Just four hours after being sworn in as a United States Foreign Service officer, Andrew Shinn took time for an interview. In March, with COVID-19 closing down state borders behind them, Shinn, his wife, Lisa, and their four children raced from their Reedley, California, home to Washington, D.C. Leaving behind his position teaching entrepreneurship at Fresno Pacific University and their home church, Reedley MB Church, the family was embarking on a new path that is expected to take them around the world with Andrew as a diplomat for the State Department.
What is the process for becoming a diplomat?
The entry is a written test covering history, U.S. law, geography, pop culture and other topics. You also write concise stories demonstrating the character qualities they are looking for. Those who pass are invited to Washington, D.C. for an oral assessment. I took the written test five times and went for two oral assessments before being selected.
Will you have a specialty?
I may start by adjudicating visas somewhere in the world, but when I get into my actual work it will be in the economic “cone.” I’ll advocate for the U.S. in negotiating trade treaties and helping the U.S. understand economic situations in other countries so we can craft wise economic policies.
Why did you choose economics?
My main motivation is the calling to bring people together. As a diplomat I don’t serve the cause of peace, I serve the United States. But transactions can bring people together. If I do my job well, more people will be trading with each other and fewer people will be shooting at each other.
What has this process taught you about our government?
My colleagues are impressive and show that behind any presidential administration there sits a bench of public servants who are kind and self-sacrificing and ready to serve. I’m privileged to walk alongside these people.
Where will this job take you?
I’ll learn about my first assignment at the flag day ceremony where you’re handed the flag of the country you’ll be going to. If it requires me to learn a language, I will study from a few months up to a couple of years to come to full fluency. My first two tours are two-year tours, and my family will join me.
What could the church learn from people who work in diplomacy?
When you cross cultures for a living, there’s an ability to slow down and hear the stories of other people. We’re living in incredibly divisive times. God would have us choose understanding each other over being right. We need to be able to slow down and listen, especially to people we don’t agree with.
Read Andrew’s blog at andrewandlisa.org
Kathy Heinrichs Wiest is a freelance writer who loves the smell of whole wheat bread in the oven, the feel of an orange being plucked from the tree and the view from her front porch in Kingsburg, California. On Sunday mornings you’ll find her in the fourth pew from the front on the left at Kingsburg MB Church, moved by the hymns and praise songs and inspired by the stories of God at work locally and around the world. She and her husband, Steve, own Dovetail Remodeling. They have two grown daughters, one son-in-law and a precious granddaughter.