Mallory Herrmann

A group of 12 Lee’s Summit residents are still glowing after a three-week stay in China this summer. The members of Abundant Life Church participated in a two-week summer camp through the global program Bridging the World, which pairs native English speakers with kids aged 8 to 17 who are eager to improve their English language skills.

Students sing “You Raised Me Up” at the Datong summer camp’s closing ceremonies

Dave Williams, Jennie and Nick Swearngin, Carol and Bob Magan, Zach Baker, Steve Baker, Eric Stucker, Frankye Koontz, Kate MacEwen, Chris George and Michael Hoggard attended this year’s program. The group, along with six other volunteers from different cities, worked with 140 students in Datong, a (comparatively small) city of 3,300,000 in the Shanxi Province, a little over 200 miles west of Beijing.

They formed strong bonds with the students they worked with, staying in the same dorms and following their rigorous schedule: kids are typically in school from 5:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., with a 3-hour break in the middle. They attend school 15 days in a row before having two days off. Their summer vacation is just 20 days – but those enrolled in the camp gave up part of that time to participate in the program. Because there are limited spaces available for acceptance to university programs in China, many students are eager to master English to improve their chances of continuing their education in another country.

The students spent time practicing their English and completing assignments, singing and dancing, and playing games. The camp is an opportunity not just to build confidence in their verbal fluency – the students already have a firm grasp on reading and writing English – but to learn about American culture and share their own traditions with the visiting teachers. Bridging the World strives to encourage a cross-cultural experience. The kids were introduced to baseball, kickball and frisbee, for instance, while the volunteers learned jianzi (sometimes known as Chinese hacky sack), a game played with a weighted shuttlecock.

In addition to the two weeks spent in the camp, the volunteers were able to do some sightseeing, including visits to Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China.

The Abundant Life group plans to return to Datong in the summer of 2019 for an expanded camp with twice as many kids. For more information about the program, visit or contact Dave Williams at