Faithful Learning in Geography

 By: Sean Harrison (HS Social Studies Teacher)

In January 2004, I was in my second semester of university at Texas Christian University. I had not declared a major and was not very sure of what I wanted to do with my life at that point. As I was signing up for courses to fulfill my core requirements, I decided to take a geography course without much real excitement or expectation. As I walked to the first class of the semester, I remember thinking, “How are we going to spend an entire semester in a college course memorizing countries, capitals, and mountain ranges?”

When I entered the class, I very distinctly remember the professor, Dr. Jeffery Roet, had written on the board “Geography is the stage upon which the history of the world is set.” He then proceeded to teach a lesson that seemed to have nothing to do with what I understood geography to be. By the end of the semester, my perspective of what geography encompassed had completely changed. I was instilled with a passion for cultures & travel, the study of how humans and the environment interact with each other, the process of globalization, and to understand WHY this play that we call human history has unfolded the way in which it has. I purchased a world map swimsuit, a world map shower curtain, covered my dorm room wall with maps, and declared a major: Geography.

One of my favorite documentaries is called “The Sea In Between” about a musician named Josh Garrels. There is a scene in the film where he is discussing the act of creativity and experiencing art and music. In this scene he comments about how when we experience a piece of art that we love, we can’t help but want to know more about who created it. Inherently we have a desire to understand the mind behind the creative process. When I saw this scene, I immediately recognized that this was at the root of my love for the study of geography. If “geography is the stage upon which the history of the world is set,” then the more I understood about the way the stage was set up and how it directs the actors in the play, the better I understood the mind that designed the set and directs the play. Studying geography was a way for me to know God better and to continuously be more in awe of Him.
As I have now studied and taught geography for 13 years, I have learned a few lessons that are incredibly important to my faith. First, I have learned that if all of us are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), then every culture and every person reflects God in some way. Every culture is worth studying, spending time with, and understanding, because they all help us know God more. There is such beauty in the diversity of the body of Christ, and if we are to truly believe that we are called to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19), then it is imperative that we have an understanding of the culture of these nations to effectively help them enter into a saving relationship with Jesus.