Some of you who follow this blog might be curious where I was this past week that led to taking a break from posting new material. I don’t always like posting about travel away from home before hand on social media. As it turns out, I was in Mexico for the past five days at an international conference of collegiate ministries that is held once every four years. I was invited to lead one of the workshops during the conference and also to give one of the plenary addresses. There were roughly 1100 delegates from approximately 159 nations present.
Needless to say, it was a new and humbling experience to be in such a global gathering of people who work in higher education. At one meal, I would be talking with a national leader of a student movement from Korea, at another, a leader from Malawi. I have been on a list serve with a number of people from around the world and had the opportunity to meet many of them face to face for the first time. I met a Peruvian who had written me some time back (I’d actually forgotten this!) about book recommendations for research he was doing. What a surprise to learn that my name appears in the acknowledgement page of his paper! I had the opportunity to meet the national leader and one of the staff leaders of the student movement of Moldova. We’ve helped their work in various ways over the years but had never personally met–a wonderful highlight!
It will take me a good while to sort out all the experiences of these days, which were packed morning to night–hence no time for blogging. But a few initial impressions:
One was an overwhelming sense of our common humanity, shared faith and calling. We are all people working in the world of higher education seeking to connect our faith with the lives and studies of students and faculty. But there is more. We all have families with the joys and concerns these bring. We all struggle with the exigencies of daily existence and in finding the resources to do what we dream.
Another impression was of the incredible mosaic of diversity reflected in music, languages, dress, and other cultural practices. For one thing, it was a joy to discover the hospitality of our Mexican hosts, the pride they have in their rich culture, and the beauty of their country. In the United States, there is a strong tendency simply to view Mexico as a problem. I came away finding myself thinking that until we can appreciate the richness of culture, of physical beauty, and among many, the faith, hard work, and pride of Mexico’s people, we will have much more difficulty resolving the problems that exist between our nations. Viva Mexico!
And this was true wherever I looked. I met people who, even though they had a clear eyed appreciation of the challenges their countries and their universities face, are people who love deeply their countries and their universities and the students and faculty with whom they work. I got a glimpse of the unique opportunities and challenges many face and also realized even more deeply how much I do not understand.
A final impression I will share here is what an impressive group of people this was, both spiritually and intellectually! In the track I helped co-lead (with a New Zealander and a Sri Lankan) we had gifted faculty from all over the world. One was the first female president of her university in Trinidad. I heard a student from New Zealand give a message that would put to shame many seminary-educated pastors in my country. I heard a Palestinian Christian speak about suffering and yet speak out against anti-Semitism. I was impressed afresh with how much we can learn from the rest of the world!
These are first impressions. As I said, the conversations and experiences of these days will be something I mull over for a long time.