Can you imagine leaving your secure, comfortable job to serve overseas? Katherine McCarthy did just that when she left her tenured teaching position: “It was one of the scariest things I’ve done!” she said.
Making the jump from teaching in the U.S. to teaching in another country can be incredibly nerve-wracking. But it can also be incredibly rewarding.
Lorri Scholten and Katherine McCarthy — two teachers who serve with Wycliffe Bible Translators at Oaxaca Christian School (OCS), a K-12 school serving missionary kids in Mexico — know that firsthand. Lorri has taught first and second grade with OCS for over 12 years while Katherine is entering her fourth year teaching third and fourth grade at the school.
Making the Leap
Katherine had always imagined that at some point she would go into missions as a teacher but it didn’t initially appear to be in God’s plan. After Katherine completed her undergraduate and graduate degrees, she began teaching in the U.S. public school system and threw herself into community ministry for five years.
“It was a long process for me to be convinced that I was being called [again] ... into international missions,” Katherine laughed. “But others would keep bringing it up!”
Katherine had just received tenure in her school system but out of curiosity, she reached out to Wycliffe and was shocked when someone responded immediately to answer her questions.
“[The recruiter] talked to me for a long time and really made me feel more comfortable about Wycliffe and what I’d have to do to become a missionary teacher,” Katherine said. “It was a huge positive that someone cared enough to take the time to talk to me! ... Wycliffe made the whole process very personal ... and I felt really supported in that.”
Katherine continued: “Resigning from my position was one of the most nerve-wracking things I’ve done ... but Wycliffe talked me through everything. And so I jumped right in.”
Lorri’s journey was a little different but still involved a leap into full-time missionary education. After years of traveling to Mexico to teach during her summer vacations, Lorri started contemplating what might be next. She was invited to teach in Peru for a year with Wycliffe. “It was hard,” Lorri admitted, “but God started working in my heart.”
Soon she realized that God was asking her to step out in faith into full-time teaching. “Mexico was familiar from all those summers teaching [there],” she said. “And I figured at 50 [years old], I wouldn’t do so well to learn a new language. Since I already knew quite a bit of Spanish, I decided Mexico made sense!”
Making an Impact
Today, Mexico is home to over 255 languages, eight of which are still waiting for Scripture translations to begin. Many translators and other Bible translation workers have children; without a school like Oaxaca Christian, families would have to leave the field for the sake of their children’s education.
“Parents [need] to know that their children will have a complete education and that going to the field isn't going to hinder their child’s future in any way,” Katherine said.
Sometimes one spouse will end up leaving his or her translation role in order to educate their children. Katherine continued: “When teachers ... are willing to [serve], that relieves such a huge pressure for the translators. They aren’t wondering if their child is suffering or if they are doing the right thing.”
“I really loved the way Wycliffe has set up their program for teachers,” Katherine commented. “Some other organizations require teachers to take a position in a local school, which essentially means I’d be taking a job and financial resources away from a local teacher. I didn't want to do that. But in Wycliffe, you are fully supported and usually work at an international school teaching missionary kids so it doesn’t take resources from the local community”
“It is incredible to be a part of bringing God's Word to someone who may have never heard it in their language; that truly is the goal,” Katherine concluded.
Making a Difference
Oaxaca Christian School, which serves up to 70 students, is dedicated to providing high-quality educational experiences for both the students and the teachers. They accomplish that with everything from field trips and AP classes to small class sizes and supportive administrators.
Lorri really enjoys the flexibility, freedom and creativity she has in her classroom and lesson planning. “The teaching is really easy here,” she commented. “And it's a gift too. I get to look at the world through different eyes and learn how people think. I get to be a part of kids' lives in a different way than [I am] in the States.”
For example, when Lorri worked in the U.S. her building only housed the students who were in kindergarten through second grade. So when they moved up the grade levels, Lorri wouldn’t see them again. “Here, I can watch those kids from first grade all the way through 12th grade and be a part of their graduation. That’s been fun, watching them change and mature,” Lorri said.
Katherine has appreciated the smaller class sizes. “I can work more intently with the individual child,” she said. “I also know all the parents much better than I ever would know in the public school system. Everyone shows up on parent/teacher night and they are really invested in their children’s education, which is amazing!”
In addition to the school, both Katherine and Lorri are active in the community and local Mexican church, enjoying prayer meetings and get-togethers, helping out translators as they travel to and from the villages, working with the youth group and more.
“I like to tell people that I have a front row seat for Bible translation!” Lorri said.
Making a Change
Making a change like Lorri and Katherine did can be intimidating, but you don’t have to do it alone.
“When I first resigned from my position as a teacher, I was super nervous [about finances],” Katherine admitted. “But literally the day after I did that, my church called me and asked me to fill a secretary position, and I was just blown away. That alone gave me so many opportunities to connect with people at my church that I never would have otherwise and as a result, most of my [financial] support comes from that church! And all because I was given that position randomly.”
“God has just always been extremely faithful,” Katherine said. “He provides for all those things that keep you up at night. He wants us to walk through those challenges. ... There are all little details in life that just show that God truly cares about you as an individual as well as the role he's allowing you to play in his greater work. It's incredible!”
“If you are really feeling God is leading you into this ... then it doesn't hurt to look into it and ask questions,” Katherine smiled. “You never know where you might end up. You might end up in Mexico!”