Since graduating from PCC, Dr. John Lesko (’92) has spent nearly 12 years overseas in places like South Korea, France, Scotland, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman. He has been a professor, a Fulbright scholar, and an employee for Saudi Aramco, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s national oil company. He never imagined how God could use his English degree.
Lesko’s appreciation for foreign languages and cultures began when he was a toddler growing up among the Navajo. His father, who spent 10 years ministering to Navajo Indians, had determined that missionary work could be best accomplished through learning the language of the people. “My parents and extended family instilled [in me] a love of learning and were a model of service to others.”
As a teenager, the words Lesko had heard his entire life began to sink in, and under his father’s preaching, Lesko rededicated his life to Christ, claiming the promise from Genesis 24:27, “I being in the way, the LORD led me.” For him, following God’s leading meant attending PCC. “As a student, I used to write Proverbs 22:29 at the top of my list of things to do each day: ’Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings.’”
Diligence paid off as Lesko graduated with a double major in English and professional writing from PCC and was accepted into a TESOL (Teaching English as a Second Language) program at Bowling Green State University. “I knew that I enjoyed language study, and I wanted a bit of adventure in life.” Studying TESOL provided him with his first overseas teaching position as an intern in South Korea.
After finishing at Bowling Green, Lesko married his college sweetheart, Danuta Salomon (’92), whom he had met at PCC, and the Lesko family’s international adventures began. That summer, they traveled to France for language school and then headed to the University of Edinburgh in Scotland for Lesko to complete a postgraduate research degree program.
After their time in Scotland, Lesko and his wife moved with their children to Wisconsin, but when a teaching position in the United Arab Emirates became available, Lesko applied. His willingness to learn new languages was vital for his landing the job. “I had determined to learn at least a few phrases before the interview. When I walked into the room, before a rather intimidating committee of ranking officers from this language institute, I was able to greet them in Arabic, and this broke the ice immediately. The head interviewer smiled, and we commenced what would turn out to be a successful job interview.”
The Lesko family spent three years in the United Arab Emirates, gaining valuable experience and learning about a new culture. Yet, once again, God was leading the Lesko family somewhere new, this time to Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan. At SVSU, Lesko taught courses to TESOL students. During this time, he was also selected for a two-year Fulbright Scholar Teaching Exchange in the Sultanate of Oman; this position was a great honor and a wonderful experience as the Lesko family studied Arabic together.
In 2011, Lesko transitioned into his current position for Saudi Aramco, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s national oil company. “This new job has involved a transition from academia to the corporate work environment where effective business communications are important, where the English language continues to play an important role, and where intercultural relations are vital in both personal and professional contexts.”
While Lesko has spent much of his life learning about languages and other cultures, he has done his best to pass this passion on to his children, two of whom are PCC students. Solomon is a business major, and Olivia is studying missions.
For Olivia, a passion to travel and learn about other cultures is mixed with a burden for people who have never heard about Christ’s love. “What greater calling is there than to share the love of God with people around the world?” she said. “I’m extremely excited to be able to travel to a country and tell people that through Christ they will find the answers to life and death and happiness.”
Lesko can see how God has led him, his wife, and his children each step of the way. “We look back, finding it hard to believe that so many years have passed and praying for our children to ’be in the way’ and follow the Lord's will for their lives.”