When I found out my application for the Gordon in Orvieto program had been rejected, I only grudgingly accepted my admission into another global education program--Gordon in Boston. I thought Boston was far from qualifying as a “real” abroad program; I wouldn’t have to learn another language, exchange my money, or long for home since I’d be only 40 minutes from the Gordon campus. I also assumed that Boston and inner-city areas in general were poverty-ridden and plagued by crime-committing minorities.
I began my semester working for The Boston Project Ministries as a counselor for youth groups from around the country, helping expose them to aspects of ministry they might not have witnessed otherwise. In due time they began to understand how a community develops in close quarters, what it means for a person to be black but not identify as African, and how a bribe-taking senator or Enron executive may need just as much if not more love from God’s children than a man sleeping on Boston Common.
But ministry is in no way restricted to themes of social justice. As an assistant to the pastor of the Second Church of Dorchester, I found myself leading Bible studies and various parts of Sunday services while helping to coordinate communication among the church, Gordon and The Boston Project. It was a challenge preaching to an unfamiliar and bilingual congregation and spiritually leading those more seasoned than myself. In time and with grace I found myself adopted, and my suggestions began to carry respected weight.
Apart from ministry, I had the opportunity to accomplish two longstanding dreams: attending a Chinese martial arts school and enrolling at Harvard University. Every week in Kung Fu we pursued an art form that was more than three and a half centuries old, based on the movements of the praying mantis. It demanded discipline and a full awareness of its history. At Harvard, it was an honor to study in the same halls that produced for this country John F. Kennedy, W.E.B. Dubois, and Natalie Portman. However, I confess that it was often a struggle not to confuse learning with the smell of cold stone.
Over the course of the semester, the Old South Church became my favorite place to pray. The Central Library in Copley Square provided everything for my studies. And Sushi Express by Boston University always settled my dietary rumblings. At the beginning of my semester I hadn’t wanted Boston. I wanted Pompeii, gondoliers and the Etruscan countryside. I wanted Italy. Or rather, I wanted a world so far removed from my own that all I would have been able to do was stand back and watch. But as it turned out, I didn’t need to travel to the far side of the world in order to find--and, more importantly, make--a world of difference. In many ways our closest neighbors are more alien to us than the most remote corners of the earth. Trust me--my time “abroad” was as real as it gets.
Peter Lee '08 is a native of New York City and is currently pursuing his Master of Divinity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.