With education abroad programs in more than 40 countries worldwide, Messiah College has touted international travel as an integral part of the academic experience for some time—something that benefits students as well as professors. Just ask Biblical studies professor Meg Ramey, who traveled to five continents in less than one year from May 2011 to January 2012.
Two days after she returned from Turkeyin June 2011, Ramey traveled to Peru to investigate a potential new location for crosscultural studies. Her trip to the Communityof Children of the Sacred Family, a home for children in Lima, presented an eye-opening experience she hopes to share with Messiah students. “I stayed in the dorm for 5-yearold girls and saw 50 little girls packed into a space about the size of Boyer Hall’s atrium,” she said. “They don’t have much there, yet these were some of the happiest, most wellbehaved kids that I’ve ever seen.”
Just four days after returning to Pennsylvania from Peru, Ramey left for Scotland to graduate from the University of St. Andrew’s. Although Ramey said she originally planned to study for a second master’s degree at the university, she instead pursued a four-year, full-time program for a Ph.D. in divinity. “Studying in Scotland reaffirmed for me how important cultural context is for developing the way in which we view and experience the world,” said Ramey. “Since reading the Bible itself is a cross-cultural experience, as our students learn quickly in their Encountering the Bible course at Messiah, we’re constantly trying to bridge the 2,000–3,000 year gap in our own situation in 21st-century America and that of those from the ancient Near East and Mediterranean cultures who first wrote and received the biblical books. In a sense, my time in Scotland helped to broaden my cultural lens both by reading the Bible through Scottish and other international eyes and by being trained to read the biblical texts within their ancient cultural contexts.”
South America – Rodeo, Bolivia
In July, Ramey embarked on her fourth journey, this time just miles south of Peru to neighboring Bolivia. Traveling with an all-female team of eight Messiah students, Ramey led a two-week mission trip through central Bolivia. During this time, the team partnered with Food for the Hungry, a Christian nonprofit organization that seeks to alleviate all forms of human poverty. During their time in Bolivia, Ramey and her students dedicated a library; created sustainable, environmentally friendly kitchens; played games with local children; and provided encouragement through fellowship with the community. “It was as if they were handing over their hopes and dreams to us,” said Ramey, speaking of the locals’ expressed desire for an improved quality of life.
Following her summer of overseas travel, Ramey returned to Grantham to teach her fall semester of courses. Then, in January of 2012, Ramey took a team of 17 students to Ghana in West Africa, traveling throughout the country and experiencing a variety of different cultures. “I hope these crosscultural experiences foster in our students empathy, compassion and love for their fellow neighbor,” Ramey said, “even if [those neighbors] happen to live on the other side of the world.”
With rich stories from her travels to draw on, Ramey entered the 2012 fall semester reinvigorated and with a host of life lessons and new perspectives to share with her students. “My experiences pushed me out of my own comfort zone and my native context,” she said, “and gave me the opportunity to see how many good and different ways there are to live life.”