Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | July 15, 2017

Geographical Literacy

Amman, Jordan

In spite of all the power at our disposal through our electronic devices, most people continue to suffer from insufficient geographical knowledge. Describing Africa as a country is an example of what it means to have a measure of geographical illiteracy.

If we are to better understand the world in which we live, then we need to foster greater understanding of geography. Everything that happens in the world, after all, happens in a geographical context.

Our time in Jordan this past week has given our students better insight into the movement of refugees from one place to another. They now understand a little more about the challenges refugees face in uprooting their families and traveling great distances in search of safety.

There is no doubt that being onsite can yield greater insight into people and places. Visiting with displaced Iraqi Christians this past week in their context has opened the eyes, minds, and hearts of our students. They are coming home with a more informed understanding of current events in the Middle East.

While in Jordan, our students also had the opportunity to visit the Dead Sea, the Jordan River, Mount Nebo, and several other fascinating places. They will never read their Bibles the same way again because they have a better understanding of the geographic context in which so many Bible stories happened.

We concluded our time in Jordan by visiting Petra, a world heritage site, and then going on a safari in Wadi Rum. We talked about the ancient peoples who traversed this region in caravans and the challenges they faced. Spending a night in Wadi Rum helped our students understand just a little bit of what it must have been like for those trying to survive in this vast desert.

At one point I picked up a handful of sand and talked about Psalm 139:17-18, one of my favorite passages of scripture. David wrote these words to express how much God thinks about us. His thoughts about us exceed the number of grains of sand on the planet. David drew this analogy out of his geographic context.

I am proud of our students and the compassionate way in which they served refugee families this past week. They did not hesitate to move in the direction of people in need to offer them “a little bit of balm and a little bit of honey.” In other words, their presence had both a healing and a refreshing impact on those they served.

We develop geographical literacy by doing what people have done for generations — leaving familiar surrounding for distant horizons in order to make new discoveries. In the process we not only learn about the places and people we visit, we also learn more about ourselves. This past week our students have done both. Therein lies the value of going beyond.


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