Why Students Should Still Study Abroad

Since the academic year started, both beheadings from militant groups and the coverage of Ebola have gone viral. Concerned parents want to know if their son or daughter will get a disease or if life outside the United States is safe. Judging solely by the cable news outlets, one would remain almost paranoid as one crisis after another seems to get around-the-clock coverage.

Yet, nearly 300,000 U.S. students will study abroad in a given year and that is still a good thing. And yes, students should still consider study abroad and there are many reasons, but let me briefly explore three of them.

First, we live in an interconnected, economically interdependent, and increasingly globalized world.

Where will you go this Year?

In Elton Trueblood's book entitled Lessons in Spiritual Leadership, he notes that Abraham Lincoln's leadership was influenced not only by a growing self-awareness and events of real suffering, but he was also influenced by Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, and Washington D.C.

In 2015, I found myself in: New York, Italy, East Africa, the Netherlands, Atlanta, Chicago, Indianapolis, Washington D.C. and a host of other spots. And my worldview is impacted at various points along the way. Now, if you believe a worldview is simply a stoic framework, then you probably have a bit of trouble with the idea that a sense of place can impact one's own awareness. Yet, I dare say that we are all influenced by and influencers of the places we find ourselves in.

How you influence those places that you pass through and how those same places influence you matter.

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Main Street; Morrison, Illinois

Is home the same place you grew up?

Hopefully, you don't think the question is stupid, mundane, or trivial. I think it's important because I think most people are searching for home. Current refugees are in search of a place where good wins out and where they can put down roots and live in peace. Soldiers fight for our homeland. We lock doors at night because we want to protect loved ones and because we want to rest at home.

Yet, my current home is not where I grew up--though Morrison remains my hometown. My stepfather's real estate office is on Main Street, right across from where the bakery used to be--where my grandfather bought me donuts every Friday morning during my middle school and high school years. There is an annual 'paint the town' event on Main Street and it's where homecoming parades marched down and I remember the storefronts being decorated for some home basketball games.

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221B Baker Street

One of the most famous addresses in the world isn't a real one. Sherlock Holmes is a fictional character who lived in London at 221B Baker Street. It's a place people went to for help and the address still looms large.
What address comes to mind when you are at your wit's end? In recent current events, we will have heard now of Syria and we understand that we have a history with Russia. We know that refugees seeking help are seeking also an address--a place where one can either call home or visit to feel at home. I can tell you that I grew up on Henry Rd and later moved to Portland Avenue and Heaton Street. Most people could care less, but I knew where I received mail and I knew a place that was called mine.
It's what we want leaders to protect when they go to war.
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The Vatican

Attending mass at 7 a.m. is not usually a big deal, but this past week, I managed to be at an early mass at  the altar of transfiguration inside the Basilica on St. Peter's Square. In other words, at the Vatican. 

Taking a brief tour with the priest afterwards, he pointed out various interesting facts about St. Peter's and the fact that this is the largest church structure in the world. HIstorical statues intersected wtih tourists who intersected with church history and before 8 a.m., we had walked, talked, prayed, and been duly humbled by a place unlike any other church on the planet.

As we walked outside, construction had started on the new showers being put in for the homeless, as ordered by Pope Francis. My new friend pointed up toward the window where the Pope regularly appears and mentioned that this particular Pope is known to simply show up for mass or suddenly appear for prayer--unexpectedly and without much fanfare. And then, one turns back to the showers being constructed for the down-and-out of Rome.

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Barcelona, Spain

When I arrived at my hotel in Spain a few weeks back, I immediately was blasted with a wall of cigarette smell. So, I looked at my paperwork to find the phrase 'non-smoking' room (which I did) and then I paused and wondered whether or not I would switch rooms. 

I asked the nice lady at the desk if there's anything that could be done about the giant ashtray I was assigned to sleep in and she said that they'd work on it. I thanked her and then went to my scheduled business meetings. When I returned, my room smelled like a perfume bottle exploded and the windows were all open. I had to smile.

And then I promptly went downstairs to the desk to thank the nice lady and her staff. And therein lies the cultural moment that if you're someone who travels, feel free to take note. Saying 'thanks' in a sincere way truly does translate in to other cultures and languages.

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The Moralist

Groups of People: non-followers of Jesus

·         A non-follower is by definition someone who has not given his/her life to follow Jesus.

Group 1: The Antagonist: will negate any kind of possibility of God to fit his/her own framework of possibilities.

Group 2: The Spiritualist: believes in every kind of supernatural possibility – ghosts, energy, reincarnation, etc.

Group 3: The Disinterested: never really thought about God and spends a lot of time trying not to think about mortality, God, or the meaning of life.

Group 4: The Moralist: believes that as long as they are good and people don’t actively hurt one another then God is irrelevant (if He/She exists then they will be good enough, and if not, then the world is a good place).

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Ideas and Elections

“A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on. Ideas have endurance without death.”

The preceding sentence was said by the late President John F. Kennedy and in many respects it’s the theme of this blog. My desire is to explore the power of ideas as well as the expression of those ideas. Why? Well, because I believe I am a work in progress (and maybe I am not alone) and that I live in a world that is trying to make progress. Undergirding all of this progressive optimism are ideas.

Many Christians call the systematic formulation of these ideas a ‘worldview’ and that’s not a bad phrase. But, some ideas, if we’re honest, aren’t always that clear in our head and so it’s difficult to organize them neatly and label them effectively.

Your Worldview!?

The children at the Shalom school are inspiring, and they have worked their magic on me. Without education their future isn't bright, or it wouldn't seem bright to us Westerners. In America it's stressed that if you don't finish high school then your future will be flipping burgers and digging ditches. Here finishing primary school is barely a goal, flipping burgers and digging ditches is a career, and anything more is a gift from god. When I get home from Burkina I plan on fund raising money for the Shalom school. I want those kids to have all the tools necessary for their education. Even though they'll most likely never have electricity, I want to fund raise enough money to spoil them in every other regard! Look around and be thankful for what you have. We are a a society privileged to the fullest. It takes coming somewhere like this, and working on a day to day basis with the people to truly be grateful. If you think you are, well think again.
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A Room With A Worldview

When we say the term a Biblical worldview, do we truly mean a view of the entire world? In other words, does our ‘worldview’ stand up to the test of being more universal than cultural; more global than local?

While in Nicaragua a few years ago, I recall giving a presentation to some Christian leaders and the word ‘worldview’ didn’t translate directly. Instead, my Latin American brothers rendered it, ‘cosmo view’ and in a very real way, that made more sense than what I was trying to convey. Our worldview and in particular a Biblical one, should consist not simply of truths from our own local contexts, but truths that make sense universally. Michael Horton, in his book the Gospel-Driven Life, makes the following comment that is relevant to this discussion:

Michael HortonThe gospel is unintelligible to most people today, especially in the West, because their own particular stories are remote from the story of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation that is narrated in the Bible. Our focus is introspective and narrow, confided to our own immediate knowledge, experience, and intuition…
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