Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Seven Students, Seven Cultures

Our work in Guam has a way of reminding me of the great multitude in Revelation 7.9, "from all tribes and peoples and tongues" who are before the throne worshiping the Lamb. The reason for that is simply that our ministry here is entirely cross-cultural. Even though our staff is only now showing signs of diversity, the student body is a panoply of cultures, and our church is another variegated tapestry of peoples.

I guess using "culture" to describe someone's background is a bit slippery, but it's more descriptive than simply identifying what country someone is from. For instance, even if you tell me you're from the US, I still don't know what your cultural background is. So, when I decided to share with you about my current seminary class, I quickly realized it's not enough to tell you that I have seven students from five different countries because the three who are from the same "country" are from completely different cultures within that country. It's really more descriptive to tell you that I have seven students from seven cultures. So, on Tuesday nights, I sit in front of a Chinese, a Chuukese, a Filipina, a Bangladeshi, and three Americans. It's the three Americans who really represent three different cultures. One is a local with Chamorro roots, a culture unique unto its own. Another is Caucasian from Alabama, and the third is of Spanish extraction, raised in a New Mexico town settled by the Spanish in the 1600s. Thus, though he is American, his first language and culture are Spanish, but not South American Spanish! Now, just imagine the dialog we have in class. It is rich as each accented word is shared out of his or her own culture. Categorically, I no longer assume that my cultural experiences relate to others' experiences, which has a distinct way of affecting the application of the theology we study. In a recent seminary class conversation about burnout rates among pastors, I came in assuming that one reason for the burnout is based on pastor's having more people to care for than is humanly possible. I guess I had thought it was a universal problem, until one student explained that in his culture this is not the case because a church of 50 people may have fifteen pastors! Here, it is not trite to say that I learn as much from my students as they do from me.
    Sound interesting? Come out and join us! Seriously. We are in immediate need of undergraduate teachers, especially in the areas of general education. We are looking to establish our budding counseling center with professional counselors (even those working toward licensure); and of course, we need doctoral level seminary professors. The world is becoming cross-cultural, so get in on the trend and join us at PIU!

1 comment:

jeninslo said...

What sort of qualifications would one need to have to be a general ed undergrad teacher at PIU?