Tales From Abroad: JAM Summer 2015 Oct06


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Tales From Abroad: JAM Summer 2015

           IMG_6876 Before this trip I loved getting to know people from other countries and trying new things, but being in another country changed my perspective on America. This trip abroad provided the perfect capstone to my time in Dallas with the Justice and Urban Studies Team by exploring ways that others are dealing with poverty and making connections with people who are different than me.

IMG_6019Being in England was the first shock—this completely different world from mine is normal to the English people! Leaving Texas with its Christian culture behind, I saw for the first time what it looks like for Christians to be the minority. We met a couple, Katherine and Chris, who exemplify the counter-cultural Jesus move. Similarly to my experience in Dallas last year, they have chosen to live intentionally in a community house in order to make meaningful change through relationships.

The way of life in Spain was far more relaxed than Oxford, and I loved my interactions with people and getting to practice communicating in Spanish. Our time at the Poblet Monastery in Spain was a time of reflection. Incredibly, men have prayed and sung in those halls since the twelfth century. Attending mass and evening prayers felt like joining in with those who have gone before me. After conversing with Spanish speakers, I am even more motivated to absorb as much as I can from my current Spanish class at ACU.

IMG_5691  Spending two weeks in Ghana was emotionally and physically taxing. I had never seen this kind of poverty on such a huge scale. The lack of power, water, and paved roads were a few of the discomforts of living in Ghana. People live their whole lives outside—there is no a.c. and windows stay open. I was amazed, however, t the spirit of the people and their continual grace and faith. On the other hand, I recognize a terrible desire to get out of the poor situations some are stuck in. For example, I got to talk with our van driver, Kwame, who asked me, “Can your group take me back to America with you?” This man, who has been a van driver for twenty years, asked the strange, unsolicited question that has stayed on my mind ever since. How is it that I am a US citizen? I did not ask for it; I did not earn it. So many people want to go to America, and I get to go simply because it is my home. I see America differently now.
Leaving home is not necessary to “change the world.” In fact, changing our own communities does change the world. That is the message the JUST team hoped to carry out in Dallas, and that I hope to continue in Abilene. Dr. Taj’s words resonate in my mind from my time in England. We must build bridges of friendship and burn barricades of fear. After traveling abroad, my main goal is to seek justice through building relationships that are guided by genuine love and care rather than fear of failure, disagreement, or difference.