This year’s Summer Global Experience (SGE) will be to Northern Ireland. You might not think this will provide much a of a cross cultural encounter, but I beg to differ. “Wait Cross Cultural, what? Don’t you mean mission trip?”
Nope. I don’t. I mean a cross cultural experience. Encounter. Undertaking. You see our SGE isn’t about doing…it’s about being. Challenging ourselves to be human beings (not humans doing) with other human beings. We move beyond our comfort zones of culture and customs. It’s through these encounters that our eyes and hearts open…we wake up, sometimes we get shaken up. How we think the world works, how we think Christianity works, who we think we are, and what we think we believe–suddenly our certainties aren’t so sure. The SGE teaches what we cannot teach or learn by ourselves and with ourselves.
And now you’re thinking, we can do all of that in Northern Ireland? That’s a European country, right? That uses the British pound, right? That’s not going to be cross cultural or challenge my understanding of Christianity.
Well, Northern Ireland is part of Eurpoe, part of Great Britain, and does indeed use the British pound. It is also a country that has been torn about by political and religious conflict for centuries. Belfast and Baghdad were both on the do-not-visit list in the 1990s. Its city streets still share a story of generations of hatred and strife. Murals of The Troubles remind us of what our rage, resentment, and self-righteousness yield. In an era where our own nation demands you choose: blue states or red states, Evangelicals or Mainliners, Coke or Pepsi, we could certainly learn from those who have sought a third way. A way of reconciliation. A way of letting go of yesterday’s pain not by denying it, burying it, or gentrifying it but by naming the hurt, sharing stories, and saying, “It stops here. It stops with me.”
If you have participated in a Leadership Academy with us, we invite you to take this pilgrimage to Northern Ireland. A sojourn to learn about the Christian practice of reconciliation and the very real challenge of practicing the process of forgiveness and reconciliation.