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Global Vision - Fall 2012

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Graduate preaching fellowship 2011: Rhythms of holy places

by Kirsten Laderach, '11

The Graduate Preaching Fellowship made possible one of the most incredible 10-month experiences I could ever imagine. I traveled to India, South Africa, Israel/Palestine and Jordan. Every destination and journey filled my eyes, ears, nose, heart and stomach with memories, many memorable and some absolutely unforgettable.

I remember my arrival into India as if I were arriving there today. I was a mixed bag of nerves and excitement. I knew someone would be at the airport when I arrived and that I had a place to stay, and that was about it. I wondered to myself if this was crazy—traveling alone for 10 months?

I traveled in mid-August. I arrived one night around midnight at Chennai International Airport in heavy rains; amidst crowds, a garland of flowers and three soon-to-be-familiar faces. They whisked me away through the night on a more than three-hour journey to Tiruvannamalai and the Quo Vadis Interfaith Dialogue Center. This would become my first Indian home.

A Village of 200,000

I was told that Tiruvannamalai was really a village, and compared to a city like Chennai it basically functioned like one, but I was unfamiliar with the concept of a village of 200,000-plus people. It was loud and smelly, crowded, very hot and unkempt. It was absolutely overwhelming in every sense of the word. 

The first week I think I just walked around in a daze. There was so much to take in. Monkeys and cows, peacocks and flowers, open-air sewage, calls to prayer, beating drums, firecrackers, burning trash, ethereal ashrams, ancient temples, poverty, loud bus horns, burning camphor. All my senses darted constantly.

It was an absolute cacophony of sights, sounds and aromas. Every day no matter how little or how much I did, I would come home exhausted. I thought, "Oh my, how am I going to make it through this year?"

Time to Adjust

About a week or two into my stay in Tiruvannamalai, I was sitting with many of those on staff at the Dialogue Center and I asked everyone what was happening today in the village? It was so much quieter and calmer than the last few days.

At first no one answered. They all just sort of looked at each other, then one person spoke directly to me: "Maybe, you're starting to relax." That was it. Nothing had changed but me; my perspective and my awareness slightly altered and rearranged.

What was exhausting had started to inspire and energize. Rhythms and patterns began to appear as did my confidence and comfort, even if comfort was very relative this year.

This experience would play out over and over again with the different villages, cities and countries I visited. None were as dramatic as the first, but all were important as I began to appreciate and understand the cultures and the communities to which I traveled. 

It takes time to get to know different cultures and lands, just as it takes time to get know people and even yourself. I am so thankful for the time I was given this past year to do that.

Read more about Kirsten's travels in South Africa, India and Israel/Palestine at her blog: cacophonyandrhyme.wordpress.com

About the About the Graduate Preaching Fellowship

The Graduate Preaching Fellowship offers a unique opportunity for a student to spend a year in another culture for reflection and skill strengthening in the art of preaching in preparation for parish ministry in the United States. The primary intent of the award is to afford the student freedom for the study of preaching and time for other experiences related to preaching and worship. It is supported annually by a generous gift from an anonymous donor.

The insights and experiences gained by association with other cultures are meant to broaden one's understanding of preaching in the whole of Christ's church and will contribute significantly to one's preaching in a congregational setting.

Read about the 2012 Graduate Preaching Fellowship