Graduate traveling overseas for student teaching, mission work

PLAINVIEW - It's really the best of both worlds.

Jodi Henderson, a December 2002 graduate of Wayland Baptist University, will spend the next few months in Nairobi, Kenya, to complete her student teaching requirements at Rosslyn Academy. While there, she'll be able to combine her love of teaching with another love: mission work with children.

Henderson said her heart for missions came during a trip in the summer of 2001 to Romania, where she was able to work at orphanages through Buckner Baptist Benevolences. There, she said, she felt God's call.

"God's given me this compassion for orphans that I can't run away from," she explained.

She then had the opportunity to participate in a three-week mission trip in Kenya during the past summer, an experience that seemed to affirm her mission interest. While in Kenya, the group of 13 WBU students visited three orphanages, one of which Jodi plans to volunteer with regularly while in Kenya this spring.

A composite science major at Wayland, Henderson will be teaching sixth-grade science at Rosslyn Academy, an American day school following American curriculum. The school was originally established as a school for children of missionaries, but has now attracted others. The student population is about 70 percent North American and students span 30 different nationalities.

The overseas teaching stint has been a longtime dream of Dr. Jim Todd, chairman of the School of Education at Wayland and his predecessor, who had hoped to expose WBU students to other cultures while completing the student teaching requirements. To his knowledge, this partnership is a first.

"I think before it probably just never fell together," Todd said. "One part is having the right location, and this is a result of the work of Dr. (Vaughn) Ross (WBU science professor) and what we've been doing in Kenya, so it's a logical extension. We're also looking to build a partnership with Belize and the mission school there."

Todd called Henderson "a pioneer, a door-opener" and said, "it takes a special student to be able to do this." He predicts great benefits for Henderson as well as other students still at Wayland.

"She's going to be able to see the interaction of culture and the impact of the various socioeconomic levels in a third-world country. She'll also be doing a multicultural study, looking at the public schools in Kenya and comparing them to a private school," he said. "When she gets back in April, she'll do a seminar for our students on education in third-world countries."

Henderson's own plan was to gain emergency certification and begin teaching. She had explored teaching in the Dominican Republic, but the opportunity to visit Kenya opened other doors. Ross, professor of biological sciences and a former missionary to the African nation, urged Henderson to check into returning to Kenya to teach at Rosslyn. Things just fell into place from there.

"Through all of it, I've seen God's hand and God's leading or I wouldn't have continued," she said. "I've gone through the really excited phase and the really scared phase. The comfort level and friends here are unbelievable, but God has really provided and has worked out the details so that eased my fears."

Henderson left for Kenya on Jan. 9 and will return April 19. She is hoping the double-edged experience - interweaving her teaching skills with missions work - will help her discern God's will for her future.

The daughter of Butch and Karen Henderson of Lubbock, Jodi said her parents had mixed reactions to her being so far from home for four months.

"My mom would rather me not leave, but my dad says he couldn't be more proud that he raised someone who will follow God anywhere," she said.