On a mission: Area couple teaches, coaches missionaries' kids in Philippines

Dan Barr, fourth from the left, coaches his basketball team in Davao City, Philippines, where he and his wife, Brittany, taught missionaries’ kids from 2014 to 2016.

ROCHESTER — Like a lot of teachers, Brittany and Dan Barr say they feel called to serve youth.

But this Indiana couple adds they’re called to teach a unique group of children: missionaries’ kids.

“We want to be that steady part of their lives because everything else in their lives is constantly changing,” Brittany said.

They’ve been doing just that for the past two years in the Philippines and plan to return soon. Through teaching Christianity, science and basketball abroad, the Barrs’ goal is to contribute toward an international ministry by allowing missionaries to devote themselves to their work knowing their children are well cared for.

The Barrs are living in Rochester as they prepare to return to their mission field in Davao City, Philippines. Brittany, 26, is a Caston Jr.-Sr. High School grad while Dan, 29, is from Pierceton.

Dan said they both started looking into getting involved in overseas missions while in college and came across SIL International, originally known as the Summer Institute of Linguistics. He said they were both drawn to the opportunities the organization offered because of the short term lengths, allowing them to “get their feet wet” and see if it was something they wanted to do long term. The Barrs belong to the mission Wycliffe Bible Translators, a sister organization of SIL International.

That led to them joining the faculty at Faith International Academy in Davao City in the fall of 2014, where they remained for the next two years.

Brittany taught the Old Testament and New Testament to high school students. When she became pregnant with their son, Thomas, born in January, she switched to a role as a teacher’s aide for a class of third- and fourth-graders. Dan taught science to high school and middle school students.

Most of the students were enrolled at the school because their parents were working as missionaries, Brittany said.

“That’s our ministry — to be there for the missionaries’ kids,” she continued.

Dan said a majority of their students were Korean and that they also had some from the U.S., New Guinea, Latin American countries, Germany, the United Kingdom and the Philippines.

All of the curriculum was in English, Dan said.

“It’s considered to be the global language of education and business, just to give a common ground for everyone,” Dan said.

Dan also coached middle school boys basketball.

“I enjoyed it a lot,” he said. “It’s different from what we’re used to here. We’re used to boys, as soon as they know what a basketball is, you shove it in their hand.”

That wasn’t the case at Faith International Academy, where he estimated about half his players were picking up a basketball for the first time when he started coaching them.

But their lack of experience had its advantages from a coaching perspective, Dan continued.

“They don’t have all the bad habits you try to coach kids out of all the time,” he said. “...It was good fun. We played more for the learning experience than to win.”

While teaching and coaching was in their native English, the Barrs said they ran into language barriers when off school grounds.

“It can make even things we think are so simple, like going to the bank or the grocery store, just a little more difficult,” Dan said, going on to recall an instance he said took hours for him and Brittany to convey they were looking for a crock-pot.

Dan went on to say he was able to pick up part of the language throughout his time there and hopes to grasp more upon his return.

“I only learned a little bit of it,” he said. “It’s something I’m still working on and looking forward to working on in the future.”

Brittany said although they’d be able to survive in the country only speaking English, they wouldn’t be integrating into the community the way they’d like.

“If you don’t learn the language, you’re not going to build relationships and then you’re going to be an outsider,” she said.

They plan to return to the Philippines for the start of the fall 2017 semester to continue building those relationships and most of all, being there for parents who serve as missionaries.

“Just to be able to be there for them and take one concern away is what we felt led to do so that they can focus on what they’re doing and know that their kids are getting a good education,” Brittany said.

Reach Mitchell Kirk at mitchell.kirk@pharostribune.com or 574-732-5130

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