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You are the voice. We are the echo.
The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Echo

Intercultural communication

There are several trends in intercultural communication education in many universities. One model favors experiential learning, while the other focuses on addressing inequities of various kinds. Each of these makes its own worthwhile contribution to intercultural learning, but here at Taylor, there is a way to do even more.

For those who feel called to engage them, the Taylor World Outreach (TWO) Lighthouse trips are a life-changing opportunity to learn and serve abroad. And in J-term 2025, in partnership with the Communication Department, students can also complete a Taylor course, CAC 340 intercultural communication, in Hungary as a TWO Lighthouse trip option.

The Communication Department piloted this model in J-term 2023 in Kosovo following the example of Brad Seeman, who offers contemporary christian belief in the Basque region of Spain in alternating years. The Kosovo 2023 team completed the intercultural communication coursework and also led youth group games and teaching, hosted two weekend retreats for high schoolers and learned much from the local ministry partners and their strategy of slow, deep relationship building.

Through initiatives like this, classroom concepts about how a nation’s history shapes its culture, or how other cultures value time, manage autonomy, community or freedom to be individuals, come to life in deep and memorable ways. Engaging these differences in a local setting also helps the team realize that familiar or even unquestioned communication, ministry or ways of knowing need a different approach or set of expectations in a new setting. The wisdom and experience of local ministry partners add a richness to the learnings throughout the process.

These few examples just begin to get at the way that one of the best gifts of international intercultural communication coursework and ministry is being invited and challenged to rethink how others can be so different but still have so very much to offer and that other cultures deserve to be taken seriously.

As John Stott puts it, “The overriding reason why we should take other people’s cultures seriously is that God has taken ours seriously. God is the supreme communicator. And his Word has come to us in extremely particularized form. Whether spoken or written, it was addressed to particular people in particular cultures using the particular thought-forms, syntax, and vocabulary with which they were familiar. Then when God’s Word actually ‘became flesh,’ the ‘flesh’ he became was that of a first-century, male, Palestinian Jew. Thus, both Inspiration and Incarnation—two fundamental evangelical truths —are models of sensitive cross-cultural communication, and summon us to follow suit” (John Stott, “Down to Earth,” 1981 vii,viii).

As we come to know and care for others, made in the image of God, and yet so different from who or what we may have known before, we get a bigger vision of the Kingdom family God invites and prepares heaven to spend eternity with.

In summary, TWO Lighthouse trips go far beyond the academics of regular study abroad experiences, offering the training and support to learn, serve and come to know and love those across the globe. In tandem with an academic opportunity, we learn with — and from — the communities we serve.