Liberal Studies major Anna Hernandez said it, almost as a joke: “I want to go to China.” But the more she said it out loud, the more the thought seemed to stick with her.
She had wanted to teach English in China since her freshman year at Vanguard University, but the idea had been placed on the backburner as she studied, worked, and spent her summers at home. During her junior year, however, an opportunity to take the trip appeared. “I was late to apply,” Anna said about the application process, “but every door opened for me to go. Every one. It felt like God wanted me to go.”
Vanguard University has sent teaching teams to China each year since 2004. This year, Dr. Mike Wilson, associate provost and dean of the college, led the trip.
Dr. Wilson first came to China in 1984 where he was an Instructor at Jiangxi Agricultural University for two years. After spending an additional year in Hong Kong, he returned to the States and came to Vanguard, where he currently teaches Chinese History. This summer was his fourth time leading the Vanguard Teaching Team.
The trip to China was the first outreach trip of the summer and started only three days after the spring semester ended. A total of eight students on the Vanguard Teaching Team packed their belongings during finals week in order to fly out of the country on May 12. For Anna, packing in such a short timeframe was hard, but it was even harder to leave the country on Mother’s Day. Still, sacrificing in order to help others was well worth it.
The students boarded a plane to Shanghai and then another to Beijing. Once landed, the team spent three days in Beijing to tour the area. Dr. Wilson said these days of touring gave the students “a chance to acclimate to the culture and bond as a team.” After a pit stop in Beijing, the team took another flight to Xi’an and then a bus to Hanzhong. All together, the flights and bus ride amounted to nearly 21 hours of travel time.
Once in Hanzhong, the Vanguard Teaching Team spent ten days teaching English to non-English majors at Shaanxi University of Technology. The team lectured in classrooms, gave demonstrations, and spent time developing relationships with many of the Chinese students. “It’s always amazing to me how quickly we can connect in the span of a week,” Dr. Wilson said of the cross-cultural friendships that were made on the trip. “We felt really close to a lot of [Chinese] students who helped us.” Anna was humbled to see God’s love for people, and His desire for us to build relationships with others.
Before the trip, Dr. Wilson hoped that his team of students would have their minds broadened by their experiences in China. Anna had a similar wish: the desire to see God’s hand at work in a different culture. Both of these dreams were fulfilled. Dr. Wilson recalls that during group debriefs, each student shared incredible stories of God at work in China. In one such debrief, a student turned to Dr. Wilson and said, “I see why you keep coming back.”
At the end of the trip, Dr. Wilson was glad to see that the team had become “extremely bonded.” The group’s only complaint about the trip was that it was far too short.
“I want to go back,” said Anna when asked if she would consider taking another trip to China. “I would definitely recommend students to take a missions trip if they can. [They] don’t even have to go very far.” Even reaching out to a community in one’s own country is a great way to be a model for Christ.
Each summer, Vanguard University Global Outreach sends several groups of students to countries all over the globe in order to “lead the Vanguard community to deeply value and relentlessly pursue a life of faith in action.” This summer, a total of eleven teams will be given an opportunity to live that mission out internationally. Besides China, other countries the teams will visit are Tanzania, Peru, Mozambique, the Middle East, Ireland, Honduras, Fiji, Ethiopia, the Dominican Republic/Haiti, and Australia. For more information, visit: http://www.vanguard.edu/studentlife/outreach/global-outreach/