Challenging the Single Story

Alex, Dion and Jacob collectively gave the sermon/story-telling at Kern Road Mennonite Church in South Bend this past Sunday, just a week after we returned from the Study-Service Theology Term in Guatemala. They shaped their words around Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk “The Danger of a Single Story,” which we had watched and discussed during our orientation on Goshen College’s campus. Adichie, a Nigerian novelist, speaks about the danger of knowing only one story about a culture or people, and addresses how we can complexify such stories by spending time in another culture, and recognizing differences within various cultures.

The three SSTTers talked about their former “single stories” about Guatemala, and then told about various cultural dimensions they experienced in the Central American country. They also spoke about where they had seen God in Guatemala — in the interactions in our group and between our group and our hosts; in the graciousness of the Guatemalan people; and in the various women’s cooperatives and organizations we visited.

One of the hopes of the post-SSTT experience is that students will be able to speak in their home churches, so this was a great model for what we hope others can do.

We’re also seeking applications now for our 2020 Study-Service Theology Term, so if you know a high schooler who will be a sophomore, junior or senior this year — someone who is committed to the church, who would benefit from learning to think theologically in a cross-cultural context, and who might consider working in or around the edges of the church someday — please encourage them to apply for SSTT. Participants can come from any Christian denominational group, and we value diversity in the group make-up. After students are selected, they pay only a $100 deposit, and all other travel, room and board expenses are covered by a grant from the Lilly Endowment, Religion Division, and Goshen College. We hope some young people you know will go online and apply now for June 2020’s program.