Cathy Cornelison is a school teacher from Texas and the wife of VisionTrust Relationship Manager Mark Cornelison. This summer, she spent eight weeks in the Dominican Republic teaching English to a group of 12 young ladies ages 13-23 from four different VisionTrust programs. Cathy held class for the girls three times a week to teach them grammar, vocabulary, and conversation skills.
“They were the smartest, most motivated and determined students I have ever taught,” said Cathy. “They learned so quickly that I was having to prepare each night for the next day because they far exceeded my expectations!”
At first the girls were guarded and shy. Cathy made it known that the classes were a safe place to learn and ask questions, and every day they walked in with more confidence. By the end of the summer, some of the girls were translating for Cathy!
“God began to reveal to me throughout the summer how learning English could change the cycle of poverty in their lives. God was giving each of them an opportunity that could change their life forever and they did not take this opportunity lightly!”
Even though men and women in the Dominican Republic are supposed to have equal rights, opportunities for women are strained because of social barriers, cultural beliefs, and a thriving sex trafficking industry. Learning English can literally change the life of a Dominican woman because it opens up doors for employment, especially in the country’s booming tourism industry. In fact, many of the girls in Cathy’s class dream of leading their own tourist business.
Cathy’s prayer is that some of the girls will become interpreters for the VisionTrust short-term mission teams. Having women on the currently all-male team of interpreters could foster an environment of greater openness between female team members and the Spanish-speaking girls in our programs, allowing deeper relationships to be formed. “And,” exclaimed Cathy, “who better to serve our teams than those who have been impacted the most by our VisionTrust programs!”
One highlight of the summer classes for everyone was learning worship songs together. The group not only learned how to sing the words in English, but what the words meant. “I wanted them to truly understand what they were singing to God,” said Cathy. Christ is Enough became the class song as all of the girls sang with conviction, “I have decided to follow Jesus… no turning back, no turning back.”
“I will never forget their beautiful voices as they sang with their whole heart in a language they now understood.”
Not only did these 12 girls learn English over the summer—a skill that could generate opportunities to support their families and one day break the cycle of poverty in their lives—but they also formed amazing friendships and grew stronger in their faith… opening up the possibility for the spread of the Gospel to Dominicans we may never meet.
Would you like to visit a VisionTrust program? Join us on a team! View open teams online.