Entering New Contexts

Tuesday, Mar 19th, 2013

            The joy and challenge of intercultural education is learning how to enter into one another’s context with curiosity and empathy.  The questions doctoral students bring to the seminar reflect widely disparate experiences in pastoral leadership.  Attentive listening is a gift we offer to one another as the Spirit of God provides a “ground of meeting” (John V. Taylor) between us.

            Twelve Doctor of Ministry students from Myanmar Institute of Theology and ten from the Shawnee campus are participating in the Incarnational Theology seminar I am teaching, along with Dr. Heather Entrekin.  The conversation is rich as we read texts, one another, and our ministry settings.  All become a part of the curriculum.

Studying together

            Ministry is always incarnational, as God grants humans the dignity of sharing in God’s own mission in the world.  As we consider the life of Jesus, sent by the Abba, empowered by the Holy Spirit, we gain insight into how the Word becomes flesh through our ministries, also.  We embody the presence of the Spirit of the risen Christ, indeed as part of his very Body in the world.

            The context of this nation is rapidly shifting, and our friends here sense the movement of the Spirit as people are finding new ways of flourishing.  I find that people are talking much more freely about their hopes for the Union of Myanmar.  In particular, it seems that openness to educational collaborations with US schools is on the rise, and that means educational privilege will be more accessible to the any who see how essential this is for the development of the country.

            It is interesting to be here during Lent.  One of the spiritual practices of Lent is self-examination and repentance.  While one cannot determine the context into which one is born, one can enter the contexts of others through making the voyage of discovery and anguish that seeks to understand “the situation” here.

Children in Yangon

            Encountering the economic deprivation of street kids who insistently hawk their wares and the wary mothers trying to feed these children calls those with plenty to consider opportunities to enter more fully in tangible ways.  At first I resisted changing money this time because I did not want consumerism to captivate; however, moving dollars to kyats can have a positive effect, and a few purchases in small shops can make a difference for families.  Foreigners’ purchases do stimulate the economy, although I am not advocating a “shopping cure” as the solution—or absolution for my meager investment.

            Intercultural learning reshapes religious leadership for our day, which evokes new competencies in a religiously plural world.  Baptists in Burma (Myanmar) have long practiced the bi-cultural skills that allow Christianity to take root in this soil.  Central students, staff, and faculty could not learn this without entering this new context.

 

                Molly T. Marshall

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