As an unsaved teen, Patricia Duarte resented missions and the way her missionary parents suffered for them in Uruguay. Following her salvation at 16, her worldview began to change. Her new plans led her to BJU. Now after four years of college, Duarte reflects on how God’s plans became her own.
As a new believer looking into potential schools, Duarte wanted a Christian university with the opportunity of discipleship, a community to grow in maturity, and a strong modern languages department. BJU had it all.
During a College Up Close visit, Duarte met with both Mark Vowels—chairman of the division of ministries and program director for cross cultural discipleship—and Dr. Brenda Schoolfield—chair of the division of history, government and social science. When Duarte mentioned her plans—becoming a translator and interpreter for the United Nations—Vowels hinted that cross-cultural service wouldn’t be the right fit. Vowels explained the program “is designed for people who are decidedly pointed towards being a career missionary or a cross cultural missionary.” So, in August 2016, Duarte started college as an International Studies major, “excited to see my plans were working out,” she said.
But God’s plans were different. “Through the work of the Spirit and the influence of chapel messages, friends and faculty, God got ahold of my heart,” said Duarte. She decided to surrender her life to serve the Lord however He wanted—“even full-time missions.” In the spring of 2017 Duarte changed her major to Cross-Cultural Service. After the change she “would’ve never imagined the incredible things God was going to allow me to experience the next three and a half years in college.”
Preparing for the Road
When she first joined the program, Duarte thought she knew everything about cross-cultural living. After all, she was a missionary kid. She shared her generation’s belief that missions should just be done, not studied. “I learned early on that I knew nothing,” she said.
Her classes helped her understand that, as with any career, missions requires training. She learned to value ministry preparation and to reevaluate her methodology of missions. “Missions truly is the expansion of God’s glory and my role is a simple vessel that has the privilege of being used by God to expand His glory,” said Duarte.
Duarte said courses in her major prepared her to be “a good observer, a humble learner, and a biblical critical thinker.” The class Cross-Cultural Discipleship, led by Vowels, taught her how to understand a culture in order to disciple its people effectively. She appreciates the class’s emphasis on “depending on God, the truth of the Gospel, the Holy Spirit, the Bible and prayer when analyzing a culture that has practices that seem ‘strange’ to me.” The course on Acts, which dives into the history of missions, was another favorite of Duarte’s.
She also grew in her passion for linguistics by pursuing a French minor. Classes with Dr. Chris Martin, Dr. Jeremy Patterson and Rob Loach “have been very challenging, but I’m so grateful for how much I’ve grown in the knowledge and application of languages for missions.”
Throughout her years at BJU, Duarte has focused on serving others and has done so through different leadership positions. Vowels said “Patricia has, since I’ve known her, been very eager in her outreach. She’s always looking for opportunities to share the Gospel, and she’s been involved in a number of different outreach activities.”
For three semesters Duarte was part of the Missions Advance council, organizing events to mobilize students in missions. While working with MA she “learned so much about the needs in different parts of the world, and how God is using different people with unique interests and skills to make disciples of the nations.”
Her position as a freshman floor leader helped her develop her discipleship skills. “I learned how to love those who are hard to love, and the eternal value of sacrificing time, sleep, resources and energy for people,” she said. Discipleship is a crucial tool in missions, particularly for new believers in hostile environments.
Duarte also grew in her appreciation for other cultures as an International Student Orientation leader. Throughout the orientation week she helped international freshmen adjust to BJU and continued her work even after orientation.
As a Center for Global Opportunities employee, she continued to help students connect. “I loved seeing them grow spiritually, socially and academically,” she said. What Duarte most enjoyed about her interaction with international students was being challenged by them and learning from their cultures. “It is absolutely vital that as a cross-cultural worker I don’t fall into judging people according to what I think is ‘normal,’ but rather, I should prayerfully analyze everything under the lens of Scripture,” she explained.
Teaching All Nations
During the 2017 Global Opportunities Week—after learning about the need for missions in North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia—the Lord placed a burden in Duarte’s heart. In 2018 she joined the BJU summer missions team ministering in the Middle East and was amazed by the culture and the advance of the Gospel in the places they visited. “I remember talking to one of my teammates on the last night of the trip, and telling her that I had a feeling that this wasn’t going to be my last time in the Middle East, that I had to come back!” said Duarte.
The following summer for her program-required cross-cultural internship, Duarte returned to the country she fell in love with. “I interned for about eight weeks in a beautiful, vibrant yet easy-going 3,000-year-old city that was the capital of three major empires throughout history,” said Duarte. Through those weeks she took language, history and culture lessons, discipled children, encouraged believers and helped at a local church.
“My favorite part of living in this old city was hanging out with my Muslim friends and sipping endless cups of tea while we talked about our beliefs for hours and hours.” In addition, she felt “challenged (by) the believers there, and the hardships they have to overcome for their faith in Jesus.”
The internship solidified the calling she already felt. “I believe God has given me a love for linguistics and foreign languages education for a reason, and I would like to use that as a way of ministering in the 10/40 Window,” she said.
Duarte looks forward to completing a graduate degree in Communication Studies at BJU, which she hopes will give her the skills and credentials to teach university-level Spanish, French or English in unreached countries.
Younger Duarte didn’t understand why her missionary parents served “a God who lets His servants suffer.” But she found her college-self surrendering to serve Him. “I am so thankful for God’s (patient but constant) pursuit of us,” she said. She invites others to follow missionary William Carey’s example: “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.”