Each year, EMS upperclassmen are offered the opportunity to embark on experiential learning trips in the month of June. On even years, the Touring Choir travels in Europe, singing in cathedrals, learning about European culture from host families, teaching music to school children, and seeing the wondrous sights.
On odd years, students are offered a dissonance experiential learning “Discovery trip” on topics of agricultural sustainability, water, conservation, sustainable energy, technology, and First Nations.
Both of these trips encourage students to think critically and to grow in their faith. I am fortunate to have had the privilege of participating in both of these experiences.
In 2018, Touring Choir traveled through England, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Significant stops included Westminster Abbey; the Kolner Dom in Cologne, Germany; the Alps of Austria beside the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hallstatt; and Zurich, Switzerland where we learned about Anabaptist heritage.
One of the most formative faith experiences for me was the welcome we received at Harehills Lane Baptist Church in Leeds, England. Singing with the congregation and staying in their homes felt like a homecoming of sorts; they had been waiting for our choir to come back since the 2016 trip visited them. In that visit, I felt what it means to know people are Christians by their love.
At Harehills Lane, I shared that Touring Choir had taught me that God is in control, that I am able to take my hands off my life, accept that God has a plan, and learn to love that plan. How Can I Keep From Singing from the Chamber Choir repertoire describes that. “Day by day this pathway smooths since first I learned to love it,” says the classic folk hymn. How can I keep from singing through the tumult and the strife, through uncertainty, because I have learned to love the pathway God has set for my life? These words stay with me.
I spent June 2017 on a Discovery trip. I learned what it means to truly listen to another person’s point of view and to respect those who hold different opinions from myself. We were challenged to think about different sides of controversial issues such as water management and land conservation in the Colorado River basin. We heard perspectives from Plateau Restoration, an organization that takes groups on rafting tours of the Colorado River and works for ecosystem preservation. We also heard from people in Las Vegas, a major user of the Colorado River’s limited water, and began to understand the complexities of the issues from different interest groups.
On this trip, I was able to grow in my ability to see and respect another person’s point of view. A friend and I had a series of conversations about the biblical seven-day creation story versus the modern science theory of a 4.5 billion year-old earth. We disagreed in significant ways; at the beginning, our conversations were heated and defensive. As we learned to see perspectives from opposing viewpoints, we were able to talk with each other freely and respectfully.
I am grateful to the teachers, administrators and parents who make these kinds of learning experiences possible. Thank you EMS!
Editor’s Note: Myron Blosser ’79, long-time EMHS biology teacher, led the first Coast-to-Coast trip in 1998 from Harrisonburg High School. Five years later, after joining the staff at EMS, he and Elwood Yoder lead a trip called Lewis and Clark. This biennial trip was later called Discovery. Myron led trips until 2013. Science teacher Lee Good, joined the trips in 2011 and 2013 and has taken leadership since then. He will lead his third trip this summer. Numerous faculty, staff, alumni and parents have had the privilege of joining the trips as chaperones, cooks and learners.