Using STEM to Reach the World

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September 13, 2022 by

After His resurrection, Jesus told His disciples that they would be “witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8b ESV). We know where Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria are, but what constitutes “the end of the earth”?  I think that Jesus at least in some part had the country of Kosovo in mind in this statement, and, amazingly, my team got to play a small part in watching that prophecy be fulfilled by serving as STEM teachers at a school in this distant country. 

Our Arrival 

When our team of four, Dr. Steve Gollmer, senior professor of physics at Cedarville; Brenneman, a microbiology major at Cedarville; Tyler, a physics major at Cedarville; and I, Ethan, also a physics major at Cedarville, first got to Kosovo, we, along with another team from the International Center for Creativity (ICC) in Columbus, Ohio, were picked up by three teachers from the school. These teachers are versatile leaders in the school who are ready to fill any role, whether it be teaching, administrating, developing students, or even picking up people from the airport.  They were the ones who first showed us how to serve as Christians at a school in a country that needs the Good News of Jesus Christ but isn’t open to outright evangelism.  This mission is how God led the principal of the school, Nadine Hennesey, to found the school, and she now has brought many others into partnership with her. 

As we drove from the airport in the capital, Prishtina, to Mitrovica where the school is located, we were able to see how the history of the country has affected the nation, even in small, everyday aspects. Although there are tensions between the people groups of Kosovo, it is important to remember the biblical truth that God has created every person in His image regardless of their nationality, and that all people groups need to know the love of Christ. Another great opportunity for ministry. 

That evening we were able to see the city and get to the place where our team was staying. Mitrovica is a smaller city with excellent food (especially the coffee!), friendly people, and a gentle river that splits the city into two parts, one part more Serbian and the other more Albanian.  Being able to interact with different cultures, hangout with friends, and ultimately take in the new environment made for a really great adventure. After touring downtown and getting dinner, we went to our apartment and slept soundly. 

Helping At School 

The next morning our team woke up and made the 15-minute walk to school. It was very pleasant weather in the mornings before it got hotter during the day. Thankfully, the school is all in English, besides Albanian grammar classes, so there was no need of a translator for us. 

At the school, we were met with a flurry of activity: Our team was teaching astronomy to the 10th-12th grades, 9th grade algebra, 9th grade science, English afterschool tutoring, and even a few German classes (Jawohl!). On top of that, we were helping with an inter-high school STEAM fair supported by the American embassy in Kosovo. For two weeks, we had our hands full. 

In astronomy, Dr. Gollmer taught a two-hour session about stars, planets, constellations, and other interesting topics. Very few teachers can keep a group of students engaged in learning about astronomy for two hours straight, but Dr. Gollmer did a great job of maintaining students’ interest in the subject and weaving in some spiritual connections. The biggest opportunity we had for the Gospel in this class was a talk about the difference between astronomy and astrology. God opened the door for multiple chances to talk about my faith when students asked me whether I thought that stars affect our lives or not. What an easy transition to explain how I believe that God works in our lives!  We all had many opportunities like this. 

In 9th grade math and science, Brenneman, Tyler, and I all had opportunities to teach about the science and math that not so long ago we had been taught ourselves. Not only was it a great experience for us, but I think that the students enjoyed learning from college-aged students about topics that we love studying. We also learned that teaching is taxing. We certainly grew in appreciation for our own teachers at Cedarville! 

The STEAM fair was THE big event. Students from various high schools in Kosovo had been preparing all school year to participate in a two-day contest to test their skills in science, technology, engineering, artistic presentation, and mathematics. Each team was given a prompt in which they were tasked to identify the problem, make observations in the city regarding that problem, develop a solution, and present that solution to a panel of judges. The teams were divided into groups of three, and we enjoyed watching how the students thought through the problems and presented their solutions. The judges were (you guessed it) our team along with others who are in STEAM fields including the ICC team. The STEAM fair took two days, and after the second day, all the participants went to a local restaurant where they announced first-, second-, and third-place winners of the fair.  It was a great time and a special opportunity to encourage students in STEAM in a country that currently does not have a strong emphasis on STEAM.  If you get the chance, take the opportunities God gives you to invest in people younger than you; it’s absolutely worth it. 

Other Blessings 

I’m writing this section partly to round off our story, but also to encourage others who are thinking about missions and teaching in foreign countries. 

In addition to being able to teach the students and get to know them, we also got to know the other teachers. About half the teachers are Christians from outside of Kosovo, and the other half are native. One ministry that I didn’t initially realize we would have was our relationship with the other teachers. It makes sense though: Christian teachers need encouragement, and those who aren’t Christians need the Gospel. In our special role, we were able to befriend the teachers and get to know how they see things. The people of a country are really what make or break any country, and, honestly, the people I met in Kosovo were some of the greatest people I have had the chance to meet. I really enjoyed getting to know the people. 

So, why should you pray for or even go to Kosovo? Kosovo is predominantly Muslim, although most people have secularized in line with Western European culture. Regardless of how Western or Muslim they are, the problem is the same. Most of these people have never heard the good news that Jesus Christ came to earth to die for our sins, be buried, and be raised as Scripture says, giving us hope of eternal life. Yes, the food was good, the people were friendly, and the country exotic, but the real need is for a Savior. Please pray for Kosovo and consider going “to the end of the earth.”

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