Olivet Theological College and Seminary is offering a featured course “Intercultural Studies” at the Riverside Campus this quarter. Students enrolled in the course has gained a new perspective on the world’s different cultures and learned to respect the diversity.
Instructed by Dr. Jasmine Park, who has years of experience serving as a missionary in Africa and Canada, the course examines the worldview, cognitive process, language and symbolism of all major cultures in the world. For example, in one project, students research about the cultural background of clothing and jewelry in different countries, then present their findings during class.
“There are many cultural factors that influence people's thought and behavior. That’s why we should respect others instead of judging them based on our own experience. It’s very important because we are living in such an intercultural environment now," second-year Master of Divinity student Cephas Zhang said.
In an increasingly globalized world, knowing different cultures and customs seems to be easier than ever. Yet when it comes to communicating the Gospel across cultural borders, it remains quite challenging for most inspiring missionaries.
The solution and the ultimate goal, according to Dr. Park, is "incarnational witness" – communicating the mind of Christ and imitating the likeness of Christ in our daily lives. Just as Apostle Paul wrote in II Cor 5:17-18a, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone and the new is come,” the people of God are not just defined by the ethnic or national culture that they belong to, but Christ has given us new life and new culture through salvation.
Students have found the class very rewarding, especially many of them are from East Asian countries and are called to do cross-cultural missions.
“The class helps me gain great awareness about cultural differences. I have become more sensitive to the related matters as I communicate with people. I feel I am better equipped to go out to the world to win people to Christ,” Zhang said.