Orientation: Identity and Theological Reflection

Today was a full day for the Study-Service Theology Term (SSTT) group, beginning with an 8:00 breakfast and then a full day of orientation in the offices of Goshen College’s Center for International and Intercultural Education (CIIE). Interim Academic Dean Jo-Ann Brant began the day with a brief worship service and then students shared what rock they had brought to leave behind in Guatemala, and why, and also what item they would take to Guatemala to keep them rooted. Students then reflected on their identities and did an observation exercise led by Jo-Ann. Late in the morning SSTT Program Director Keith Graber Miller led the group in a conversational covenant, reflecting on how we would respect and talk with each other. To do so we used a drawing students did of the Body of Christ and talked about what tears apart and what builds up the Body of Christ (and in this, case, what sustains our SSTT group). Just before the noon break, Jo-Ann took the group though GC’s labyrinth and talked further about pilgrimages.

After a delectable lunch, SST Director Tom Meyers talked about Goshen College’s Study-Service Term and how it served as the foundation for the Study-Service Theology Term, and then Keith led the group in a kahoot quiz on Guatemalan history, culture, economics and geography. Keith then facilitated a continuum exercise that identified perspectival and preferential perspectives on theological, worship-style, and sociological questions, sparking rich and sometimes intense conversations. Leaders were impressed with SSTT Scholars’ ability to think theologically, and to engage with passion. The group ended the day’s formal orientation with Keith and Jo-Ann, as well as program assistants Peter Paetkau and Gloria Showalter, talking about health and safety in Guatemala.

After Jo-Ann did a luggage check with students, the group walked to Keith and Ann Graber Miller’s home near the college. Ann, who was raised in Puerto Rico, made a delicious rice, beans and chicken dinner, which we enjoyed on the Graber Miller deck facing the Goshen Dam Pond. Students enjoyed hanging out in the back lawn, canoeing, riding around on the pond in the Graber Miller pontoon, and rich conversations, and some finished the evening watching the NBA Basketball Finals in the basement (they are still here!).

We’re looking forward to another day of orientation tomorrow. Thanks for joining us on the journey!