Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Faculty on the Fly

“I'm flying to Bolivia today.” It’s not an unfamiliar story; in fact Bob Whittet, director of church relations and a 13-year associate professor of Christian ministries at Gordon College, often visits the city of Tarija, Bolivia. After all, it was in this city that he and a group of Gordon students began construction of a school more than 10 years ago. Whittet has been returning ever since.

The Zuriel School, which was built over many years by mission teams led by Whittet, is a ray of hope among the otherwise inadequate offerings of the country’s struggling education system. Today the school fully prepares its students for the rigors of higher education. In fact, one graduate of Zuriel, Naara Arnold Avila, is now a junior studying art at Gordon.
Whittet, who also serves as the missions coordinator at Bethany Church in Greenland, New Hampshire, is an excellent resource to travel with and learn about missions. With over 30 missions trips under his belt and a school that has now graduated hundreds of students in an area where no formal Christian education previously existed, he’s a leading authority on the complexities missions bring to the table. Though Whittet’s trip to Bolivia this week meshes many aspects of his professional roles, he’s most excited to use the opportunity to teach. With funding from Bethany Church, Whittet will mentor Kelsey Frizzell, a high school sophomore and member at Bethany, as she plans a two-week stay in Tarija to gain vital experience with living in a foreign culture, and to develop her Spanish language skills. Next summer, Kelsey will serve as a student leader on a team trip Whittet will be leading.

Whittet’s calendar for the trip to Bolivia never lets up. From visiting the Zuriel School to spending time with Naara and her family, even preaching at Iglesia Tarija on Sunday morning, it seems he is always connecting with those living in the culture.

He will end his trip with a visit to the village of Cotaca to learn more about this very impoverished rural area of Bolivia and explore opportunities for developing small business startups to assist missionaries in their ministries in the area.

Photo: Bob Whittet takes a quick cell phone photo as he waits in the International Terminal of Miami Airport for his gate to begin boarding.

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