A Time to Listen: One Student’s Semester in South Africa
Junior Spencer French ’19, a Christian Ministries, Philosophy and English major, just returned home after a semester abroad in South Africa. The four-month trip was a learning adventure for him, and taught him much more than he expected.
French described the trip as a privilege, a time to listen, a time to absorb. It was geared toward international ministry, but focused on understanding the community there.
“[It] was more about the people, and learning how to listen to them, care about them, how to walk alongside them,” French says.
He and three other Bethel students – Natalie Hoist ’19, Sean Linhart ’19 and Rachel Collins ’19 – learned alongside seven South African students (many from different ethnic groups/backgrounds). They traveled all around the country learning about the culture and the people around them.
One common thread he noted, even despite differences, was “so many different cultures coming together in the name of Christ.”
Being a minority in South Africa was inspiring to French, because it opened his eyes to a different culture and caused him to listen more intently to the experiences of others. He discovered “the beauty and value of diversity” due to the mix of races, cultures and backgrounds in a country so heavily affected by apartheid.
He now sees life differently, through the lens of a broader worldview, and is happy to return to Bethel. He has a new perspective and is set to accomplish new goals.
“Bethel has always been home for me,” French says.
French’s decision to come to Bethel was an easy one. In fact, not only did his brother and father go here but his grandfather, Jack French, Sr. (former Michigan district superintendent for the Missionary Church) did too, making French a third generation Bethel student. His grandparents met on campus and he also has many aunts, uncles and cousins who have attended the school.