International Ventures Trips Take Students to Brazil, Israel, Turkey, Central Asia, the Middle East, and China
Students engage with great ideas, influencers, and strategic institutions across the world
By Bryan Nance '09
The world we live in claims to be a house of many ideas – many cultures with their seemingly disparate truth claims, and many languages and media through which those ideas are expressed. In On the Heavens, however, Aristotle saw the "idea diversity" of the world differently. Aristotle observed that although we may hear new ways, from new men, of expressing ideas, all of these ideas stem from a common experience that all men share and that all men attempt to express. "The same ideas," Aristotle wrote, "recur in men’s minds not once or twice but again and again." A King’s education recognizes that Aristotle’s words carry wisdom for today, and King’s students have seen that wisdom shape their own lives this summer as they have traveled abroad.
Each year, during the summer months, dozens of King’s students, staff, faculty, and alumni travel abroad through the International Ventures program to see how the ideas they wrestle with in the classroom also affect, and are expressed in, the lives and cultures of others across the world. Poverty, religious strife, systemic economic oppression, political power plays – these are but snapshots of the unique cultural moments many of these nations are experiencing. Rather than observing from afar, however, King’s students have ventured into the experiences of these nations and made friends, articulating the ways in which the same ideas recur in men’s minds over and over again, and across the globe.
In Brazil, King's students and faculty shared the experiences facing students at the University of Brasilia. "Brazil has a strict separation of church and state," Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies Dru Johnson explained. Because of this strict separation, Christian students in Brazil are alone. "How do their careers in law, science, and teaching relate to the Great Commission? What does evangelism look like on a university where religion is regarded as anti-intellectual?" These are questions, Prof. Johnson observed, that students in Brazil must steward and answer for themselves, and they are not simply questions to be answered from a distant, intellectual level. "Many Christians wrestle with the question, 'What are Christians to do when surrounded by poverty and homelessness?'," Junior Carol Anne Ausband said. "When you stand face to face with poverty, the question demands an answer." Young Christians in Brazil are stewarding these questions well, but the friendships that King's students and faculty made while in Brazil only deepened their desires to pray for and support the Brazilian church.
In Israel, a group of ten students, faculty, and alumni got an acute glimpse into the intricacies, and the human side, of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "I watched an Israeli soldier play with a Palestinian child," sophomore Taylor Campbell recalled. "The soldier, in addition to his M16, held a bright yellow and orange water gun. He was playing with the Palestinian boys. They circled each other and laughed, squirting water back and forth. When a boy’s gun ran out, the soldier called him closer, took it, and refilled the tank from his own canteen. I stared, amazed. The entire scene contradicted the unspoken law of the land that Palestinians and Israelis cannot mingle. That day, I witnessed a different barrier being torn down, temporarily destroyed for the sake of relationship between two peoples, each misunderstood by the other. I saw reconciliation on a small scale, and it gave me a glimmer of hope for peace in the land." Associate Professor of Biblical Studies Noel Rabinowitz also took note of the profound effects that relationships built in Israel had on King's students, in both hearts and minds. "Our students studied the Bible and asked hard questions, visited Israel’s Parliament, walked the streets of a Palestinian refugee camp, and prayed with Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians who simply want a better life for their families. It was a unique privilege to watch the Israel Team grapple with these very real human stories and strive to integrate biblical truth with what appear to be seemingly unsolvable political issues."
In Turkey, a team of twelve were led by Anthony Randazzo ’08 (Politics, Philosophy, and Economics) to the Entrepreneurship and Society Conference, hosted by one of the nation's leading research universities in its capital of Ankara. "Four years ago, we were talking our way onto the campus," Randazzo said. "This year we were welcomed at the gate by students, greeted warmly by the business school’s deans, and invited to stay in university housing." "During our time at the university," former Student Body President Samuel Tran described, "we debated ethical business practices, navigated cultural barriers, and built lasting friendships. We also learned that business exchange does not always involve money, nor does it require a winner and a loser. Sometimes both parties win – in our case, they certainly did." Students also got a unique look into religious freedom issues affecting women. "While we were in the country’s capital, we had dinner with a Muslim family," sophomore Kelly Cannon said. "After the meal, we sat with the daughters and talked about Islam from a female perspective. These daughters were witty and self-assured; the mother was kind and accomplished. Turkey is experiencing growing pains but I hope it is growing in a direction that enables more freedom for women – not less. I have too many friends on both sides of the political spectrum not to want a reconciliation of ideals."
Students also traveled to Central Asia, the Middle East, and China this summer, partnering with organizations there and teaching English as a second language. Their conversations and debates with current and future leaders in those regions have left a lasting mark.
Participants in International Ventures trips cross more than international borders. They learn to cross cultural, language, and worldview borders. They engage with great ideas, with societal influencers who perpetuate those ideas, and with the strategic institutions – the political leaders, university deans, and future leaders and their families – that make a difference across the world. Across the King’s community this summer, these Ventures have charged students, staff, faculty, and alumni with a deeper sense of the importance of The King’s College’s mission.
Bryan Nance ’09 (Politics, Philosophy, and Economics), is a 2L at The George Washington University School of Law and a member of the Law Review and the Moot Court Board.
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Chad G. Abbott