Found in Translation

When I was in grad school, the “cultural integration” portion of my lesson plans often seemed ambiguous and difficult to write in a meaningful way. By the grace of God, that’s now one of the most exciting parts for me to see in my lessons. It’s not always perfect, but I enjoy a couple anchored examples as I ask students to pull up the Bible app in various languages and we talk about the connotations of “quench,” “extinguish,” or “turn off” that we find in the same verse in different languages.

I also find great joy listening to students translate my lecture content or comments to peers who have less English experience. This week near the end of class I listened to the girl who will be my TA next year explaining the nuance of the comment I made about angels and demons to her Korean peer in their mother tongue. “Hey, maybe my TA project for you next year will be to translate my curriculum into Korean,” I commented. “I’m great at Korean!” the response came immediately. I loved watching her light up with excitement about being able to use her skills to benefit future generations of students.

Personally, I also light up when I get to use my skills to benefit others. I’m excited when I can share something that helps or encourages someone else. I was able to use my grammar skills to proof the yearbook this week, and my pedagogical skills connected content to real life for at least two of my students who had those fulfilling “aha” moments in class. A side benefit of my cultural integration in lessons is that not only do I draw out students who might otherwise disengage, but I’m able to learn a lot myself. I happened to get a lot of Serbian and Brazilian political information in my lessons on angels and demons this week…

We were talking about the temptation C.S. Lewis wrote about to make faith a tool to be a political extremist. A few weeks ago, I was talking to someone about how heartbreaking it is to watch Christians fight about petty things and say, “God is on my side,” and make hurtful comments about how someone couldn’t be a real Christian if they disagreed. In my class, I encouraged my students to think about how they could keep their eyes on Jesus and then choose to vote according to convictions while recognizing their political party was not worthy of worship. I asked my one section of seventeen students who would be eligible to vote in the next major election of their passport country. Nearly every hand was raised, and by my count, there were seven passport countries represented. I don’t know how they will all vote, or even if they actually will, but I hope they find their identity in Christ first.

This week had a lot of other events and conversations that required me to be open handed with my American identity. I laughed as I was walking out of church and a British friend thanked me for doing the readings in service and added, “But you’ll have to work on that accent. I’m confident that Jesus didn’t speak with such a strong American accent.” I love the multicultural church environment I have where I am fully a Jesus follower with dozens of other Jesus followers who happen to hold a myriad of passports.

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