A Classroom in Amman
Christina Diaz '06
In August 2006 I left the U.S. to teach English to second- and third-graders at a refugee school created by an Iraqi church in Amman, Jordan. Through the church I taught Sunday school and established individual relationships within a women's group in addition to teaching.
The language barrier was one of my biggest challenges. It was a blessing as my students and I quickly learned the basics in each other's languages. It also served as comic relief when we said things incorrectly; we laughed and learned together. Another challenge I faced was the way Iraqi children learn--merely memorizing information. I found myself training students to engage with information, and while it was a struggle initially, they caught on and loved doing activities, working in small groups and engaging with the material they were learning.
Relationships with the children was one of the greatest joys of teaching at the school. Many had dealt with being kidnapped, watching their homes being burned down by militants and having to flee their homes to move to a strange and distant country, yet their resilience--and their constant joy--taught me more than I have ever learned in any classroom.
Evangelism is illegal in Jordan, but the school provided opportunities to share Jesus in a safe place, though I still had to be careful. I prayed with my students before every class and freely answered and encouraged questions about God.
I spent a lot of time in the Word and relied on the Lord for strength as I worked and shared the gospel, understanding my time in Jordan as an opportunity to share in what God is doing in our world.
Cristina Diaz, currently teaching third grade at a Christian school in her hometown, Miami, Florida, hopes to get her master's in international education and return to the Middle East. Some of her students in Amman are pictured above.
Technology Finds New Home
Dave Sweet '63, former chief technology officer, and Russ Leathe, director of network systems at Gordon, recently traveled to the New Theological College in Dehradun, India, and installed in-ground fiber optic cable to connect three of their buildings and to set up their campus network with several used Alcatel switches donated by the Gordon campus. Sweet trained a young man on their staff in video editing and production. Sweet and Leathe also traveled to Bhopal, where they installed an indoor Ethernet distribution system in the Good News Center building. Sweet taught another young man video production, and Leathe taught the book of John to a grassroots Bible school class. Sweet has been doing video production and providing mission support since he retired from Gordon in 2004.
A semester in 2003 at the Contemporary Music Center, an artist's colony in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, solidified a friendship and future for Jill Pickering (left) and Kate Rapier (right), both 2004 graduates. While on Martha's Vineyard, Jill and Kate took classes in songwriting, recording and performing. It didn't take long before they started writing together and formed a music group, JillandKate.
After graduating they traveled around the country performing, writing and recording East Coast Bound, their first album, released in 2005. Sarah McLachlan, Bon Jovi and Lisa Loeb are just some artists who have inspired their work. Last November Kelly Clarkson attended one of their shows and invited them to sing backup for her at the Daytona 500. After the event Kelly asked if they would continue singing backup on tour with her. Jill and Kate are currently on a nationwide tour and also working on recording their second album.
Summer 2007: Seven Weeks in South Africa
Meredith Whitnah '06
I flew to South Africa less than 48 hours after graduating from Gordon--after the most intense and wonderful academic semester of my career there. I had planned to go with Gordon's first pilot program to South Africa the previous year. But when my mom was diagnosed with cancer, all plans changed and dimmed in significance. We went to radiation treatments together instead of talking on the phone from different continents.
It was worth it. What my experience in South Africa drove much deeper within me was the awareness that life is fragile; we are insignificant specks of dust; it is a tenuous, difficult, painful thing to live. And yet it is beautiful; we do matter; and, perhaps most importantly, it is within that paradox that we discover grace.
I am haunted by faces, memories, absence. I have never so fully appreciated the paradox of being human. That may sound abstract and neat, but it's a complicated and dirty mess. How to live in light of what's been seen; how to love; how to be broken and gracious; how to be completely fine and okay; to laugh and yet be completely disconnected and alone; to cry at the same time. And to understand that somehow it's precisely in the middle of the awful sense of bewildering confusion that peace and grace and love are able to have some sort of meaning.
At the end of the day, I am profoundly thankful--for South Africa and what it allowed me to discover; for wonderful friends; for memories; for all the hard stuff that reminds me of the necessity of trust, vulnerability, forgiveness and hope--because life is beautiful. Sad. But beautiful. We are different, yet the same; we are bound to each other. Somehow there's enough grace for each of us to make it all work.
Meredith was a Pike Scholar and designed a gender studies major focusing on the interaction between gender and religion. She plans to do graduate study and hopes to return to South Africa for further research of gender-related issues as well as to reconnect with friends. She is pictured here with Gertrude, a South African woman.
Luke Reynolds '03 is the author of A New Man: Reclaiming Authentic Masculinity from a Culture of Pornography, (StoneGarden.net Publishing, 2007), a book about real-life experiences with pornography, initiating a discussion on ways to create healthier men, women and relationships.
Stella Price '89 wrote the book Chosen for Choson (Emmaus Road Ministries, 2007), which tells the story of Robert Jermain Thomas, a Welshman who is considered by many to be the first Protestant martyr in Korea.
Reading Paul (Wipf and Stock, 2007) is the third book on the Apostle Paul written by Mike Gorman '77. Designed for serious lay readers and beginning divinity students, it treats the major themes in Paul's theology and relates them to the contemporary church.
Ted Sider '88 is a professor of philosophy at New York University and has coauthored with Earl Conee Riddles of Existence: A Guided Tour of Metaphysics (Oxford University Press, 2005). He describes it as "an introduction to metaphysics for students and nonphilosophers." To fellow philosophers he says, "It's supposed to be the kind of book you can give to your friends and family when they ask what you do for a living."