Educator wants students to learn Spanish with a mission

Deborah Balyeat, assistant professor of Spanish at Dallas Baptist University and former missionary to Argentina, signs copies of her new book, “Spanish with a Mission: For Ministry, Witnessing and Mission Trips.”

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DALLAS—Deborah Balyeat does not want English-speaking students to learn Spanish just for the sake of mastering a second language. She wants Christians to learn Spanish with a mission in mind.

spanish balyeat425Deborah Balyeat explains how her new book can help equip people for witnessing and missions.That desire prompted Balyeat, assistant professor of Spanish at Dallas Baptist University and former missionary to Argentina, to write an interactive textbook, Spanish with a Mission: For Ministry, Witnessing and Mission Trips.

“I always want to teach Spanish in a way that is integrated with my faith. There are plenty of Spanish texts available, but there was no book I found that had equipping people for witnessing and missions as its ultimate goal,” she said.

Specifically, she wanted a text to enable English-speaking Christians to become conversant in Spanish in preparation for mission trips. She realized that meant providing an emphasis on church-related and biblical vocabulary.

As she taught mission groups at her own church, Shiloh Terrace Baptist in Dallas, and students at DBU, she discovered an even broader application.

book balyeat300“There are Christians who want to learn Spanish to reach out to Hispanics in their own communities,” she said.

So, Balyeat developed an interactive learning guide designed to enable English-speaking Christians to minister to Spanish-speakers in a variety of contexts. The workbook presents more than 1,000 vocabulary words, including terms and phrases used in medical clinics, construction projects, agriculture and children’s missions.

“If we’d had this kind of resource available, I would have put it in the hands of every mission group preparing to go to the Rio Grande,” said Elmin Howell, who directed the River Ministry of the Baptist General Convention of Texas nearly three decades.

Balyeat wanted to create a text for an English-speaking American Christian audience, providing both language instruction and an introduction to Spanish-speaking culture. She drew on her own experience growing up biculturally.

“My mother was Nicaraguan, and my father was Texan. So, I had the best of both worlds,” she said, recalling how she grew up dividing time between Nicaragua and the Dallas area.

Her parents sent her to the United States to finish high school when the Nicaraguan revolution began in the late 1970s.

Later, she attended DBU, where she met her future husband, David. They later served nine years as Baptist missionaries to Argentina. He now is an associate pastor at Shiloh Terrace and president of No Mas Violencia, a nonprofit peacemaking ministry.

In Argentina, she coordinated language and cultural learning for newly arrived missionaries. As a teacher at DBU and missions equipper at Shiloh Terrace, she recognized the need for a simple-to-use resource to give mission teams a linguistic and cultural foundation for effective ministry among Spanish-speaking people.

She developed Spanish with a Mission so individuals or groups could use it equally well. Groups can complete the course in about three months if they hold two-hour classes once a week, and she makes a teachers’ guide available at no cost to facilitators.

Individuals who work through the 10 lessons on their own can benefit from online audio on Balyeat’s website, The website also includes recordings of Spanish praise and worship songs, as well as Bible stories for children and devotionals for adults Balyeat’s students at DBU helped her prepare for missions use.

Above all, Balyeat hopes the book teaches students how to share their own Christian testimonies in Spanish and present the gospel simply.

“Deborah Balyeat turns conversational Spanish into transformational Spanish as she teaches beginners how to communicate the love of Christ,” Craig Christina, senior pastor at Shiloh Terrace, wrote in a blurb included in the book.

Editor’s Note: After the article originally was posted, the fourth paragraph from the end was edited to clarify the time required for a class to complete the study of the curriculum.

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