Encounter bursary recipients report on summer travels

Students immersed in cross-cultural Christian contexts tell of transformative experiences

 Over the summer, the Cambridge Centre for Christianity Worldwide’s Intercultural Encounter programme funded more than a dozen students to spend a significant length of time in a Christian community in another culture. These students are now reporting back on their summer travels. Amy Ross, the Encounter coordinator, writes about these reports.

Photograph from Rachel Preston

I love my job because it is brimming over with hope, and stories of positive Christian engagement with a challenging world. Participants in the Encounter scheme are required to write a report about their placements and to take part in a debrief event. Emerging from this feedback are descriptions of very formative experiences, including some powerful stories of personal challenge and transformation. What a privilege it is to read reports telling of the joy of encountering the other in their context, of personal growth, of resource-sharing, of humility in action – all the things that challenge racism, fear and division. Examples from three of this year’s seventeen bursars are given here:

Iain Osborne, ordinand – West Bank/Palestine

“I was in Palestine and Israel from 10 July to 6 August, in a small town called Zababdeh, near Jenin in the north of the Occupied Territories.  One of my strongest impressions overall has been the contrast between what I expected, given the politics, and what I met.  I believe I have been permanently influenced by this experience in several ways. First, I have seen vividly illustrated the value of strong family and community ties.  Second, I believe that this visit has been the beginning of a relationship with that part of the world.  I have opted this year to study Hebrew through my course, and my wife and I are both learning Arabic.  Third, my understanding of the political situation has improved… I have returned asking myself, how can we be more Palestinian?”

Charlotte Kane, medical student – Malawi

“This summer I spent 8 weeks in Malawi. I experienced more wonderful things than I could have dared hoped, and can only pray that I remember the lessons that I learnt. This was my first time in a developing country. It is one thing to know that poverty exists, it is another to see it in real life. During the sermon one Sunday I was struck with a very clear thought that the Gospel is truly universal. I had known this as head knowledge before, but sitting there I suddenly realised that Jesus is not a white Westerner and it was as if it was the first time this thought had occurred to me. The Gospel is for all people, and does not belong or make sense in one culture more than another. All in all, I am still thinking through many of the lessons that I would like to remember from Malawi. What I can say is that it was an immensely rich experience.”

Danny Pegg, ordinand – South Dakota, United States

“I spent four and a half weeks on the Rosebud Reservation, in South Dakota in a town called Mission among the Sicangu Lakota people. My time on the Rosebud could be entitled ‘Mission 101’. I have not experienced such unbiased, unrelenting service of people in a church context before. I have not seen Christian encounter with a culture completely separate from [Christianity] before…. I have had so many experiences that I need to spend more time reflecting on but I do not doubt for one moment that this has been the single most formational experience of my entire life. No matter where I end up serving, and whether inter-cultural tensions or oppression (etc) are an issue in any way, I have learnt and experienced things that will benefit my ministerial ability there.”

In addition to placements in east, central and southern Africa, Encounter bursars went to countries in Latin America, the Middle East, North America, Europe, and to Russia.

Bursary recipients were thankful to CCCW for providing funding and intercultural support to make their placements possible. It is the hope of the Centre that bursars go on to embed within their lifestyles and relationships the respect and appreciation for different expressions of Christianity that they have encountered.

If you or someone you know could benefit from an Encounter scheme bursary please click here for more information or contact the Encounter Coordinator.