What happens to us spiritually when we are disoriented, unable to speak the local language, and dependent on those who are familiar in our new setting? Our desire is to feel safe, to hear clearly, and to draw closer to God, but how?
Ignatian spirituality was key to this cohort of students from nine different countries. Our times of listening to God while in Kuala Lumpur (KL) through Ignatian contemplation on key passages, enabled God’s voice to be heard over the noise of cultural dissonance. The Bible is full of stories of displaced people either by the direct call of God, or through refugee crises. Luke 13:29 reminds us that “people will come from east and west, from north and south, and recline at the table in the Kingdom of God.” This was our heart’s desire, that in the middle of the cultural dissonance of KL, and the various backgrounds of the cohort, we would find time to worship, hear from God, learn and grow together, and form a new community.
Our time together was intentionally academic as this is a required course but the result is also a deep spiritual transformation. Each person (student, faculty, guest) was invited to explore what God was calling forth. Our prayer was that “the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened in order that we may know the hope to which he has called us, the riches of this glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe” (Ephesians 1:18). We knew we were called to KL to see what God was doing; we knew we would be changed by this experience; however, we didn’t have a picture of how God would change us.
Journaling gave us time to record what emerged from the contemplations, to record how we were changed by what we saw and learned. The deep humility of the people we encountered was the thumbprint of Christ. The deep desire of a thriving New Malaysia as a result of the elections (the day before we arrived) reflected the hope God places in all of us for righteousness and human flourishing. The transformative places of employment deepened our call to a Theology of Work and revealed God’s heart for the marginalized. Our experiences in KL spoke to our hearts for the marginalized in our home cities.
At the beginning of each day (7:30 am) we gathered for times of contemplation and meditation on passages from the Bible. Upon each passage we journaled the following:
- Which part stood out to me?
- How do I feel about it?
- How would I like to respond to what God is saying to me?
At the end of each day our prayer was to invite God to speak to us: “Father we seek the way you see the world. We have experienced much today and ask you to help us process today. We ask you for clarity and an eager heart so that we may worship you more and serve each other better.”
So we journaled what spoke to us at the end of each day by considering the following questions:
- What stood out to me today?
- When did I sense God’s presence?
- When did I not sense God’s presence?
- Is there any unrest in me today?
- As I bring my unrest to God today, what do I sense?
Each of us left having learned so much both academically and for the organizations we all worked with, but we also left transformed and the thumbprint of God was more deeply etched into our minds, souls, heart, and spirits.
I invite you to join us for a city immersion, not only for the academic learning but to see for yourself what God is doing around the world.
Dr. Nita Kotiuga