By Lisa Kochanowski
SOUTH BEND — “We have a long way to go before we can call the world a body of Christ,” said Chris Culver recently, and it is this knowledge that makes him realize and understand the need to travel to Baghdad. Leaving behind his wife, three children and job as a physics teacher at Saint Joseph’s High School will not be easy, but he understands that his responsibility to the community is to help those in need.
Culver will leave on the eve of Nov. 16 for a month of training and then head to Baghdad on Dec. 23 for one year.
“I will be working for the U.S. military trying to coordinate with other non-governmental organizations (NGO) to make sure we are working on building up Iraq,” said Culver. “I will be focusing on economic development.”
In an announcement to the faculty, staff and student body at the high school, Culver expressed his mixed emotions about this trip.
“It will be a big transition from the family and community I have known here at Saint Joe,” said the reservist commander. “At the same time, it helps me fully realize that gift of community that we share here is not solely for our benefit. It is a comfort, a guide and a teacher and it shows us what we must work to create out there in the world. I hope and pray that my work in Baghdad will accomplish the building up of a strong community that supports and sustains all Iraq’s. While I go to build the basics of community elsewhere, I pray you all work to better the community here at Saint Joe.”
Culver said he feels a sadness about leaving his family for a year and entering an environment where he will be more isolated and lack the community that he has had at the school and in the area.
“That is disappointing coming from such a community focused lifestyle and situation,” said Culver.
On a positive note, he realizes that this opportunity will give him the chance to make a real difference in the world and how people are living each and every day.
“It’s an opportunity where there will be some professional development,” noted Culver.
Culver hopes that his students realize the need for a strong community through his work in Baghdad.
“I want them to understand that being part of a community requires sacrifice. Part of being in the American community we have a responsibility,” said Culver. “War, while at times, may be necessary, is not glorious. It’s wrought with pain and suffering for all sides.”
Culver believes this experience will have a significant impact on his life.
“I think it’s going to really challenge me,” said Culver. He said it will take a lot of negotiating skills to build up a community, while in a highly challenged environment where all parties involved have a variety of different opinions and views. He realizes it will be a real test of his knowledge and leadership skills and is up to the challenge.
“A motto taught to me many years ago is to use your strengths and develop your weaknesses,” said Culver. And it is this motto that he hopes will help him through the next year of his life.
When he returns from Baghdad, Culver plans to pick up where he left off.
“I would still like to teach; maybe someday go into a leadership role,” said Culver. “This won’t change my long term goal. I want to reengage the community with the same goals and objectives — being a positive input in the community.”
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