The following story was provided by the Covenant Village of Northbrook.
From churchyards in Northbrook, to schoolyards in Taiwan, residents of the retirement community travel the globe to share their time and talents. For residents such as Bob Poor, 79, whose volunteer missions take him across the ocean to Taipei, Taiwan, travel can be expensive. Fortunately, a program at his retirement community makes his yearly mission trip possible.
“Our goal is to ease the financial responsibility so residents can continue their philanthropic activities after they retire,” said Neil Warnygora, Covenant Village of Northbrook executive director. “Many folks who live here have a lifelong passion to serve. With the Covenant Passport program, we can waive a residents’ monthly service fee while they volunteer off campus for a non-profit organization. They can use the money saved for whatever they need, whether it be travel expenses or room and board.”
Poor says the Covenant Passport program made it financially possible for him to travel to Taiwan, where he taught at an English Camp at Kung Ho Church, an Evangelical Covenant Church with about 1,000 members.
“People are so anxious for their children to learn English,” Poor said. “Parents took their children on a 45-minute scooter ride just so they could attend the session.”
The English Camp offered two weeklong sessions for children between the ages of 5 and 12. Approximately 70 to 90 students were divided among four groups. Students attended four one-hour classes per day.
Poor says he and his fellow volunteers follow a slightly modified version of a curriculum they developed in 2011. Rather than use rote memorization techniques, they use creative, age-appropriate tools to teach the children English.
Students attend hands-on classes that focus on food, science, drama and music. In food, for example, the children would create some classic American dishes, such as pizza, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and s’mores. They learn American songs to help fine-tune their pronunciation and they conduct science experiments to enhance their vocabulary while learning something new. Students even perform Biblical dramas, such as crossing the Red Sea, Jonah and the whale or the traditional Christmas nativity.
Poor is one of nine volunteers on a team organized by the Covenant World Mission program. Seven have educational backgrounds, including Poor, who retired from a 30-year career in education. This was Poor’s second trip to Taiwan and each year he says he returns home having learned more than he taught — especially about relationships.
“My relationship with the children and adults is the most exciting thing,” he said. “The children are so open and willing to share with you. And the adults are so willing to accept you into their lives and share what’s important to them. Relationships are very important to them.”
Taiwan is a Buddhist country and Poor says there is generally not a bias toward Christians. In fact, the Taiwanese welcome people from the Evangelical Covenant Church.
“They are very open to Christians coming and teaching them about Christianity as well as secular subjects,” he said.
Poor’s full head of white hair and bushy arms make him a favorite among the Taiwanese children. His age, 79, makes him a favorite among the adults.
“As the Taiwanese become older they sort of give up on living,” he explains. “The church in Taipei is anxious to use a person my age as a model of someone who is still working, involved and wanting to do something for someone else."
In addition to teaching students, Poor socialized with church families and staff, participated in church services and enjoyed native Taiwanese meals. He spent three days sightseeing with his fellow volunteers. And to the delight of his Taiwanese friends, he even learned some Mandarin.
Poor said he appreciates the opportunities afforded him through the Covenant Passport program and the Evangelical Covenant Church.
“Throughout my whole life the church has supported me, made me who I am," he said. "Now I’m at a point in my life where I want to give back to others what was so freely given to me.”
Covenant Village of Northbrook is a nationally accredited not-for-profit continuing care retirement community. Covenant Retirement Communities Inc. is a ministry of the Evangelical Covenant Church. It serves more than 5,000 residents at 15 retirement communities nationwide.
The Covenant Passport program is administered by the office of the president of Covenant Retirement Communities.
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