I got to have a conversation last night with a minster and friend who has been teaching for years. I told him that I was worried that going from working with isolated elderly people, people on hospice, people in need, etc., to teaching, almost seems like a step backward. I know it's not, and I know that ministry is more than pastoring a church and can definitely include teaching. And, I know that there is a rich history of education as ministry. But on the other hand, I've never quite been one of those people that can think of anything as ministry and I wanted to talk to someone who has real experience as a teaching minister. He talked about working with students who would be the first in their families to get degrees, who didn't have a lot of economic privilege, who needed guidance, ("People like me", I thought to myself.) and the ministry of helping them navigate this process.
Earlier that morning I read something about the "This I Believe" project and the value of writing a faith statement. One of the things that I thought should go in mine is the idea that faith is as necessary to human life as air and water. We need something to believe in, to draw from, and to be inspired by. That's what I want to do with my students. Help them see a future where their world is bigger, and all of us have a place in it together.
I've also bee thinking a lot lately about Tangtong Gyalpo.
Tangtong Gyalpo(I just call him "Tang") is a sort of saint in certain Buddhist traditions. He was known as a bridgebuilder because, get this, he built bridges. Actual bridges. Not figurative bridges between communities and blah blah blah, but actual bridges. Because that's what people needed. I love that.
It reminds me that in order for people to see their similarities and share respect for each other's cultures and all that high-minded stuff, they first have to be able to talk to each other. They have to be able to ask where the bathroom is. So maybe teaching English is the best way for me to be a "Bridgebuilder"right now.