July 13, 2016 Edition

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Holbrook returns from
mission trip in Italy

Katalina Holbrook stands in front of Rome's famous Trevi Fountain, which recently went through an intense restoration.

Aubree Hughart
Staff Writer

Katalina Holbrook, a 2015 graduate of Walnut Ridge High School and a rising sophomore English major at Arkansas State University, recently returned from a six-week adventure in Vicenza, Italy, where she partnered with a local church to do mission work in the area.

Holbrook teamed up with a Dallas-based organization, Let's Start Talking. She made the journey with her friend and sorority sister, Elizabeth Johnson.

During their time in Vicenza, the girls taught English through the Bible by using workbooks modified to help understand the English language and spark meaningful conversation.

"The work we did was simple and complex at the same time, if that makes sense," Holbrook said. "We went to teach English, but in a way that I never even considered."

The team had multiple lessons from the books of Luke, John, Acts and other parts of the New Testament. Once the students learned grammar from the workbooks, Holbrook and Johnson were instructed to ask them deeper questions about their walk with Christ and were encouraged to share parts of their own personal testimony.

Holbrook had 11 students in her class, and worked with them Tuesday through Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

"After having my first lesson, I was completely blown away," she said. "I got to see all of my students' faces light up when they read the stories from Luke. Some asked me questions about God's love for us, and some simply told me how beautiful they thought the stories were."

Katalina said her favorite part of the trip was meeting all the new people she encountered. "We met so many people from so many walks of life!" She also said she knows that the girls she worked with will undoubtedly remain some of her best friends.

Although Katalina understands she was in Italy to teach, she says she was taught more than she could have ever imagined.

"God really opened my eyes to the beauty that other countries, and the people and cultures that occupy them, have to offer," she said. "A piece of my heart will always be in Italy, and I know I will always have a home away from home in Vicenza."

Holbrook said she does plan to travel abroad again after her first taste of life outside the United States. During the Spring 2017 semester, she plans to study abroad through Arkansas State University in Canterbury, England. She is also looking at returning to Italy next summer for another similar mission trip.

In addition to the mission work, Katalina was able to visit other cities in Italy, including Verona, Venice, Padova and Rome.

"Rome was my favorite adventure," she said. "Being in a place with so much history was literally breathtaking ... but nothing will compare to getting to know the amazing students I had and listening to their beautiful ideas about our Father."

Katalina said her trip was absolutely life-changing, and she encourages others who are interested in participating in such a trip to reach out to her for more information.

"Mission trips are such a beautiful opportunity to proclaim to every nation and to travel this jaw-dropping world God designed for us," she said.

Holbrook is the granddaughter of Stephen and Jessie King of Imboden. She is associated with the Delta Zeta sorority on her college campus and is a member of the kayaking club.

Off campus, she is involved with the Journey campus of the Central Baptist Church of Jonesboro. Additionally, she is a dance teacher at Studio H Dance Company in Walnut Ridge.

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