Story Magazine - Spring/Summer, 2012

Speaking the language: M.Div. student offers Spanish class to community

by Susan Gangsei, Correspondent

What makes you feel welcome when you come to church? Is it the greeting at the door? Is it the passing of the peace? Is it the benediction, reminding you that the Lord goes with you?

"As the church lives out its commitment to preach the good news of Jesus Christ globally, we as the community of saints need to welcome and worship with people in a way they understand and feel comfortable. Worshiping with people in their native language is a big part of including everyone who comes to the Lord's house," Melissa Melnick says.

Melnick lives out this understanding in her ministry as a bilingual Master of Divinity student. During the spring semester, she taught Spanish to Luther Seminary students--and anyone else interested--so they could worship and minister in Latino communities. After a high level of interest, she's considering offering the class again.

M.Div. senior Cindy Wunder took the class for a simple reason. "Latino people are my neighbors," she says. "Why wouldn't I learn Spanish?"

Melnick designed her class to be useful to those serving in Latino church communities. She taught basic Spanish so ministers could create a comfortable environment for Spanishspeaking people. Melnick also taught relevant vocabulary for worship and conversations about spiritual life.

In many ways, Melnick is the ideal person to teach this class. She has 20 years of experience teaching Spanish, has studied linguistics and teaching methodology and, most importantly, is committed to spreading God's word globally.

"After ordination it is likely that I will be out where there are Latino people," she says.

Melnick taught the class all in Spanish. She connected multiple learning styles, engaging the senses with visual tools, YouTube videos, dancing and singing. The class was taught over the noon hour and students brought their lunches. There were no homework assignments or tests. Students learned Spanish--and they also had fun.

Wunder sums it up nicely: "The class was awesome," she says.