Brad Baurain, Briercrest College and Seminary’s newly hired TESOL professor, planned on spending his whole life in Vietnam teaching English.
“You know what they say,” he remarked. “If you want to make God laugh – show Him your plans.”
Although the path leading Baurain and his family to Briercrest was a bit of a surprise, it’s brought some aspects of his life full circle. One of those things is his relationship with David Catterick, Briercrest’s assistant professor of applied linguistics, TESOL.
Over 20 years ago, when Baurain graduated from Wheaton College, he went to China to teach English. Catterick was his assigned roommate.
“This wasn’t planned – at least not by us,” Baurain said. “When we got to Beijing they said, ‘Oh, you’re going to share an apartment with a British guy.’ And they told David, ‘Hey, you’re going to share an apartment with this American.’”
After working together in China for two years, the two men didn’t see each other until Baurain interviewed at Briercrest for the TESOL position this year.
“So many years have passed,” Baurain said. “We’ve gotten married, we’ve had kids, we’ve taught in various countries and various programs. I don’t know what kind of story God is writing, but it’s definitely a cool part of it that after all these years David and I get to work side by side again.”
Catterick is also excited about the renewed partnership.
“I say that if you’re talking about the top 20 to 25 Christian people in TESOL in North America, Brad would be one of them,” Catterick asserted. “And for someone of that calibre to come here, it’s a God thing.”
Baurain has amassed a lot of experience in the last 20 years.
After his two years in China, he returned to the U.S. to work toward a master’s degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago. When he completed his degree, one of his old China teammates convinced him to teach in Vietnam.
“He said, ‘Why don’t you think about coming to a whole different country? It’s a place where you can pioneer,’” Baurain said recalling the conversation. “I wanted to be on the ground floor of something. So I prayed about it and in 1997 I went back to Asia – this time to Southeast Asia – Vietnam – and this time I was sure it was going to be for good.”
Over the next nine years, Baurain taught in Vietnam. In 2000 he took a year’s furlough to the U.S. in order to get married to an American woman he had met who was teaching English in northeast China – 2,500 miles from Vietnam.
“So (the relationship) went slowly . . . from acquaintance to friendship to magic – whatever you want to call it,” he said with a laugh. “I recruited her for Vietnam then.”
During his years in Vietnam Baurain became more involved in teacher training and development.
“I really found a great deal of spiritual and professional satisfaction and fulfillment in training others to do the work of being a Christian English teacher,” he said.
Baurain began to feel a calling to focus more on teacher training. He knew the next step was to get a PhD.
“I did not want to do that,” he exclaimed. “When I was a master’s student, I saw all kinds of miserable PhD. students. So God kind of worked on me a couple of years to persuade me that was what He really wanted and it was really Him saying that – not just other people or voices.”
The young family took a step of faith and returned to the U.S. where Baurain began applying to graduate schools. They ended up at the University of Nebraska.
“It’s been a good place for our family,” Baurain said “It’s been a good program for me. We knew that in about five years or so – however long it took me to finish – that we would be coming to another transition point.”
This time Baurain, his wife and four children tried to keep all of their options open.
“Going back to Vietnam, going back to Asia, doing teacher’s education work in the U.S. or overseas – I wanted to be totally open to anything,” he said.
Baurain was excited to find the posting for the Briercrest TESOL position. After the application and interview process, he was offered the job.
“If I’m not going to be (overseas) myself, then doing the work of teacher training and development and multiplying my efforts is what we wanted to do. It was a dream job,” he said.
Besides experience in teaching English as a foreign language, Catterick says Baurain’s additional areas of expertise will broaden the scope of Briercrest’s TESOL program.
“He comes with a huge amount of strengths,” he said. “He goes into literacy. He understands the K-12 system. He’s taught for master’s degrees in education. There are all sorts of things we can become involved in now that we have two people. The benefit to the college is far beyond someone just coming in teaching classes.”
The breadth of Briercrest’s TESOL program excites the new professor.
“It focuses on adult ESL (English as a Second Language) all the way from (Asia) to immigrants in Saskatchewan,” Baurain said. “Saskatchewan is booming with immigrants in ESL right now. ESL is such a strategic place to be and Briercrest has this program that’s right in the middle of the action. That’s where I want to be – the middle of the action.”