Don’t cry for me, Argentina

Eduardo and Elvira Ramirez advocate that in order for a Christian to effectively reach out to others, he or she must strive for cross-cultural understanding. It is for this reason that Mr. Ramirez, professor of youth ministry, and Mrs. Ramirez, professor of Spanish, will teach INST 480, Cross Cultural Mindset in Ministry, a capstone which will include a spring break trip to Argentina.

“A lot of people in this country, especially those in ministry, have a narrow understanding of their own culture,” Mr. Ramirez said. “We want to expand the mindset of students to think beyond their narrow subcultures.”

The Ramirezes, who hail from Argentina, are excited to share their culture with students. This is the second year that the Ramirezes are teaching the capstone class.

“This particular capstone is similar to other capstone courses in the sense that it encourages students to reflect in an engaging way with today’s culture,” Mrs. Ramirez said. “It helps the student serve as a Christian who serves knowing what the world is all about.”

The capstone differs from others in that it closely and experientially engages with another culture. “In our class, we hope to merge our being Christians into the reality of being in a different part of the world full of people from different backgrounds and cultures,” Mrs. Ramirez said.

In the classroom during the semester, students will study the history, economy, current events and culture of Argentina. When traveling to Argentina, students will bring chronological knowledge of the country that they’ve gained: how it was founded, how it has been organized over the years and today’s current situation.

The spring break trip, which is centrally focused in Buenos Aires, puts students in direct contact with Christians who live and work in the city. Visits include missions organizations, Christian agencies, theological seminaries, orphanages, churches and cultural performances.

This particular course is perfect for junior Andrew Zakhari. “I am going on the trip because I love Latin American culture and wanted to find a capstone that integrated ministry skills and Spanish,” he said.

On one of the final days of the trip, students have the opportunity to travel on their own throughout Buenos Aires. They receive basic instructions but will navigate the city solo. Additionally, on the final night of the trip, each student will stay in the home of a local Christian family.

Junior Julie Wright appreciates the focus of the trip. “I’m excited to see the cultural difference in Argentina and to stay with locals there. I’m also excited to go with people who have lived there before,” she said.

“The experience is very important to open ourselves to new ideas. The way we do things here may be one good way, but there are other good ways,” Mr. Ramirez said. “There are things that are acceptable in Argentina, that are not acceptable here. What do we do with that?”

These reasons are precisely why gaining cross-cultural understanding is so foundational to ministry.

“I’m choosing to go on the Argentina capstone because I am a youth ministry major,” junior Joanna Dull said. “I think that learning about a cross-cultural approach to ministry will challenge me both to be more sensitive to the world that my youth group experiences and to think beyond the local youth group.”

These are the results that both Mr. and Mrs. Ramirez hope for.

Students will be confronted with new ideas, and the professors will ask them to reflect in a paper when they return from Argentina. “They will connect the dots for themselves, not for us,” Mr. Ramirez said.

The traveling aspect of the class coupled with the wisdom and experience of the Ramirezes is definitely a draw for many students.

“I’ve always wanted to go to South America, and I thought this would be a good first experience there since everything will be planned and included in the trip. I also respect both of the Ramirezes very much and was excited to be able to have both of them for a class,” junior Hilary Pearson said.

Junior Ashley Kern shares similar motives. “I have always wanted to travel with a group of Eastern students in some form before I graduate,” she said. “Plus, it’s with two of the greatest professors at Eastern who both know Buenos Aires extremely well because they lived there. I don’t know what all to expect, but I am sure it will be an amazing and growing experience.”

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