Each year, Centro NOE, through NOE International based in Portland, Oregon, sends 10-13 students for a 1-month experience of cultural learning and English practice to the United States during the month of July. The students chosen to be a part of this program are the “best of the best”, the “cream of the crop” from NOE. They are ambassadors for what NOE is at its core.
In order to be selected, students must pass their final exam after a four-year English program with a 70% or higher. Then, they must pass an oral exam with an 80% or higher. Next, a selection team comprised of directors and other staff members finalizes the selection process based on character and participation at NOE. Finally, they enter into a year of language and culture training. They work alongside with the short-term mission teams that visit and take lead roles in some of the ministries and services at NOE. It is a tremendous honor to be chosen for this program.
One of my responsibilities at NOE is to help the students get their VISA appointments through online form completion, which takes a lot of coordination to attain all necessary information, and submit it for acceptance. I also assist with their Culture and Conversation class.
Beyond obtaining a Mexican passport, attaining a U.S. VISA is necessary for the students to travel to the U.S. All expenses to complete the VISA process are covered by NOE International, and I assist them in learning about the process and helping them practice sample questions that may be asked of them during the VISA interviews.
During our trainings times, there are a lot of butterflies. For a person to have a successful interview, they must prove that there is no risk of them staying in the United States once they arrive. They do that by strategically answering the questions as well as the way they carry themselves as individuals. The students must be personable. The interviews are conducted in either English or Spanish by American citizens living in Guadalajara so the students must be ready to answer the questions in both languages. During our 1- or 2-night stay in Guadalajara as we prepare, we discuss their lives, their futures, and their roles as unofficial ambassadors of NOE. They are encouraged spiritually, morally, and academically to continue to be their very best. Of the 10 that were selected, only one was denied their VISA, but we are working on a 2nd option, potentially in Canada with some connections we have to the “north”. God is so good!
Please pray for them as they travel. Pray for their safety and their spiritual growth. We’d be interested in hearing from you if you would be interested in hosting a NOE student in your home one year!
(Left) Dream Team 2023: Monica, Didier, Regina, Paulina, Daryanka, Yashi, Denisse, Ana Gabriela, Alan, and Jacqueline.
(Right) Waiting in line to enter the U.S.A. General Consulate for Visa appointments and interviews. Aka: the most non-predictable step in the Dream Team process.
P.O. Box 33152
Portland, OR 97292
NOE International is a faith-based non-profit operating three community centers in Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico. The mission of NOE International is to transform the lives of people by integrating Christ’s love and teachings into educational and recreational programs through community centers located in low-income neighborhoods.
People Educated. Christ Revealed. Lives Transformed.
People come to the NOE Centers because they want to learn. Our name even means New Opportunities in Education. We offer accredited English programs that prepare students for college. We hold art and music classes that aren’t available in the schools. We coach basketball teams that build cooperation skills and discipline. We prepare adults to start their own business with beautician classes. Everything at NOE starts with real-life skills classes offered those in low-income neighborhoods.
NOE staff loves Jesus, and they love our students. Jesus is revealed in these long-term, intentional relationships; the students see Him in the love they receive. In addition to academic classes, NOE offers Explorers, a Bible club for grade-school children. We also invite youth to a weekly night of games and a Gospel message, as well as a weekly Bible study. Adults hear the Good News of salvation in our parenting classes, which are taught from a biblical perspective. We know that the hope found in Jesus is a true and lasting hope, able to rescue students and their families from their situations and prepare them for something much greater.
The reports are in: education and hope are incredibly transformative for NOE students. They are serving their community by giving food and clothing to families at the local children’s hospital. They are graduating: students who study English at NOE three years or more graduate high school at a rate of 86%, compared to the state average of 27%. We are seeing NOE alumni get full-ride scholarships to college. They are working in jobs that provide for their families. And two of our three center directors are NOE alumni. Most importantly, our students and alumni are living lives of light in a dark place. They are sharing the Good News of abundant life they heard about at NOE.
Side By Side: Over the course of the last year, I have been actively preparing to assume the role of Side by Side English program coordinator at Centro NOE, which focuses on middle school, high school, and adult English language learning. This process involved asking roughly 17,812 questions, writing pages of notes, creating many Google Docs, researching cultural approaches, sending seemingly thousands of text and audio messages, and dozens of meetings to better understand the history, current structure, and future vision of the Centro NOE English Side by Side program. One of the best ways to understand this program is to teach it! This past year I also taught two level 3 (or Green Book) in-person classes, one trimester of level 4 (Orange Book, the last level) online, and an in-person conversation class.
Together with Abby García, the elementary school English program coordinator, we led our 2022-2023 English-teaching staff through teacher trainings at the beginning of September. As nervous as I was, God allowed the experience He gave me and hard work put in with our directors and fellow staff members to get us through to initiate another exciting year of English language learning and teacher growth in Morelia.
This year, 2022-2023, I will be teaching four grammar classes, one Level 4 and two level 3, in the English program at Centro NOE Loma Libre, with a total of 29 students. We hope someday to introduce you face-to-face, but until then, please enjoy this glimpse of God’s blessings on us with this incredible team God has allowed us to serve with on a daily basis.
Next Move: More that "Hi! What's your name?"!
NEXT MOVE ELEMENTARY ENGLISH TEAM Making the “Next Move” More than “Hi. What’s your name?”
For three years, before entering the more grammar-based English program, elementary students can take introductory English classes that build an important foundation to more advanced grammatical language learning. Students are introduced to English staples, such as numbers, the alphabet, and pronunciation, but also foundational vocabulary, conversational questions and responses, along with sentence structure building with subjects, verbs, adjectives, nouns, and inflection.
This year, we have three NOE English Program Side by Side graduates leading our NOE Loma Libre elementary English program. Our level one teacher, Quetzali, participated in the 2022 exchange team. Diana, our level 2 Next Move (elementary) and Side by Side teacher, participated in the 2021 exchange program. Kenya, our level three Next Move teacher, participated in the 2019 exchange program. They have all returned to teach with NOE to give back to this impactful program that has positively influenced their lives!
Myriam Jiménez, wife of Centro NOE Loma Libre director Hugo Bedolla, has been working full-time at Loma Libre since 2013 when the 2nd NOE center opened its doors, but Myriam’s journey with NOE started long before 2013. Hugo is currently NOE’s longest-standing employee, having served with NOE for 28 years, before he and Myriam were married, meaning Myriam has been with NOE the entirety of their marriage. When their three children were all able to participate in NOE activities at 9 years old, Myriam began volunteering at NOE in various roles, such as leading crafting, painting, and embroidery classes, but also helping with youth groups of all ages and administration roles. She is currently the full-time receptionist at Loma Libre and the first beautiful and kind face everyone sees when they reach the office.
As Myriam organizes registrations, tracks payments, communicates with families, and works behind the scenes for each employee at NOE Loma Libre, she also has many opportunities to share God’s love and the hope we have in Him to others, which is her favorite role while working at NOE. She is often the first person to hear about the needs of families, even those who don’t appear to be hurting. She prays with people, shares the gospel of hope and Christ’s love, and encourages people to keep moving forward, despite the difficulty and pain this life can press on us.
Over the many years serving with NOE, Myriam has witnessed and experienced on many occasions that they have been tired and discouraged, but God gives them the energy and encouragement to continue on. Sometimes when they didn’t know how to respond to a need, God surprised them by putting the necessary words in their hearts to help and love families, children, and youth.
Isaiah 50:4 says, “The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.”
(Translated) “I saw God moving in me when my health was blessed…He enables my husband and I to continue on with the mission he has called us to. Our efforts are renewed; He lifts our spirits…we never got sick during the COVID pandemic and were always able to continue with the work at NOE, helping whoever needed help.
“I see God working in the students when many come scared and discouraged, and then we see happiness because they are at NOE because they like spending time in the different programs we have here. For so many, it is a refuge, a place where they are accepted and loved.
“I see God working in the families when I can lift up women that feel completely defeated, devalued, and without a will to live, but now they have found hope in God.
“I see that God works in families when for whatever reason they haven’t been to NOE in a while, but upon visiting us again, their eyes fill with tears with all the good memories.
“I see God working when parents tell us that they drop their kids off at NOE, knowing that it is a healthy and safe place for their children in a society that has so much insecurity."
María Fernanda Maldonado Silva, more commonly known as “Fer”, teaches level 1, or Blue Book, at Centro NOE Loma Libre. Blue Book is notorious for having more students than any other level. Between Fer’s four classes, she has 63 students. This is her 2nd year teaching English at NOE.
At 23 years old, Fer is a college graduate with a degree in civil engineering. So why is she teaching at NOE? Fer’s NOE experience started in 3rd grade when her parents forced her to be a part of the basketball program because there were no more spaces available in the elementary school English classes. Before we had three centers, registration would fill to capacity within hours. Parents would register their students in any additional program to have priority if any spaces became available. Although she hated basketball, her patience paid off, and she soon found a place in the English program. She continued studying at NOE into high school, along the way attributing her success and love for learning English to the ever-famous Nadia Salcedo and former intern Kristen (Main) Mojica.
Fer was selected to participate in the 2016 exchange Dream Team and spent a month in the Portland, OR area. During this time, she felt overwhelmed with gratitude and awe that, because of NOE, a girl from a humble family in Morelia could receive a great education, see the world, and experience new adventures like hot-air balloon rides, water skiing, and much more. She knows that she is a direct product of the vision of NOE.
When Fer began working in a civil engineering position after graduating college, she was grateful for the opportunity to earn an honest and solid living economically. After losing her father two years ago, she was able to help her mom and two sisters financially. But something was missing. When asked to consider teaching English at NOE, she was eager to return, but didn’t realize the effect it would have on her. She would go to a high-stress job all day and arrive to NOE sometimes exhausted. Then, she would connect with her students, or they would make jokes, or tell her how much they love English class and her stress from earlier in the day would disappear.
“(Being back at NOE) was and is like drinking hot coffee on a cold day. You can feel it move from your mouth, down your throat, and it makes you warm inside.”
We are honored to have Fer on our staff at NOE Loma Libre! Like Fer, most of our English teachers at each of our centers are NOE graduates who are going on or have gone on to further education and want to give back to their city by showing Jesus’ love and investing their time into students and families who don’t have other means to higher education. Thank you for being a part of journeys like Fer’s and many more to come!
“The only constant in life is change”. Heraclitus, Greek Philosopher
“When you are finished changing, you are finished”. Benjamin Franklin
Over the years, God has blessed me with tremendous guy friendships. Right now, in the middle of Central Mexico, if I had a flat and had no other choice, I am certain that I could call 1 of about 8 men in my life from the states that would drop everything, drive 2,000 miles and be here for me within 24 hours. Just like David and Jonathan’s relationship, I have loved and been loved by these men who have held me accountable, stuck with me closer than a brother, and have been used by God to help develop me and set examples for me to be the man I am today.
When the Nichols Family first landed in Morelia, Mexico on September 13, 2022, I learned very quickly that Juan is a reader. Harry Truman is famous for saying that, “…all leaders are readers”. When Elon Musk was asked how he learned to build rockets, he stated, “I read books.” Juan is well-read with a degree in economics and seminary training. He loves to read, and each time I go into his office, he has a book lying on his desk.
He introduced me to the book The Spider and the Starfish: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations. In summary, the basic premise of the book is to compare the strategies of leadership of the indigenous people who were conquered in Mexico by Spain with the indigenous people of the United States. The difference was that leadership within the indigenous tribes found within the U.S. had leadership at local levels. Power was not top down, but instead spread throughout the kingdom. So, when one leader went down, another always rose to take his place.
Juan believes in good leadership. He believes in the people with whom he serves. He trusts his team and desires to equip his teams for success through great training, accountability, with concern for the staff personally, spiritually, and professionally. His favorite quote, “We are all just spiritual beings having an earthly moment,” reveals the lens through which he sees life and leadership.
In a world of arrogant leaders that dictate a transactional approach where everyone simply does what a leader says, Juan is a humble dynamic leader whose goal is to share vision, guarantee great communication to ensure everyone is heading the same direction, and develop those around him to make them better than himself.
A few months ago, Juan and I were able to spend the day together in Guadalajara as we were awaiting the arrival of a visiting group from Portland, Oregon. During that time, I was able to hear his heart, understand his motivation, see his passion for Jesus to be made known, and for about 20 minutes sniff some great-smelling candles with him as he was doing research for his wife, Meli (a profound bonding moment, if I do say so myself). During that 18-hour timeframe, I saw very quickly that Juan is the type of man I referred to in my first paragraph. He loves. He sacrifices. He deeply desires Jesus to be in control of all he does within his family, his personal relationships, and the organization where he is now the overseer – Noe International/Centro NOE.
From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. - Ephesians 4:16
In 1991, Brian and Mireya (mee-RAY-yah) Overcast, along with another American couple, Brett and Margaret Hespen, and the ringleader, Laurie Connolly (Henkle, set out to create an organization that will bring hope and change to Mexico. From this movement, Nuevas Oportunidades Educativas (New Opportunities in Education, NOE) was born.
As a supplementary educational organization, NOE set out to offer educational programs that are usually only available to the wealthy in Mexico. In 2017, the state of Michoacán was the 6th poorest state in Mexico with 54.4% of its people living under the national poverty rate. Having had a similar ranking throughout generations, Morelia, the capital city of Mexico, was an ideal location to help urban families through new educational options.
In January of 1992, NOE opened in a small building with 34 students. Today, we have three facilities throughout the city. The longest-standing location, NOE Primero, opened in 1992, and hosts over 400 students each week. NOE Loma Libre, where Reggie and I spend the majority of our time, has been operating for more than nine years and has over 300 students. NOE Vida West opened in 2018 and has over 150 students. Our online program, created as a result of the pandemic, still has over 200 students, totaling over 1,050+ current students from ages 3rd grade through adult.
From the beginning, NOE’s English program was their most foundational program and continues to be today. We currently offer three levels of elementary school English, along with an accredited four-year English program for middle school, high school, and adult students. In August, I will be officially assuming the position of English program coordinator, where I will be training teachers, coordinating curriculum and instruction, supervising and observing teachers, and many other facets of the English program as a whole. With the incredible reputation of our program, please be praying for me as I prepare for this transition and that I can uphold its reputation!
Mireya, originally from Mazatlán, Sinaloa, Mexico, is an incredible artist, specializing in painting. Having won various awards for her artwork, she emphasized the importance of the arts at NOE. In addition to art classes, NOE offers music classes for voice, piano, and guitar.
Brian, having always been a big basketball fan and former player, brought a basketball program to NOE and Morelia. The NOE Cougars have developed a great reputation throughout the basketball communities throughout the city. NOE has former players that went on to get basketball scholarships and havereturned as coaches or now send their children to the basketball program.
Finally, last but certainly not least, our youth group program called Un Espacio Para Ti (a place for you) and weekly Bible studies are opportunities to share the gospel and give hope in Jesus Christ through fun games, community, crazy outings, worship, small groups, learning about God’s word, and living life together on a weekly basis.
In March, Reggie and I began directing the Loma Libre Un Espacio Para Ti group with a team of teachers from NOE. We love to see how God is moving in the hearts of the students academically, but my heart swells to see them growing spiritually as we discuss the Bible and what it means to live by faith.
Brian and Mireya have always emphasized the importance of being a team throughout this process. One of the aspects of NOE that drew me to them so deeply is the obvious longevity that is evident in their staff. Hugo Bedolla, along with his wife Myriam, have been with NOE for 28 years, the entire span of their marriage. He started out working with the youth in various capacities and is now the director at NOE Loma Libre. Myriam is his lovely secretarial assistant. Juan Peralta, graduate of NOE, current director of NOE Primero, and soon-to-be lead director of NOE, has been involved with NOE for 24+ years. Erick Garcia, director at NOE Vida West, is also a NOE graduate whose family has been involved with NOE for over 18 years. It is common for former students to return as teachers, coaches, or supports of NOE in a variety of forms. Ale Moreno, future director of NOE Primero, met the Lord on the step of NOE and now brings this love of Jesus to others through her teaching and leadership. This is the organization they sought to create.
God has blessed this organization through the vision and dedication of Brian and Mireya. Thousands of people have been touched and changed by NOE as a result of their love for God and their love for His people. Thank you for support us as we journey with NOE as it continues to grow. This is the legacy Brian and Mireya have left behind but will never be forgotten.
Dana was one of the first NOE students we met in September. Her brother, Zuri, will also be a part of this year’s Dream Team spending 28 days in the Portland, Oregon area.
Dana graduated high school in 2020. This past academic school year, she has been teaching two elementary English classes at NOE Primero and has 23 students. In her spare time, she enjoys going to NOE Bible study, helping with the NOE Friday night youth group, helping at her church, Iglesia Sión, and spending time with her family and friends.
Dana’s dad has taught basketball at NOE in previous years. Her mother works in administration at a hospital in Morelia, and her younger brother, Jairo, also takes English classes at NOE. Dana will be taking the college entrance exam in June and hopes to become a licensed English teacher. This family, as a whole, as been such a blessing to our family!