The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Community

May 10, 2013

Mission to Thailand

ANDERSON, Ind. — Most people reach retirement and then plan to take it easy. Maybe even move to a warmer climate with visions of relaxing in the sun.

Kathy Poffenbarger, however, is planning the adventure of a lifetime — one that will take her from her culture and work her harder than ever before. Expecting 10- to 12-hour days in Thailand (a country she hasn’t even visited), she will be volunteering her time and energy as she teaches English as a new language and provides speech/language therapy services to missionaries and their children.

“It’s exciting and frightening at the same time,” said Poffenbarger, who was a special education teacher and speech/language pathologist in the Anderson school system for over 30 years. “I don’t have a missionary background so this is all new to me. I’m going to have to grow into it, but I feel like it’s what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Shortly before she retired, she spent a summer studying in France after her son had an enjoyable experience in the country. By being immersed in the culture and enrolling in French language school, she expected to quickly pick up the foreign tongue – as her son had done. Unfortunately, the ability did not come to her with a similar ease.

“I often went to the Basilica St. Martin to regain my composure between classes,” she recalled. “It was stressful to live in another culture. I fully thought immersion would work but I kept hearing one long word.”

While standing in the Abbey Saint-Remi Reims, she saw a natural spotlight on the ground in front of her and remembered a sermon about how followers were only given enough light for their next step. On her last visit there, she felt called to study English as a new language. This was a “back door” way to work with people of other cultures.

Back home, Poffenbarger enrolled in Anderson University and completed the necessary programs in 2010. This enabled her to work with migrant children at Elwood Community Schools for a year and a half.

“I followed my little bit of light and earned the certificate and then wondered what I would do with it,” she said. “I started looking for jobs in other countries but it is hard for older people to move in and work. I contacted a missionary organization and found that I can work under their umbrella because it would not be considered taking a job from a local.”

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