Many years ago—in the early 90s—we “globalized” our curriculum. Our required “Civ” series (which combined Biblical studies, Church history and religious experience with the history of civilizations—fun to teach, and lots to grapple with) became a world civilizations course which included both Western and world civilizations. In English we included world readings along with tradition English, and even in theology courses readings from non-western theologians were included.
At the same time we began increasing availability of international experiences for students, primarily through cooperative agreements or with other universities. The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities and Brethren Colleges Abroad were our primary sources. More recently our professors have developed our own international trips and programs. We have increasingly sent students on short term trips to India, Israel, Viet Nam, while continuing trips to Europe and Latin America. We have built on faculty experience and expertise.
For instance Dr. Brian Schultz lived and studied for years in Israel. He takes students on archeological trips to the Holy Lands. Dr. Ken Friesen with his wife, Fran, led the efforts of Mennonite Central Committee in Viet Nam. And Dr. Darren Duerksen traveled and worked with churches in India. Dr. Karen Cianci, Dean of Natural Sciences, and Dr. Ruth Dahlquist have teamed up to take students for medical mission trips in Honduras. Students travel and experience another culture, and they serve and experience needs and solutions to pressing problems that they would not experience in the US. Each has developed educational travels for students that build on their own deep experience in these countries and cultures.
These are experiences that shape or reshape students’ lives and outlooks. They add a dimension to their understanding that is difficult to quantify and describe. They open and expand imaginations. To illustrate I asked students who traveled this year to send me something on what they experienced on these trips. Here are some examples of the way they have felt their immediate impact.
From Viet Nam and Cambodia, the humorous and the thoughtful…
Andrew bought several fried tarantulas (he seems determined to try everything new) and he willingly shared with any willing taker. We tried them. That’s not the royal we — I really did try one leg of tarantula.
As for the smells of Vietnam, they were many — and each is as intense and integral to this country as small shops and the persistent sellers. There is often the odor of incense, sandalwood seems to be the most prevalent. Incense sticks are found on alters and beneath trees, in small nooks and crannies everywhere. The best part is that it covers some other odors, less desirable and difficult to pinpoint. The smell of meat cooking is even more noticeable. Since so much of life is on the sidewalk, all those cooking aromas permeate the cities. There are the sweet smells of tropical fruit, of coconut, and of jasmine. But all of it is mixed with the heavy concentration of humid tropical air and of my own sweat
The following day, our group went to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21). This museum preserves the acts of torture committed by the Khmer Rouge regime during their rise to power. It was yet another reminder of the atrocities humans are capable of committing. The name means “poisonous trees” and over the course of its operation, over 20,000 people were killed. There were only seven survivors, two of which we got to meet today while at the museum. It is incredible that these two men have been able to overcome the bitter memories of this place so that they can meet the people who come and share their testimony (through their books). Following the museum, we went on another 5.5 hour bus ride to the city of Siem Reap, our final destination. Here we will spend our last two days visiting the Ankor Wat, the largest temple ever built.
From the trip to Honduras, participating as medical missionaries.
I learned so many things medically and spiritually. My knowledge for how to treat people, and how to care for their problems has grown tremendously. Doing something as simple as taking blood pressure, or giving people medication to make the parasites leave their bodies was very impacting. I gained a confidence from this trip, that taught me that I am capable of helping others in the medical field if I can continue to study hard and maintain a personality that is open to learning. Having a hands-on experience with the doctor was incredible. I was able to visibly gain an understanding of the difference between an infected ear and a regular ear. I was able to listen to the sound of a healthy heart beat, and the sound of a heart murmur. I was able to learn how to immediately treat people with respiratory issues. Being able to help the many kids with asthma was a huge blessing to experience. I was able to participate in taking a cyst off of an individual’s eye, as well as an overgrown skin tag off of another individual’s lower back region. It seemed painless to remove those objects from the two people in the process, yet it resulted in removing so much pain and irritation once the procedure was done. Being able to interact with each patient in Spanish was an awesome opportunity. I was enlightened to interact with others, and being able to do it in a culture that I am not used to. I loved getting to hear the people’s comments on their thankfulness for what we were doing. I loved that I had opportunities to hear people’s problems and issues with their bodies that they had, when those people do not get a chance to do that very often. I loved being a part of a solution to a problem that the people of Honduras continually have to deal with, which is a lack of good medical care. Even though we only got to help them for 2 weeks of their lives, it was amazing to be able to show the people a taste of what good health care actually is.
Once we arrived at our first brigade, the people in Honduras coming to the brigade were filled with joy when they saw the medicine coming. It amazed me and made me feel good that the people were so thankful for over the counter medicine that we sometimes take for granted. It was also a blessing to interact with the kids and put smiles on their faces. The communities were very poor which made me reflect on my early childhood when I was in Mexico for a couple months. When I saw the kids without shoes, it made me remember of the time when I didn’t have any. I just wanted to help those kids out so much but in order to that and be able to make a huge impact on poor communities I have to achieve my goals (become a doctor).
I would really like to return to Honduras, but I also feel called to do more acts of service just here in Fresno. I’m so thankful for the opportunity that Fresno Pacific gave me to gain this experience because my perspective on my life and other countries has been immensely widened.
There were many more, but you have a feel for it. These are the enriching experiences we hope for our students. And we plan, arrange, schedule and find funds to that it can happen. Our professors are particularly gifted, I think, and committed to this kind of work, which takes energy when an academic year has just ended. But is rewarding and enriching for students far beyond what we can predict.