Leap of faith

Junior Charis Siefert is using her knowledge of Spanish to grow as a person


Photo by C. Siefert

Siefert and fourth grader Francielis met and became close friends last summer.

Lexi Leisure and James Simons

When summer hits, most students try to stay away from school as much as possible. Summer is a break away from teachers, homework, and tests. But Junior Charis Siefert is using her summer to travel to the Freedom Christian School in the Dominican Republic as part of an internship.

Siefert is doing double-duty, not only teaching at the school, but also doing missionary work. She plans to split her time with teaching children English and spreading the Christian faith.

“I went on a missions trip last summer to Freedom Christian School in the Dominican Republic and fell in love with the kids and the country! I loved being able to use my Spanish, spend time with kids, and tell them about Jesus,” Siefert said.   

Her experience last year motivated her to intern at the same school again this summer. This time, Siefert is going with people she’s never met.

“I had to apply for the internship, and it’s more of an unpaid-job-type thing than a missions trip, so I’m not going with my church or anything.” Siefert said, “I’ll be in the Dominican Republic for five weeks and I’m super excited to get to know the other interns. The scary part is that I’m not going with anyone I know.”

 Siefert plans to have her days filled with educational activities that are going to challenge both the kids and herself. While the kids are learning English during the day, Siefert’s knowledge of Spanish will be tested in the afternoon.

“Since school is out for the summer, the other interns and I will be leading ‘summer camps’ that are basically school in disguise. We’ll be working with elementary-aged kids.” Siefert said, “For the first half of the day, I’ll be leading English Enrichment Camps, where we’ll be playing games and the students will be required to speak only in English. This half of the day is focused on learning. In the afternoon, I’ll be leading Vacation Bible School, all in Spanish.”

Having taken several Spanish courses through NHS, Siefert has been able to develop her skills in preparation for the trip.

“Additionally, Freedom has asked me to read a few books before going down [to the Dominican Republic] so I’ve been working my way through those. Taking Spanish 4 this year has definitely helped prepare me to communicate well too,” Siefert said.

NHS Spanish teacher Kevin Cole has had Siefert for Spanish 3 Honors and AP Spanish Language and Culture.

She has always been a self-driven student who motivates herself to do the best she can,” Cole said.

Siefert says her ability to communicate has helped her grow as a person. She hopes this trip helps her find a future career. 

“I think that being in a position of leadership and away from family and friends will put me in a position to pursue God and pursue loving those around me.” Siefert said, “I’m also hoping to come away feeling more natural while speaking Spanish and with an idea of whether or not teaching is a career path I want to pursue.”

While Siefert is still unsure, Cole knows that she has potential.

Charis has the right personality to be a teacher because she doesn’t take herself too seriously, but I know she would take her job very seriously,” Cole said.

 Learning about teaching is not Siefert’s only goal. She also hopes to learn about caring for others.

“My main goal is to learn to live with sacrificial love. Putting others first does not come naturally to me at all, so I’m really hoping that that’s something I can press into this summer,” Siefert said.

Siefert says being in the Dominican Republic will allow her to be submerged into the culture. While she’ll she working for most of the trip, Siefert will still be able to enjoy the lifestyle of the country.

“I’ll spend the nights eating amazing Dominican food, enjoying the warm weather, and doing nightly Bible studies with the missionaries and other interns. Every weekend, we get to go to the beach or go boating and exploring,” Siefert said.

Siefert expressed her excitement for the trip this summer and shares a special message for those interested in taking a leap of faith, literally.

“Based on my missions trip last year, I would totally recommend this trip. It’s so cool to experience another culture – to eat new foods, to see how the locals live, to hear the language.” Siefert said, “To anyone who wants to go on a missions trip – do it! Go! But don’t go into it looking for a vacation or expecting to come out feeling great about yourself. Prepare to come face to face with all the ugly parts of yourself, and prepare to encounter the relentless love, grace, intentionality, and strength of God.”