Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
- Acts 1:6-8
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
- Matthew 28:16-20
“But you, Israel, my servant,
Jacob, whom I have chosen,
you descendants of Abraham my friend,
I took you from the ends of the earth,
from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, ‘You are my servant’;
I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
- Isaiah 41:8-10
I wrote some time ago about the ends or corners of the earth. Since the earth is a slightly misshaped sphere, where are the ends or corners? But rather than get into the poetic language, the end or corner for you may be the next-door neighbor.
But I had a question pop into my head recently. Does the average person in the world know much about an end or corner in the world that is a few thousand kilometers or miles away?
Sure, there are those of us who are “world travelers” who have been in places that are thousands of miles away. Those people who have suffered from jet lag might know a little about somewhere else.
But one of the secretaries in the Facilities Engineer office in Watertown, MA (facility now decommissioned and turned into retail shopping) was an Italian-American. Massachusetts is not a very big state. You could be in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, or New Hampshire in less than an hour from where we lived. This secretary started asking me questions about New Hampshire and my home state of Mississippi and Germany, since I had just returned from there. In talking to her, she had only been in three places her entire life: Massachusetts (specifically the greater Boston area, but mostly Watertown), Florida (specifically Miami), and Italy. She had flown to those places and had no concept of how far away they were, sleeping on the plane and being afraid to look out the window. When she could have thrown a rock (a bit of an exaggeration) into four neighboring states, she had never ventured there.
A couple of months ago, our new associate pastor clued me into a game on the phone called “WORLDLE.” It is not the word game Wordle, but the game is made in a similar fashion. You get the outline of a country and six guesses to get it right. If you miss, there will be an arrow that will show you a rough compass direction and how many kilometers the country is from your guess. Like Wordle, you get six guesses. While the downloaded version can be addictive with new “maps” after each country is identified, the online game is like Wordle, one country per day. Here is a link to the free-to-play online version: Worldle (teuteuf.fr)
With all that in mind, I called my younger son and asked if the Tennessee education standards included World Geography. He said that it was an elective at the high school level, after he researched the educational standards. Of course, as a full course, you learn more about the countries than what the map looks like. You learn about the major exports of the country. You might learn the type of government, the major religions, the languages spoken, etc.
But when I was in elementary school in Mississippi back in the Dark Ages (or so it might seem to young people today), we studied Mississippi geography, memorizing each county in the state and the county seat. We could locate each on the map. Then we did the same for every state in the USA, with the state capitol instead of the county seat. And yes, there were fifty states at the time. We learned the state flags and interesting things about each state. We then studied the world. Learning the same things about every country in the Western Hemisphere, but maybe not all the islands. We learned most of the countries in Europe and some in Africa and Asia. Of course some of these countries have changed since then.
The point is that we learned that there was more to this world than our neighborhood.
When I get a visitor to this website from a country that I am not familiar with, I look it up online. I learn about its government, exports, languages, religions, and such. I cheer when I get a five-continent or six-continent day. I want to reach those ends or corners of the world.
And I think that not teaching this stuff at an early age keeps our children’s brains thinking too small.
If you think too small, you might not realize that an hour’s drive away could reveal a different culture. Even though an hour in any direction from where my wife and I live is still the USA, we can visit the mountains, the rolling hills of pastureland, great rivers, and a preserved prairie. We can visit Amish communities, Mennonite communities, and communities that have concentrations of immigrants from around the world. We can go to restaurants that represent cuisine from around the world, although the Indonesian restaurant closed. But we can go to a regular American grocery store or a Mexican, Indian, or Chinese grocery.
When I talked to my son, he asked who was the latest new visitor to the website. I told him, Senegal. He beamed and said that two or three families in his school district had moved to the area from there and he had studied their musical culture so that he could incorporate that into this year’s music education for the school.
Maybe I had a little wanderlust growing up. My wife had a lot, living on three continents, sort of, before she was ten. She was born on the island of Java in Indonesia which is considered part of Asia, culturally, but closer to Australia and its territories. I have been to each of the 48 contiguous states and the members of my family lack just a few. Our younger son is the only one who has been to Alaska.
Our younger son was born while I was stationed in Germany. Odd how he is so interested in learning new languages, besides the musical cultures around the world.
But the point being, we lived three years on the border between Germany and France. It was a day’s drive to and from Switzerland. Then weekend trips to Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg or to Austria. Until then, I had only been to Canada and Puerto Rico. My wife had lived around the world.
But for the last twenty years of my working career, I was the training manager for an engineering company that did work internationally. Oddly, I never made it south of the equator, but I travelled a lot in the Northern hemisphere. I felt that it was part of my job to learn a few key phrases in the language wherever I went, even though I worked through a translator. I felt that it was important knowing the culture. It was all part of showing love for my fellow man.
But I think that my point here is that we are missing out in our education system if we do not expand the horizons of our youngsters. It may only be used by a small fraction of the students, but as the internet brings people together from around the world, there is more interaction among nations than you might think.
Then, when Jesus commands us to take the Gospel to the ends of the world, our “ends” have expanded to include everyone.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.