President Drops in On Cross-cultural Group in Guatemala

It was a crash course in cross-cultural learning and a long-time dream come true.

EMU President Loren Swarzendruber and his wife, Pat, (pictured second row, at right) paid a whirlwind visit Feb. 6-10 to the 22-member EMU student group that is spending spring semester in a cross-cultural seminar in Guatemala, Central America. Read student blogs and see photos

Dr. Swartzendruber took seminar leaders Jim and Ann Graber Hershberger (second row, at left) up on their invitation to come, noting that he and Pat wanted to visit a cross-cultural group on site ever since becoming president.

During their brief stay, Loren and Pat visited EMU alumni Jared and Tracey Stoltzfus and Jeff Eschelman and his Honduran wife, Soila, who are doing volunteer work in the country. They heard a missionary family talk about their Bible translation work, toured a large Catholic church, worshiped with and took a two-hour boat ride with the EMU group, heard presentations from the leaders of SEMILLA and CASAS where the students study Spanish and had meals with local host families.

“It was great to see the students ‘on location’ and to talk with them about their cross-cultural experience part way through the semester,” said Swartzendruber. “We were reminded again of the life-changing nature of these opportunities, a part of the college experience that is unique within higher education.

A personal delight for Loren and Pat was to reconnect with a young woman whom they had hosted in their family more than 10 years ago while she was a student at Hesston (Kan.) College. “She met Christ at Hesston, returned to Guatemala and a good job in the government in a planning office, and then entered seminary,” Swartzendruber noted. “She is now a few months from completing her masters degree and will seek a pastorate in the city.

“Many institutions provide international experiences for a small percentage of students,” the president added. “But few universities provide their own faculty members to accompany the group as teachers and mentors as EMU does.”

Another group of 24 students, led by Bob and Kim Gingerich Brenneman, is spending spring semester in a cross-cultural seminar in India.