My name is Miriam Bohlmann Kunz, and I am serving in Nyíregyháza, Hungary with the Evangelical Church in America (ELCA) as a Young Adult in Global Mission (YAGM). From August 2016-July 2017 my hope is to witness and share God's love in the beautiful country that is Hungary. YAGM emphasizes serving with the accompaniment model, which is serving by living alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ. So this year I am moving forward in the faith of God's love, expecting to come across grace both in expected and unexpected places.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Vocation and accompaniment: lessons from my mother

Last week, my mom, Deborah Bohlmann, had her final week of work as a high school English teacher. She has taught for 40 years, in 3 different states, at 5 different school. She has taught in Lutheran schools and public schools, in the city and in the suburbs. She has taught every possible class a high school English teacher could teach. She is amazing, and I am so proud of her. Since I couldn't be there to celebrate her career last week, I sent her an email everyday with a memory or lesson I learned from her, not as my mother, but as a teacher. This is the email I sent her on her last day. I am sharing it with you all because this blog has been about accompaniment and vocation, and that's what my mom has been a model of. I'm so excited for whatever she does next, because whatever she does, she goes forward in faith, with grace expectations.

"The most memorable thing I have learned from you as a teacher has been about vocation. I learned the language to talk about vocation while I was at Northwestern, and while I was there and in making my own life decisions, I realized that you and Dad have set an example of what it means to live out your call as a child of God in whatever you do. You haven’t worked in a Lutheran school for over 30 years, but that hasn’t stopped you from bringing God’s love to your students and your coworkers. You have done it in all the ways I have mentioned in my previous emails, by standing up for yourself and others, by bringing about change wherever you are, by treating your students with respect and kindness. You have shown me that you can live out your vocation in any occupation or task, and that serving God is about loving people where they’re at, and doing so wherever you’re at, whether it is in the classroom, at lunch with coworkers, in Europe with groups of teenagers, in Webster Groves, Maplewood, St. Paul, or Detroit, or as a parent, spouse, friend, sister, daughter. You have shown me that I should do something that brings me joy and something that I love, and when it no longer brings me joy, then I can find something, find some other way God is calling me.

As I have thought a lot about accompaniment that past two years, I realize how much you have also been an example of this. You do not remove yourself emotionally from your students, you have walked along beside them for 40 years. There are 5 parts we talk about with accompaniment, all of which you have embodied as a teacher:
1. Mutually. Teaching is not a one-way transmission of knowledge, as you have embraced at the beginning of the school year, having each of your students teach you something.
2. Inclusively. You have been working diligently to bring voices of those who are often ignored to the table, to make sure all people receive a quality education, to make sure that each student in your class feels like their voice is valued.
3. Vulnerably. To build impactful relationships, we have to make ourselves vulnerable. You have done that, by toting me with you as a kid, by working with cancer (which is super baller), by bringing your Adam in to talk about being in the Army, by sharing who you are and those important to you with your students.
4. Empowering. You have empowered students to be who they are, to serve others, and to make the world a better place. Although you are the teacher, and so there is always a power imbalance in the classroom, you do not abuse it, but use the power you do have to fight for your students.
5. Sustainably. You have not only taught teenagers, but you have helped in the training of many future teachers and the professional development of your peers. You have improved the teaching profession, and you will continue to do so in what comes next. This brings us to now. Accompaniment is not just about the service that you do, in fact, it’s not about you, it’s about God’s mission. And as servants, it is our job to make sure that the mission continues after we are gone in a healthy way. You are stepping away before you have turned into a cranky old lady, before you have started doing more harm than good. You are stepping away from a department that will continue to thrive, leaving it better than when you got there.

Part of who you are is a teacher, and you will continue to be a teacher after today. You teach everyone around you, me, John, Adam, Dana, Dad, Hayden, Athena, the community at Bethel, and in whatever you end up doing next. Again, I am so proud of you, and thankful to be the daughter of a teacher.

Love and peace from your daughter and sister in Christ,

1 comment:

  1. When Mom read that email to me the afternoon that you had sent it, I felt like I was hearing a wonderful sermon.