Hi all and welcome to my monthly mission report!
I wanted to start by giving a brief introduction for those who may not know me as well. My name is Emily Stader. I am 19 years old and grew up in southwest Wisconsin. Some of my favorite things include spending time with friends and family, speaking Spanish, and playing music.
I first became excited about learning Spanish on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic with my dad and brother in February 2020. We were helping put a roof on a church in a neighborhood outside of Santo Domingo, the capital city of the Dominican Republic. Although I could barely communicate with my limited Spanish, I was drawn to the people and the culture around me. I felt that God was giving me a desire to return and serve on a more long-term basis. I knew that I would need to learn more Spanish, and I asked the local missionaries that we were staying with if I could come back after I graduated from high school, to learn Spanish and continue serving and working with them. They told me that I was welcome whenever I wanted to come, but also suggested that I spend a year studying Spanish at the Rio Grande Bible Institute in Edinburg Texas as part of the InterCultural Studies (ICS) program. ICS is a year-long intensive Spanish acquisition program, designed to teach students correct grammar and pronunciation and immerse them in the culture of Spanish-speaking countries. In the morning, students receive classes of grammar, phonetics, and conversation, taught primarily by native Spanish speakers. In the afternoon, they have one hour of “tutor time” with a Spanish speaking student from the bible college. They can use this time to work on homework or practice conversing. Twice a week, students are expected to attend the chapel services (in Spanish) offered on campus. In addition, ICS students are surrounded by opportunities to immerse themselves in the culture, converse with native Spanish speakers, and participate in different ministries, activities, and events, all while developing their Spanish speaking skills.
So, in August of 2020, I packed my boxes and bags and drove 25 hours to southern Texas to begin my year of learning Spanish. It was challenging at first to adjust to the new environment while attempting to understand and speak a new language, but I loved every minute. I learned new things, met new friends from all over the world, started playing soccer (or at least I tried) in “las canchas” (the courts) on the weekends, and just soaked up as much Spanish as I possibly could. I also had the opportunity to work in the coffee shop on campus, where I got to learn Spanish while making and serving coffee and other beverages.
During the month of Christmas break, I returned to the Dominican Republic with my dad, siblings, and a couple of friends to do a second mission trip. We painted a church in one Haitian community and then hosted a 3-day VBS program for the kids in the area. My dad is a doctor and brought some basic medical supplies to do several afternoon clinics for the kids in different communities.
In January, I returned to Rio Grande to finish my year of ICS. My second semester was more challenging, but also more rewarding and exciting. I was able to be involved in a practical ministries team with some of my very good friends. We worked with a church in Colombia, and helped with music, kids’ programs, and other ministries, all online through Zoom. I’m grateful for everything I learned by participating in this ministry. I also continued working in the coffee shop and spending lots of time with friends. I graduated in May 2021 and came home for the summer to spend time with family and friends and prepare to head back to the Dominican Republic at the end of August. My family and one of my good friends are coming with me for another mission trip, but this time at the end of the week, they will get back on the plane to go home without me. I’m a little nervous, but very excited to see where God will take me next! I would appreciate your prayers as I embark on this new adventure!