EMBERS stories: The Peace We Long For
December 19, 2016
As a part of our EMBERS community launch, we’ve asked members of the Global Immersion family to share why they are choosing to invest into the Global Immersion movement.
In a world fraught with conflict—political, racial, economic, interpersonal—we are searching, we are longing for a place of peace. What role might we, should we serve in facilitating that peace? Beyond playing referee to my two sons’ skirmishes in years past, I had never considered myself a peacemaker nor contemplated my responsibility to become one. Amidst several unexpected encounters, however, I was jarred out of a complacency I hadn’t known existed.
Against my initial inclination in February 2016, I found myself participating in the Global Immersion Project’s immigration workshop in San Diego and Tijuana.
For three days my blissfully unselfconscious assumptions were undermined by the people I met and the stories they shared.
As a long-time wife and mother, I heard the agonized hearts of deported women separated from their families in America, their cheerful pink shirts belying their reality of abusive spouses and fierce, abiding love for their children. As the daughter of a Filipino immigrant, I sat across from a San Salvador pilgrim who had journeyed five months to Tijuana, his perceived gateway to freedom, and a heavily tattooed gang member recently deported from San Diego. Over plates of rice and beans, stumbling words, and painful glances, I witnessed their desperate need for peace amidst past and present unrest.
By the end of my Global Immersion experience, the piercings of my heart left my head uncertain how to act upon a new, raw awareness of human need.
In the months following my encounters, actions grew organically, if sporadically, as I sought to translate the impact of my immigration experiences to my evangelical, faith-based university. As chief academic officer, I began to engage with other institutional leaders, sharing my story and compelling desire to more fully align our commitment to Christ-centered education with Christ’s commitment to “making peace by the blood of his cross.” The need for faith in action resonated deeply with my colleagues, and together we contemplated possibilities for our students, faculty, and staff. We extended the opportunity for key leaders to attend a forthcoming Global Immersion experience and further brainstormed the possibility of mirroring such experiences in our own incredibly diverse backyard.
These steps, while yet embryonic, are critical to moving closer toward the kind of education Henri Nouwen describes in The Way of the Heart: increasing our faithfulness to the great commandment to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul, and our neighbor as ourselves.
The peace we long for is the peace we must strive toward for others as well as for ourselves.
One person, one experience, one story at a time, we are compelled by Christ’s love to further his work in transforming a culture of conflict into a culture of hope and peace. This is a high calling, and we are called to nothing less.
About the Author:
Janet Sommers has over 28 years of teaching and leadership experience in Christian higher education, devoting the majority of those years to the University of Northwestern – St. Paul. A professor of English & Literature, Janet currently serves as Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, a role that allows her to champion Christ-centered education as transformation. She has been married for 26 years to her beloved husband Dan, and they have two college-age sons, Elliot and Graham.