Insights from abroad

Personal Reflections

March 13, 2019 | Focus on Travel | Volume 23 Issue 6
Kara Bergstrom | Columbia Bible College
Dexter Volkman and friends in Wadi Rum, Jordan, during his year of teaching high-school music through the MCC Serving and Learning Together program. (Photo courtesy of Dexter Volkman)

Since I began as director of intercultural studies (ICS) at Columbia Bible College in 2013, the college has sent out 45 young adults to serve in a variety of contexts—Mongolia, Mexico, Mayotte, Myanmar, Macedonia, Moldova—and those are just the countries beginning with “M”!

After two years of academic learning, leadership equipping and spiritual preparation on campus, they practise implementing what they’ve learned abroad through a variety of service agencies, including Mennonite Central Committee. All third-year ICS majors experience a unique, accredited internship as they minister cross-culturally for eight months to a year.

When they return, I am inspired. Many exhibit a deeper faith, a matured character and a nuanced view of issues encountered in the local context. 

What follows are a few of their insights:

  • There are many issues I’d cared about, but now that I’ve experienced them firsthand, I have such a deeper understanding and passion for those issues. It is one thing to be aware of what is happening in the world; it is another thing entirely to live where those things are happening and among those who are affected. . . . I have a much greater ability to empathize with those living in poverty.
  • I experienced God’s love for the poor and marginalized. . . . I was so grateful to be able to talk to the mothers for my ethnography project and to hear their stories. . . . These women spoke about God as their ultimate comforter and companion. . . . I believe God loves all people, but the way the poor and marginalized feel his presence seems to be something special.
  • My perspective and understanding of refugees were shaped by my internship experience. My heart grew for these friends in a way I did not know it could. We chatted, laughed, drank tea, played with the kids and shared stories. It was a genuine time. Some became curious, asking questions and becoming more interested in Jesus. One asked for a Bible of his own. I saw that my passions lie with helping and befriending those on the margins of society.
  • We went with the mindset of serving local pastors however possible. We were there to join what God was already doing through them. Serving looked like scrubbing mouldy kitchens, leading Bible studies or worship, or preaching on Sundays. Whatever we were asked to do, we tried to do it with a posture of a servant heart. This helped form deep friendships and freed the pastors for more ministry.

Further reading:
Couple enjoys being 'on the road' with MDS

Learning through space and time
Great Trek from Russia to Central Asia remembered
'A community of friends around the world'
MCC tours a transformative way to travel

Dexter Volkman and friends in Wadi Rum, Jordan, during his year of teaching high-school music through the MCC Serving and Learning Together program. (Photo courtesy of Dexter Volkman)

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