Jonathan and Sarah Harris, siblings and senior music education majors, carried a fascinating testimony with them from Argentina, where they spent most of their lives, to Bob Jones University in 2019.
Born on BJU’s campus, the Harrises are quite familiar with the University. Their parents met and studied here, and in 2005 the Harris family moved to Argentina to serve on the mission field. Transitioning to life as missionary kids, however, proved to be one of the greatest challenges the two would face growing up, according to Jonathan.
Living in Tandil, Argentina, the Harrises noticed that fitting in and being accepted by neighboring Catholic families would take longer than they thought it would. “We were definitely shunned,” Sarah said, “We were not talked to, and the neighborhood kids didn’t play with us for nine months. It wasn’t until seven or eight years of being [in Argentina] that the people finally accepted us. … After that was when doors started opening a little more to where we were actually able to make friendships.”
Growing up, Jonathan and Sarah used a BJU homeschool curriculum called HomeSat, which would prepare them academically should they return to Greenville to attend the University. In high school, the two began filing for residency in Argentina while applying for financial aid and student acceptance at BJU.
Having already stayed a few years after high school graduation to serve on the field, the Harrises were still waiting for results on their residency application in 2019. According to Jonathan, they had two choices. If they left promptly for Greenville, their 14 years of residency paperwork would be of no avail, but if they stayed in Argentina, they would need to find another way to pursue their education outside the United States.
Since both desired to return to Argentina after college, the Harrises didn’t know what to do. “The day of [the residency cutoff deadline] we were just praying,” Jonathan said. “Sarah and I, at that time, said, ‘Well, if the Lord closes the door, He closes the door—we stay in Argentina and find a university here to go to.’”
Then, the Lord miraculously intervened. “Just suddenly, within about 24 hours, we received news that our documents had been completed for Argentina [and] that we needed to go to a different city to finish,” Jonathan said. Within those hours, the two had also been accepted at BJU and their financial aid package had been approved; they could attend almost debt-free for their first year.
The Harrises needed to be in the U.S. by May 29, 2019, however. “Sarah and I had committed; if the Lord opens the door, we’re going,” Jonathan said. “Within less than a month, we were completely packed up and in the States, and it’s been a whirlwind ever since.”
Though they had arrived at school with much difficulty behind them, obtaining residency in Argentina still hung over their shoulders.
“Argentina doesn’t accept dual citizenship with the United States,” Jonathan said. “In order to begin an Argentine permanent residency, you need four temporary residencies that last a year apiece. For you to complete this permanent residency, you are required to return to Argentina within the next year [to complete paperwork].”
Argentina designated this return date right before midterms in November of 2019, adding to the stress Sarah and Jonathan already experienced as music education majors.
Though the Harrises were not guaranteed passage back to the States once they left, they walked in faith and flew to Argentina regardless. If the Lord desired them to continue their education at BJU, they said, He would make it happen.
Again, the Lord intervened. “We were still in the [Argentine] embassy up until the day of the flight,” Jonathan said. “Suddenly, we were given our documents and were told to rush to the airport to catch our flight back to Greenville. If that wasn’t God’s will it wouldn’t have happened, and the way it happened was so miraculous that even unbelievers working at the embassy said, ‘Your God is amazing,’ in response to our situation.”
The Harrises did not have it easy throughout their transition from Argentina to BJU, but the two have a passion to use these experiences and testimonies to spread the Gospel and teach in Title I schools.
Both Sarah and Jonathan currently teach practicum in two different local elementary schools. “In public school, we can’t openly talk about the Gospel,” Sarah said about her music class. “But we can show [the kids] the love of Christ, and we can love them like Jesus loves.”