Three LBC | Capital Intercultural Studies majors—Amanda Cahusac (’22), Karissa Fox (’21) and Chantal Peterson (’21)—are spending their summer interning with Envision Atlanta in Clarkston, Georgia. As students with a specialization in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), the trio is focused on teaching English to refugees as they share God’s love. Get a glimpse of this amazing experience below.
LBC | CAPITAL: Please tell us about the journey that led you to Envision Atlanta this summer?
AMANDA: Back in the summer of 2018, I had just graduated high school and was desiring to get some direction about where God was leading me, so I went on a short-term trip to Clarkston, Georgia. Through this trip, I was connected with Envision Atlanta and learned about what God is doing in helping us with the commission of reaching the nations by bringing them here (to the U.S.). Since that week, I had always thought of coming back to Clarkston and being a part of the body here who are living beside and loving on this community in Christ’s name. As I was ending my junior year at LBC, I knew that an internship was needed for my degree. I couldn’t help but think of Clarkston and joining the team at Envision Atlanta.
KARISSA: When I was first looking into potential areas to do an internship, I was unfamiliar with Envision Atlanta. My original intent was to travel abroad, but because of COVID and other extenuating circumstances, I was searching for something within the United States. In a conversation with Amanda, she mentioned that she was doing her internship with Envision Atlanta this summer. After doing some research on the organization and Clarkston, I decided to apply as well. A few weeks later, I heard that I was accepted and started to get excited about spending part of my summer with Envision Atlanta.
CHANTAL: The capstone, or practicum, of my major is to travel to a non-English-speaking country for a minimum of five weeks to teach English to speakers of other languages. COVID travel regulations and closed borders swiftly closed my efforts toward such ends. I heard of a ministry called Envision working with refugees in Clarkston, just outside of Atlanta. Due to the diverse cultures and languages, teaching English to the refugees in Clarkston qualified for my practicum. I am thankful for the opportunity to complete my practicum under these circumstances and to learn from and live among refugees in the meantime.
LBC: What have been your experiences and lifelong memories so far?
AMANDA: The most memorable experience since being here would have to be getting to know my students. Hearing their stories of heartache and trauma has been a heavy weight but has also been a great blessing to just be with them and grieve with them. One of my students is from Pakistan, and she is a believer in Jesus. She is studying to be a U.S. citizen, and I was going through this question: “What does freedom of religion mean?” After explaining more that she can follow any religion and change religions (in America), she began to tell me about what it is like to be a Christian in Pakistan. She told me stories about how hard it is to be a Christian there and how there is bombing and death to those who follow Christ. She reminded me of the freedom in Christ we have, but she also was instrumental as the Holy Spirit is bringing me to a place of humility, as I have not experience all the suffering as my student has to follow Christ. What a beautiful blessing to learn to endure suffering as my sister in Christ did.
KARISSA: Clarkston is an area unique from any other place that I have ever traveled to. Apartment complexes are scattered across the town filled with refugees from all around the world. Upon stepping into someone’s home, you are immediately greeted with tapestry, smells and the voices of precious people from lands far away. Little by little, you are offered a glimpse into their precious lives that have been filled with intense pain and heartache that many people can only imagine. One aspect of my time in Clarkston that will always remain with me are the vast opportunities and need for people to know about Jesus. I believe God is doing an incredible work by bringing people from across the world into our neighborhoods. It has been so exciting to see the variety of cultures represented in one place, and I believe that it is a glimpse of what Heaven will be like someday.
CHANTAL: Hands down, the most memorable experience of being in Clarkston is stepping into the apartments of the refugees. As soon as you step into their homes, you are no longer in America. From the rugs to the curtains, from the music to the smell of food wafting from the kitchen, from their traditional dress they don to gathering around a rug on the living room floor for naan bread, you are in whichever distinct culture to which your host belongs. You are no longer in America.
LBC: How have you found you can share God’s love through language and building relationships?
AMANDA: I have found that sharing God’s love must be through building relationships. Language can be a way to share of the truths of who God is and should be shared. But when you are placed in a situation where there is not a clear way to communicate, you find that your actions and how you care for others speaks so loudly to the character of our God. Here in Clarkston, I am so blessed to have five women who are my students for the summer—most of whom are at a beginner level in English. This makes it difficult have the words that they can understand. I have come to realize that it is the Holy Spirit who is speaking through me and in the way I love these woman as they study and make mistakes. I get to be the one who loves on them through all this and shows them that they are seen and have value.
KARISSA: One crucial need for the refugees of Clarkston is friendship. Through teaching English in their homes, we have had the opportunity to build relationships with people and give them something that they need to thrive in the United States—the ability to communicate. It has been so much more than teaching English though. We have been given the opportunity to be invited into their homes and get a glimpse of their lives—both before moving to the United States and currently.
CHANTAL: For the refugees here in Clarkston, learning English is their foot through the door into American culture. Without it, they are disconnected and uninformed. With it, they can form friendships outside their own language, become citizens, get jobs and communicate with the America outside their apartment walls. There are 18,000 refugees in the 1.4 square miles of Clarkston. They come from about 60 countries and represent about 180 people groups. For this reason, Clarkston is considered the most diverse square mile in America, and the felt need among the refugees who have lost so much is friendship. Thus, I believe the most important foundation to teaching English to refugees here is to befriend them and build relationships with them. Through us caring for them enough to teach them the language that will help them succeed and connect in the U.S., the refugees eagerly welcome us into their homes. I look forward to what conversations God will open up this summer as I continue to grow relationships with my students and as my students prayerfully grow more curious and learn enough English to ask questions!
LBC: How has LBC | Capital’s Intercultural Studies program prepared you for this summer internship?
AMANDA: During my studies at LBC, I have learned so much about loving on different kinds of people through the Intercultural Studies program and my other classes. My time at LBC has allowed me to experience what it means to invest in people by being involved in Student Missions Fellowship and other groups. It has also provided opportunities to make lifelong friends who have become my community to lean on, share burdens with, and grown in understanding and dependence on God. Through finding this community, it has shown me that we are not meant to do life alone, so as soon as I got to Clarkston and met the team, I was thanking the Lord for bringing people around me to encourage, challenge and grow with me.
KARISSA: The Intercultural Studies program at LBC has prepared me in various ways for my time with Envision Atlanta this summer. One key aspect has been the idea that other people’s way of doing life is not wrong—just different. There have been many times that I have reminded myself of that phrase since arriving in a very diverse area. I have also gained valuable skills for teaching English through LBC. Through my courses, I have begun to gain confidence in my ability to teach, and it has been a critical aspect of my interactions with the refugees of Clarkston.
CHANTAL: The ICS program at LBC has stirred classroom discussion, awakened my curiosity, and humbled me to listen better and ask better questions. I believe learning how to listen better and ask better questions has prepared me for my practicum here in Clarkston, because regardless of the country of origin, everyone wants a listening ear.