For two years, Nathan Geer and his wife Val were two people in a sea of 25 million. Surrounded by a foreign culture vastly different from their own, they made connections through something extremely familiar to them: the English language.
Nathan Geer is the Dean of Students at Corban University. Before he began working in Student Life, he and his wife had the opportunity to travel to China to teach English.
Both Nathan and Val were presented with the opportunity to earn a master’s degree in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and intercultural studies while living and teaching abroad. Although they had no previous experience teaching English, they said yes to the opportunity and spent the next two academic years in Beijing.
“I remember feeling very inadequate when I started,” Geer mused. As time went on, he and his team grew in their skills and in their confidence. “It got easier to more I did it,” he said.
Along with the many positive and exciting experiences, Geer recalls the trials that arose with living in a foreign context. The language barriers were difficult to overcome, and the educational system of China was challenging to adapt to coming from the United States. However, one thing he remembers vividly is the impact the experience had on how he saw his faith.
“What I assumed was Christian was really American and Christian. As I lived in China and saw how different the Christians there functioned and lived, I realized biblical Christianity looks different than cultural Christianity,” he stated, “I need to let the Bible determine my culture and not let my culture determine my faith.
“I need to let the Bible determine my culture and not let my culture determine my faith.”
When considering future career opportunities or even ministry opportunities, teaching English in a foreign country may not be among top choices of recent college graduates. For Geer, it was not his original plan. Nevertheless, it did turn out to be the direction God led him in. Teaching English was an opportunity for Nathan and Val to grow in their skills and experience, but also to open doors for sharing with their students about Jesus. When reflecting on the use of teaching English as ministry, Geer stated, “It’s not a tool to share the gospel, it is simply an access point to live the gospel.” During his time abroad, he was able to minister by living out his faith in front of his students, causing them to ask, “What makes you different?”
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. – 1 Peter 3:15
For students who may be interested in teaching English in the future, Corban University provides the opportunity to prepare by offering a minor in TESOL as part of the school of ministry. This minor can be paired with any traditional degree. “If you can speak English, you can teach English,” Geer proposed.
Because of his experiences, Geer is better equipped to engage cultural differences and to be an advocate and adviser for international students in his current role as Dean of Students. “My whole world changed as a result of teaching English,” he said.
From the streets of Beijing to the suburbs of Salem, God is using the English language to further his kingdom.
If you are interested in learning more about the TESOL program at Corban University, more information is available at https://undergrad.corban.edu/ministry
Written by Brianna Ashmore
Brianna Ashmore is a junior at Corban University. She is passionate about encouraging Christians to be more engaged internationally.