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The Global Citizenship Experience

by Steve Smith, June 7, 2006

Hola, Amigos!

The goal of Christian education is to produce disciples who will transform their cultures for the glory of God. This requires that we prepare our students to be both in the world, yet not of it. And this means that, eventually at least, we must break the bubble that often develops around the Christian school and get kids involved in the problems of this world: problems of poverty and disease and war.

As a parent of 2 teens and a tween, I must confess that urge to protect my kids from difficulties and deprivation is a strong instinct. But this is not the way Jesus taught his disciples to live. And if we want our students to graduate from a Christian school as His disciples, we must do more than protect them from the evils of this world; we must teach them to understand their God-given gifting and capacity to overcome these problems, even to “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

Twenty-five students and 4 chaperones have just returned from a month in Mexico. I’ve been asked to try and summarize this incredibly rich, diverse, and enlightening experience in a few short paragraphs. I can’t. I can give you a few hints about what this time was like, because experiences must be lived to be fully appreciated: you’ve got to be there, you’ve got to go for yourself. In fact, a major objective of our Global Citizenship Program is that students get out of the theoretical classroom and into the real world where they can put their knowledge, ideas, and beliefs to the test.

Before leaving, we stated 4 goals for the Global Citizenship Program. We wanted our students to return from this program…

  1. more committed academically.
  2. more purposeful vocationally.
  3. more socially and spiritually mature.
  4. more aware of the global situation, and their duty and capacity to help others in need.

We put these goals to the test on daily basis, and here are some of the results.

1. Academics. The Global Citizenship Program must not be thought of as a ‘break’ from school; rather, it is school in action. Not only did our students take part in daily Bible and Cross-cultural classes in Mexico, they were required to put these ideas into action by demonstrating honour and respect for the local culture. They also took the ideas about Jesus’ concern for the poor and disadvantaged and put them into action by building a $10,000 addition onto a school for disabled children, which they fundraised and built with their own blood, sweat, and tears.

2. Vocations. While in Mexico, our students used real-world skills in their building projects, as class-room Teacher Assistants at the school for the disabled, in their camera and computer skills while making a documentary of the project, and in the kitchen (believe it or not, these students did all their own cooking, and served healthy, tasty meals to each other every day). Having gained some practical experience in these skills, we have no doubt that students will continue to use them in their vocations long after graduation.

3. Social and Spiritual Growth. There is fine line distinguishing social and spiritual maturity, for as has often been noted, charity begins in the home. Our practical understanding of Christianity is displayed daily in the way we treat those closest to us. And in Mexico, we get very close. Close enough to feel each other’s sweat in the humid heat, and to smell each other’s morning breath in the crowded lodgings. We had to put up with each-other’s idiosyncrasies, and care for each other when we were sick. Most of us had a lot of lessons to learn about ‘growing up’, as it says in 1Corinthians 13, where Paul tells us that ‘love looks out for the interests of others’. Learning to love God seems easy compared to learning to love my roommate who keeps leaving his dirty underwear on the floor.

4. Global Citizenship. You can’t get past John 3:16, or Matthew 28 without realizing that Christianity requires us to think about more than just our own backyard. We must also consider the spiritual and social needs of people in distant places. The God we worship speaks Spanish –or Zapoteca- as fluently as He does English. It was He who created these cultures so that all people might “seek him…and reach out for him…and find him” (Acts 17:27). By the time all the money is collected from the current GULU campaign (if you don’t know what this is, ask your high school student immediately), the students of HCS will have contributed more than $15,000 this year to help build schools in both Mexico and Uganda. We have often told our students that their lives should make a difference; now we’ve got to show them how to live that difference out in reality.

When our high school students get a hold of the love of God, and his desire to heal and straighten this broken, bent world, they’re going to want to do some things that scare us— like going to Africa and Mexico to make a difference in the lives of needy people. And when this happens, our own ideals and beliefs will be put to the test.

Steve Smith