Monday, June 16, 2008

All-American City

"I was twenty-one years old...in 1956 at the Wheaton Bible College, where I was a student."

Mischa Berlinski, Fieldwork

This is not one my usual commentaries but I couldn't help myself. Two mentions of Wheaton, Illinois, where I graduated from high school in the shadows of John Belushi and Bob Woodward. Couldn't resist.

Fieldwork traces the fatal encounter of two love stories with the Dyalo of Thailand -- evangelical protestantism and old-school anthropology, both on different missions, understanding from the inside out and liberation from indigenous demons.

So, Wheaton,30-40 churches when I arrived, a dry town. In my high school german class a moonfaced missionary's daughter joined us for a time. She had lived in India -- and tantalized us with stories of snakes. My friend Cliff and I were cut ups and predictably drew the exasperated attention of our young teacher as we made faces and invented silly hand signals. Our biggest accomplishment was the smirk from the missionary's daughter.

Decades later I got to know several Wheaton College graduates who were doing social justice and community development work on Chicago's west side. A very impressive group who lived their beliefs and made and kept long-term commitments.

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