrs. Moan, my 12-14 year olds have been riding that “10 Commandments with actions” train for almost three straight weeks now. Thank you. God bless you.) It doesn’t prepare you for Saturday morning salchipapa sickness. (No more mountain hot dogs for me; twice was more than enough, muchas gracias.) And it doesn’t put a dent in the language barrier, either; you’ll have to clamber your way over that just like anybody else.

It will change how you go about every single one of those things, though. Bible school will give you some of your core people—the kind of people you’re going to call when you fail. It will give you a clearer understanding of what your failures actually mean, and more importantly, what they don’t. And it will give you truth to hang onto, too, even when all you can understand on a Sunday morning is the third verse of “Solo en Jesús” (In Christ Alone)—because that’s the point of AFLBS. And when you’ve got that, you can go anywhere.

Seth Skogerboe [AFLBS, 2018] served as a short-term assistant with Journey Missions in Cuenca, Ecuador, for eight months.

This article first appeared in Kinship Magazine, Spring 2019 Edition.

Kinship is a magazine of the Free Lutheran Schools. Stay up to date on the latest news, student stories, classroom highlights, and fun tidbits about life on the AFLBS and AFLTS campus.

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