International Education is More than Programs

When attending a musical in Austin, Texas, recently, the usher handed me a program. And some programs on television last less than an hour when you count the commercial interruptions. Many colleges and Universities advertise programs. All of these have at least two things in common: 1) they don’t last, 2) they are not meant to last.

This is why I don’t want to have students or faculty or parents see study abroad through the lens of programs only. I want to suggest that it’s the wrong ‘p’ word. Instead, there are at least three other ways to see study abroad and the view through them is much more interesting.

 

Pathway

An international experience is a decidedly colorful, meaningful, and robust marker on one’s journey, so it’s part of a pathway.

Progress and Decline at the Same Time

A name calling President who regularly insults others in public doesn’t seem like progress. Yet, we continue to advance medical technology to the point of AIDS being more treatable than before. We can detect certain cancers earlier and life expectancy is higher. This is promising.

The leading cause of death for adults 25-45 years old last year was drug overdose. In fact, the leading causes of death in all adults under the age of 50 is, for the most part, self-inflicted. Drug overdose, suicide, and heart failure all compete for number one. This doesn’t seem like progress. Earlier I took a train from London to Paris which travels underneath the water. I ate breakfast at a preserve in Australia with Koala bears and Kangaroos and had a soft drink and wrote in my journal while sitting in Tiananmen Square, in the heart of Beijing. Some of this seems like progress.

Nakedness is not the same as Nudity

"Naked without Shame"
This phrase is in the first few pages of the Bible. It's the kind of phrase that makes junior high boys snicker and it's the kind of phrase that makes newly married couples hopeful. And this phrase has very little to do with nudity.
The problem, though, is that in this world we have mirrors and social media and trends and styles--all which are platforms or vehicles by which we compare or pose. It's not like the festivals in Venice where one comes with a mask, it's a phrase that means no mask is needed--ever. We can simply be with one another--in relationship--without shame.
Particularly in a twitter heavy, facebook dominated culture, nakedness is now not only rare, it's hidden away under lock and key.
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Books Are Cool Again

Once upon a time people bought books in bookstores. I should know. My family owned a Christian bookstore chain. It was an idyllic, almost magical time when independent stores like ours and large bookstore chains like B. Dalton Bookseller, Walden, Borders, and Family Christian Stores—plus thousands of independent bookstores—dotted the landscape. Almost every town of any size had at least one. 

Today all those bookstore chains are gone, and the number of independent stores, both general and Christian, has shrunk dramatically. I could list many reasons, but there are just two that matter: the rise of Amazon and the appearance of e-books. Physical bookstores, even those owned by big corporations, just can’t compete with the selection, prices, and convenience of Amazon. And what can possibly match the instant delivery of a book to a device you’re holding in your hand?

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Slavery in America: The Year of Jubilee

The following was originally posted March 29, 2010. It's being reposted here today as part of National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. In 2010, I wrote a series of blogs titled Slavery in America. This particular blog in the series is on worship and jubilee. 

On the way to church this morning, my mom and brother and I talked about how our world would be so different today if we still practiced Jubilee. We talked about how great it would feel to have our debt wiped away and the opportunities we’d be given if only it were still practiced today.

Directly after the service, I ran into a friend of mine who I traveled with to Malawi in the summer of 2008. It had been a few months since we’d run into each other. It was great to see him. He shared with us that he had been in our neck of the woods earlier in the week and had thought of me while nearby. He drew out the night and day differences between the area where I live and the area where we were attending church. He asked me, “Why aren’t we hanging out with the people who live in your neighborhood more?”

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Slavery in America: A Conversation with International Justice Mission

In honor of National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, this is a repost of an interview held with International Justice MIssion staff member Lauren Johnson in early 2010. IJM currently is one of the world leaders in combatting slavery today. 

 

Last month I visited the International Justice Mission headquarters, not far from the Pentagon and just outside our nation’s capitol.  It was a beautiful day. The air was crisp and cool and the ground layered with the remnants of the recent snow storm.

Inside IJM headquarters - aka HQ -, you’ll find a quant, but inspirational photo gallery. The walls are lined with telling photographs of beautiful people who are part of IJM’s work abroad. Each face on each photo tells a different story of survival, of redemption and of justice at work.

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Where Power Resides

Washington is broken.

Wait….What?

When that phrase is uttered, what is meant is that the people elected to office have done a poor job leading. The people “elected to office,” have not performed their duties like most people expect. Gridlock. Negative rhetoric. The same men and women in office for years making little progress on issues or policies or problems. That’s what is meant when someone says Washington is broken. Personally, visiting the city is fun and always a bit energizing. Lots going on, good food, and enough to see to stimulate most imaginative people.

The power of Washington, though, at least from how our current government is framed, resides with people from all over the country.

The Road to Justice Begins at a Stop Sign

Have you ever broken a bone? I have. When I was 11 or 12 years old I broke a finger playing in what was likely a fierce game of handball. You read that right. I was one of the cool kids who played handball in elementary school (green with envy? I thought so).

The thing with breaks is, in order for them to heal correctly, they need to be reset, realigned or readjusted to the way they were designed.

When I first learned of the realities of modern day slavery, it felt like a bad break. How could things be so off set, out of order, out of place and in desperate need of healing and resetting? I felt a burning rage boil up in my gut and an overwhelming desire to barge into a brothel or brick kiln to rescue the oppressed and give the oppressor a piece of my mind, or, let's be honest, my once broken middle finger gesture.

When Pain & Joy Collided in Congo

In the fall of 2003 I found myself standing in an open area wedged between two buildings with a young boy who had a fierce case of the giggles. I would simply look at him and he’d crack up. I will never forget the sound of his sweet laughter or his dark almond shaped eyes. He wore faded and worn pink overalls and his bare feet danced around the concrete floor as he laughed.

The memory and sound of his joy-filled laughter is forever etched in my memory. His playful laughter and the culmination of so many emotions and thoughts this particular place, triggered something within me. His joy and his circumstances were in stark contrast.

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Tags | Global

Built for a Time Like this


 

We are being asked to live with unknown cultural elements and we are uncertain as to how some things will play out. We find some things we have seen this week to be unbelievable. Some of us are homesick, others of us feel exhausted, curious, disillusioned, and engaged all at once. It’s hard sometimes for me to articulate the deep longings that come out as emotional overload and my guess is that I am not alone.

Those of us in international education or those of us who have studied abroad or those of us who have international partners as part of our day to day work are built for a time like this. How do I know?

Cultural Disorientation

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