by Wendy Williamson, Director of Study Abroad, Eastern Illinois University
One of the reasons why I like working in the field of study abroad is that study abroad changes lives! It changes minds, but it also changes hearts, as people learn more about themselves and better understand each other.
Sure, there are some students who study abroad for the wrong reasons, but there are plenty who go abroad for the right reasons, too. More importantly, study abroad represents a turning-point for many who have the opportunity and pleasure to immerse themselves in another culture.
A turning point is when life’s path changes direction for better or for worse (marriage, birth, death, epiphany, relocation, new job, new school, etc.). An action or an event alters the future and we are set on a new path. We cannot return to the same place we were before.
The other day, a colleague of mine shared a story with me about a turning point in one of her student’s lives, during a study abroad program she was leading. What struck me about this turning point is God’s eminent, cross-cultural omnipotence, wherever we may seek.
With that, let me get right to this incredible, heart-warming story by Holly Warner…
A strange situation arose for me about 20 years or so ago, when I had a small group in Corsica. We were staying in a small mountain village (800 souls, one church) and the students were studying the famous Corsican “A Capella Polyphony”. There was no hotel, so I had arranged home stays for everyone.
Unfortunately, 2 weeks into our stay, a student from Ohio was notified that her father had had a heart attack, and it looked very unpromising. Obviously, she became extremely distraught, (this is before cell phones if you can imagine!), was unable to reach her home, was becoming hysterical as it would take a full day to get back to Paris and make a connection to Cleveland…and she was afraid that he might die.
I went into her lodgings accompanied by the village priest. He was in full regalia…..beenie, black dress, white collar and silk sash.
He sat down near her bed, and said “I thought you might like to share your unhappiness with me.”
She was in total shock, seeing a priest so close up, and said “No, there must be a mistake, I am Jewish.”
“I know you are Jewish, my sweet, but you must understand that your rabbi and I are in exactly the same business, it is called The God Business. You pray, and I will pray, and God will definitely listen to us”.
She made it home in time, and has maintained a correspondence with this priest throughout the years.
I need not say more, but I will say this… God’s business is my business, too, and that business is to love and help people make the very best of their God-given, miraculous lives. There’s no reward greater than this!
Submitted by Wendy Williamson, Director of Study Abroad, Eastern Illinois University