Anna Burkett is from Granville, Ohio and recently moved to Maryland to teach Spanish to middle schoolers. Anna grew up coming to Peace Camp.
BPFNA: What brings you to Mexico and what are your hopes for the week?
AB: I’ve grown up going to Peace Camp, and as a Spanish teacher - and before that as a youth and later as a young adult - who is really interested in learning about different people, I feel like in a lot of ways that all started here at Peace Camp. Not necessarily the Spanish part, although that did come eventually, but even just learning about people who are different from me who are from different places and who have had different experiences. As we got closer to some churches in Cuba, Mexico, and Puerto Rico, getting to interact with them and getting to test out my Spanish little-by-little, was kind of the gateway into a love of learning and love of Spanish and what’s led me to be a Spanish teacher. The moment I knew Peace Camp was going to be in Mexico this year I said I was going. It feels so great to be here and to know that we’re putting our words into action.
BPFNA: What has been your favorite moment of the week?
AB: I volunteered to do the youth program, and there’s such an incredible cross-cultural exchange and camaraderie. I paired them up for an activity and tried to make sure there were Spanish speakers and English speakers paired together. Seeing them having to work out how to communicate, even where they didn’t have words to, was really powerful and a good example for adults in the world. Adults get so nervous about not being able to talk to people, but I think people would be surprised - when you sit down and actually try to have a conversation with someone, even if you don’t speak each other’s language, you can work out a lot of stuff.
We also had great discussion about prejudice. We were using the story of Jesus healing the leper and talking about prejudice based on physical appearance. We arrived on the topic of racism and we had this dialogue on what racism looks like in the US…what racism looks like in Mexico…is the US racist against Mexicans…this whole dialogue about opening our eyes to how such a complex issue exists in different places but also exists in different ways.
BPFNA: Describe your work and what drives your passion for peace and justice.
AB: From the beginning, BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz was a big part in cultivating my love for “the other,” and I think that’s a huge part of being a Spanish teacher. If my students learn some Spanish along the way, then great, but I see my main job as being able to teach my students how to approach and interact with someone who is different from them - who talks differently, dresses differently, eats differently, maybe someone who they feel they can’t relate to - I see my job as a Spanish teacher as helping my students learn how to have those cross-cultural experiences and how to love people who are different from themselves. Which is why being here is so important.
I’m going into a middle school to teach Spanish and starting with students who I think are eager to learn about different people. I am also going into a school that is really racially diverse, which will be a new thing for me. I grew up in one of those schools where we were at the top of all the charts and where most of my peers looked pretty much just like me. It will be living into this discomfort of being with people who are different from yourself and learning how to relate to them, because that’s not something I had growing up. I’m excited to get into the classroom and work with these students who many have had completely different life experiences from me. What are the experiences they’ve had that will be useful in how they learn?
BPFNA: Why is BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz important to you and your work?
AB: BPFNA is a place where I know that if I’m excited about something or need help, I have people in my contacts who I can call and get an opinion on something. Also I think very few people would know it outside of my life in BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz, that the work that I do is so driven by my faith and the example I see in the Bible on how I should live my life. Especially now that I’m away from home and don’t have a BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz congregation close to where I’m living, knowing that there are hundreds of people who are working for the same things that I am is really helpful.
BPFNA: As a young person, what’s your dream for BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz?
AB: I’d like to see BPFNA grow. Maybe change the name to BPFA (Baptist Peace Fellowship of the Americas) and continue this year’s example of how we’re stretching out our arms. Even though we’re in Mexico this year, we have presenters from Colombia, Argentina, etc - and I would love to see us grow that network.