Study Abroad Program Combines Academics, Missions

PeruFlag1024Any Maranatha student can experience a different culture firsthand by taking advantage of the Study Abroad program.

“It’s a great opportunity for students to make new friends … and be a witness,” said Dr. Manuel Morales, Associate Professor of Spanish, who oversees the program.

Students going to Peru take classes at César Vallejo University, which signed an agreement with Maranatha in the fall of 2012. This agreement allows Maranatha students to take classes while teaching English at Cesar Vallejo. In return, César Vallejo helps pay the cost of the student’s stay in Peru.

Students can also work closely with the Templeton and Hurtado families, both missionaries in Peru. Students are able to assist by doing everything from leading music to helping in children’s ministries.  Students also live with a member of the church congregation, ensuring that they have a Christian environment as well as complete cultural immersion.

Furnari_GarrettStudents going to Spain can take classes at the University of Salamanca. Garrett Furnari (left), a junior Cross-Cultural Studies major who spent fall of 2012 in Spain, took Second Language French 1, Arabic, and Islamic Thought at the University of Salamanca. He described the classes as “completely different from anything I’d ever done.” Furnari said the most challenging aspects were the new Spanish vocabulary and the speed at which the classes were taught.

Furnari lived with Chema and Marta Bermejo, a Christian family from missionary Kent Albright’s church, Iglesia Evangélica Bautista del Tormes (Evangelical Baptist Church of the Tormes), in Salamanca.  Morales said he works with the missionaries to make sure the host families encourage biblical lifestyle standards.

Furnari was able to help in Albright’s church in Spain. He gave devotions for the youth group and led services on both Sundays and Wednesday nights. He was even able to alternate with another teacher in going through a doctrine book with the youth group—all entirely in Spanish. Furnari said he learned a lot from Albright’s example.  “His life is ministry,” Furnari said.

Morales1024-thumbMorales (right), who started the Study Abroad program when he came to Maranatha four years ago, hopes students will soon be able to go to Puerto Rico as well. Morales hopes to visit in May and negotiate an agreement  with a university there that would allow Study Abroad participants the option of spending a semester in Puerto Rico.

Furnari encourages every student to study abroad at some point during their time at Maranatha. Not only do students learn a new culture, he said, but they grow closer to Christ, and learn to value Him more.

“It enriches your view of Christianity (and) the way your relationship with Christ fleshes out in America,” he said. Furnari also said his Study Abroad experience also made very real to him the motto adopted by Maranatha Bible Department Chair Brian Trainer: “Life is ministry, and ministry is global.”

–by Brynn Fitzsimmons