The year was 1928, and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church was carrying out mission work in South America. It would be the year that Miss Ethel Brintle and Miss Bernice Barnett would commit their lives to Christian service and would travel and sail thousands of miles away from their Tennessee homes to Colombia, South America. Through their faith in God and hard work and determination, Ethel and Bernice were integral in beginning Colegio Americano in this new and foreign place.
Fast forward to ninety years later, a group of 14 individuals that included students, faculty and staff from Bethel University visited Colegio Americano during the Colombian school’s nine decade anniversary in May 2018. Part of Bethel’s Global Studies, this was the program’s fifth visit in four years to Colegio Americano, but volunteering and serving during this momentous occasion made this trip extra special.
“I think about how brave these women must have been to leave the comfort of the Unites States during that time period to travel to Colombia to work in this new school,” said Dr. David Lancaster, a Cumberland Presbyterian Minister and Professor of Religion at Bethel. “I can only imagine how thrilled they would have been to welcome our students! I also can easily imagine these ladies making determined efforts to recruit and encourage the students to consider whether God was calling them to world missions.”
Stacie Freeman, Bethel’s Global Studies Director, said the group volunteered over 500 hours at Colegio Americano and at the National School of Sports during the recent trip.
“Participants were also exposed to a wide variety of cultural activities,” she said. “They learned to salsa from the world-class instructors at Swing Latino, they hiked up to Cristo Rey, and they attended services in Cali’s oldest church.
“They also traveled to Medellin for the weekend where they toured Comuna 13 – a once violent neighborhood that has been transformed by art and music,” she said. “And on a day trip to Guatape, this group climbed 750 steps to the top of El Penol.”
Freeman pointed out how the actual trip is a part of the college course where they also learn about the history and culture of Colombia and about becoming global citizens.
Student Amber Putt of Medina, Tenn., said “this is a place I plan to come back to for the rest of my life.”
Putt is a true student ambassador for Bethel’s Global Studies program having traveled to Colombia on an earlier Bethel trip.
“I’m so lucky to have gone back this year with an amazing group of people,” Putt said. “Colombia and Colegio Americano have shown me love, patience, respect, culture, friendship, history and acceptance.”
Putt went on to say that being a part of Bethel’s Global Studies program has truly helped her understand others around the world.
“How incredibly blessed I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard, even if it’s only for a little while.”
Angelica Poveda, the English Language Coordinator at Colegio Americano gave her perspective as well.
“Knowing that these students feel so special and blessed to be in our school among their Colombian brothers and sisters and in our beloved country fills my heart and helps me to feel assured of God’s purpose in my life,” she said. “I love each of these people, and I thank God for what each has done for this school and for my country.”
“It will be interesting in time to see how this trip impacted this group,” Dr. Lancaster said. “I am sure Miss Ethel and Miss Bernice would view the commitment these people took coming to Colombia as a sign of their openness to service and ministry. I think seeing return visitors indicates that God is definitely working through those individuals.”
Travelers on the May trip included: Bethel faculty member Stacie Freeman, Bethel family Mikaela Adkins, Bethel alumni Mitzi Nelson, Adrian Bullard, Jeffery Johnson, Vince Binondo and Katherine Jiminez, and Bethel students Amber Putt, Natalie Marvel, Dylan Nash, Brooklyn Gaylord, Kayley Grisham, Allison Smarsh and Ginger Terry.
Those interested in taking part in Bethel’s Global Studies program can contact Stacie Freeman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out this video produced by participant Adrian Bullard that depicts the Colombia experience. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwdhhAbtVQk&t=29s
Bethel student Amber Putt poses with local students in Colombia during a Bethel Global Studies program trip to Colombia during early May.