This comment on Lutheran vocation is dedicated to my parents, Allan and Sandy Schmidt, both of whom taught me about the vocation of teaching from little on. Both have served in Lutheran schools their entire adult lives. Here we are in Hanoi in September, 2011, celebrating the opening of Concordia International School – Hanoi, a project that my parents worked on for five years.
One of our distinctives in the Lutheran church is the concept of vocation – that each person is called by God to carry out a ministry in the world. As a called Lutheran teacher at HKIS, I consider my work to be an attempt to offer the gift of sacralization to anyone involved in my teaching. As Jonathan Haidt so poignantly describes in his TED talk, I hope to take students from the profane, or the ordinary, dimension of normal schooling “up the staircase” to the sacred, or the transcendent – to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. Who would have thought that a state-run orphanage in the southern city of Foshan would become such an important place for so many students? Who would have guessed that service could play such a vital role in the lives of Ivy League-bound students? These transformations happen, as it was foretold in this powerful analogy of the creation many years ago: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (II Corinthians 4:6). The key, paradoxically, as all great spiritual teachers know, is that to find oneself – a true Self – one must lose the self – a false self. “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:35). And the starting point on this journey for most HKIS students is an experience with service, as Jesus modeled for us: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
I am very grateful to have had this vocation of serving as an HKIS teacher for 23 years, including the last 14 years as a combined position of human care worker with the LCMS World Mission as well as my teaching at HKIS. It is my hope that these blog reflections will allow me to contemplate my journey up until this point, and to consider future directions.
I would go further and say that offering the gift of sacralization to faculty and students through service should be the mark of HKIS as a Christian school, for as I learned last year in a speech to the faculty by Mel Kieshnick, one of the founders of HKIS, these were driving forces in creating HKIS. Considering teaching at HKIS as a vocation returns us to our roots.
May this vision continue to grow at HKIS.