assistant professor of Spanish, 2001-present
By Rachel Lapp
During SST in Nicaragua, Dean Rhodes was Latinized
and he started on a faith journey combinings a passion for the Spanish
language and people with service and teaching.
Rhodes first experienced the hospitality, graciousness, relaxed
way of looking at life of Latin people when in Nicaragua in
1968 with faculty leader H. Clair 33 and Florence Badertscher
Amstutz 35. He found returning to campus more difficult than
he anticipated, so when a fellow SSTer told Rhodes about the devastation
in Peru as the result of an earthquake 70,000 people had
been killed he took the opportunity.
While he enjoyed his Goshen experience, it was a good time to take
a break; Rhodes was apprehensive about his future as a social work
major. Those were good years because of the professors
like Mary Oyer, Atlee Beechy, Frank Bishop, he said. And
I found it stimulating to be around people who had other backgrounds,
other experiences. I never duplicated that at the universities I
In Peru, Rhodes reconnected with the service mindset of SST.
There was so much need there that it was easy to feel useful
there, he said. It was later that I also discovered
that you dont always have to do anything; sharing,
smiling and entering into the lives of others even if you
dont make their lives better is important.
Rhodes wanted to return to Goshen after voluntary service, but finances
landed him at the University of Iowa where he majored in Spanish
education and history, before teaching several years at Iowa Mennonite
Then Rhodes had another opportunity to return to Latin America,
this time to Peru, with Wycliff Translators and Mennonite Central
Committee. He worked in bilingual education and community development
and served as a liaison to the Peruvian government roles
that often meant building bridges inside and outside the country.
It was a mixture of grassroots and government. I would work
with barefoot teachers in the Amazon; I canoed to a lot of villages,
said Rhodes. Then I had to scramble to find a tie to entertain
Wycliffs goal was Bible translation, yet literacy and community
development were also deep concerns. We worked holistically
encompassing spiritual, economic and social development
in preparing people for the onslaught of civilization. To preserve
indigenous environments, we had to find ways to bridge the tension
of the 20th century and tribal life in the face of oil and mining
causes and the Trans-Amazon highway.
Rhodes said his SST and MCC experiences were life-changing because
his faith was united with service in positive ways and
his eyes were opened to racial and ethnic disparities
that exist in every country.
Rhodes returned to the United States in June of 1980, teaching at
IMS and farming on the side while his family including three
sons grew. He also completed a masters degree in Spanish
at Coe College (Cedar Rapids, Iowa).
I enjoyed my colleagues at IMS very much, and the energy and
spontaneity of high school students, Rhodes explained. Starting
in 1993, I planned itineraries and led student groups to different
countries Peru, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico,
Spain and Honduras. We did things tour groups could never do, like
making rafts from balsa trees and floating down the river in Perus
Amazon, or trekking in the Andes or camping on the beach in Venezuela.
The joy of seeing these Midwestern kids discovering and learning
overseas was tremendous.
He patterned the experiences, though shorter, after SST. Service
was a part of those high school trips whether students would
clean, sing a capella on street corners or give a puppet show to
Rhodes positive experiences at GC and his appreciation of
its international connections brought him back as an instructor.
As a language teacher, he finds ways to get to know students at
many different levels.
While we are doing reflexive verb studies, we might ask questions,
like What time do you get up? or How many brothers
and sisters do you have? questions other professors
wouldnt have opportunity to ask, Rhodes said. I
see so much value here and mentoring that takes place. You can deal
with so many of the real issues, issues that matter,
like peace and justice, womens issues and considerations of
race. To prepare for life, there is much more than academic preparation.
Because Rhodes feels that his Spanish teaching came about through
faith, he said, It is only natural to share it in the classroom.
Faith is not something you exhibit in some contexts and not in others.
I hope my students sense that in my respect for them and my interest
in never diminishing their personhood. I hope that is reflected
in my whole being.