LGP Stories

Personal Stories from DMINLGP

Year in Review: well on our way

July 17, 2018 | no responses

I would not say I entered my first year in Portland Seminary’s Leadership & Global Perspectives (LGP) program timid, as those who know me know I’m certainly not that. But rather, perhaps, tentatively, not quite sure where I wanted to go with the program, but certain that, wherever I went, my LGP studies would be assets. What I knew as I ventured into the program was that it would stretch and strengthen me. (more…)

Webb: Year-in-Review

July 15, 2018 | no responses

DMIN728 Year-in-Review Story Blog Post

The purpose of this post is to reflect on the past year as a George Fox University (GFU) Leadership and Global Perspective (LGP) student and review, summarize, and analyze how my academic experience integrated into my area of research and impacted my personal ministry. The following questions serve as the reflective framework for my Year-in-Review Story.

  • What surprised me? I was amazed at how well the LGP8 cohort came together during the Cape Town Advance and successfully continued over the next year during our Zoom face-to-face meetings and asynchronous chats. It was encouraging to see how well a diverse group of ministry servants united and focused on GFU’s strategic initiative and academic theme to improve global Christian leadership.

 

  • How have I been changed? My perspective about how I perceive Christian leaders has changed the most in the past year. I have always respected and even revered ministry leaders as bigger than life spiritual figures who are called by the Holy Spirit to represent the image and presence of Christ and speak the infallible word of God. While that assessment is what I believe Christian leaders are called to personify, the reality is that most of these leaders are just like me; broken by sin, needy for love, and selfish to gain more knowledge of God.

 

  • How do I lead differently? I use the same situational-transformational-servant leader approach that I have been using for the past 30 years. However, the difference in my leadership praxis is that I ask better questions and exercise more critical thinking skills. The past year of academic study, instruction, and interaction with my lead mentor, academic advisor, GFU professors, and my cohort family of 14 other ministry leaders helped improve my personalized leadership model.

 

  • How have the following areas impacted and shaped my research and ministry:

o   Assigned readings- Out of all the authors reviewed in the past year I think Bayard and Elder had the most significant influence in my academic research and ministry outlook. Bayard helped release me from the traditional bonds of reading for content and assessing ideas while Elder helped me expand my critical thinking skills. My threshold for knowledge went from book(s) and idea(s) to absorbing libraries and analyzing entire fields of knowledge. I really appreciate the insights and freedom to think multidimensionally, work from the periphery of ideas, and engage knowledge streams from concrete research principles to abstract spiritual perceptions.

 

o   International Advance- The 2017 Cape Town Advance was fantastic! I was academically informed, culturally inspired, and spiritually challenged by the schedule of events for the GFU Advance. Getting to meet, hear from, and interact with the cohort, guest speakers, professors, tour guides, field trip presenters, and local nationals was outstanding. Having the opportunity to share the Armor of God challenge coin ministry with cohort members, GFU staff and professors, and local nationals was spiritually fulfilling. Hearing that the armor of God “coin” could be part of an artifact for my future research and dissertation was both a revelation and an answer to prayer.

 

o   PLDP process- I completed two Personal Leadership Development Plans (PLDP) during the past year. The first one helped me discover my leadership practice by answering the questions: who am I, where am I going, how and who will help me get there, and how am I doing? The second PLDP improved my reflection by helping me focus on my life stories and values. Personal reflection was by far the most difficult part for me to accomplish out of the entire process. Yet, as I look back, it was probably one of the most needed personal breakthroughs to accomplish.

In conclusion, I believe the past year helped me participate in the rigorous process of learning, following, and leading within the global context of human pain and brokenness that the GFU LGP program asked us to navigate. As such, my personal struggle to escape a type of theological cocoon helped me grow new wings that are changing the direction of my theological flight plan. I see more rough air and turbulence coming in the next two years, but at present I am satisfied with my academic airmanship to safely approach and land on my dissertation topic. I also feel more confident and confirmed with my call to market-place ministry. I pray that my LGP8 cohort members and I will be the future laborers for the harvest as prepared by a Holy Spirit. Finally, last year was a tremendous blessing and brilliant journey in self-discovery, academic engagement, theological advancement, and relationship building. Praise the name of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, who lives in me through the person of the Holy Spirit.

Stand firm,

M. Webb

Year-in-Review

July 13, 2018 | no responses

“A year from now you will wish you had started today.”[1] This phrase, etched on a piece of wood for some kitschy church art, caught my eye every month when our leadership board met. I would occasionally consider what things I might be putting off or pondering that needed to be initiated in my life. Possibly a new workout program or reading through the Bible in a year or revamping our finances. Never on my list was a doctoral program. Yet, a year ago, in response to a growing hunger to steward my voice through writing and contribute to my fellow pastors the work for which I have invested myself on leadership and disciple-making, I applied and began the journey of the Leadership and Global Perspectives track at Portland Seminary.

As much as I was ready for the road ahead, I had little expectation of what I would receive beyond working hard to develop my knowledge and skillset, and their integration with my ministry praxis.

Surprised

I was surprised by the breadth of experiences in our advance and in our readings throughout the year and the way our lead mentor would push and pull (or sometimes ‘probe’ as he put it) to facilitate our health and growth as leaders. I did not expect the feelings of being overwhelmed in an airport after ten days of listening and engaging with people across the world. I was unexpectedly frustrated by my sudden personal need to rise to meet the challenges of blog posts on books that felt beyond my mental aptitude and caused me hours and days of pouring over them to produce a thousand words of coherent thought.

Finally, I did not expect to find writing and processing in an academic way to be cathartic and good for my soul. This past year was incredibly challenging personally. Being expected to think about subjects outside my daily life alongside beginning to research my dissertation caused me to look beyond my own pain to the world around me and continue to contribute. With the aid of the personal leadership development plan, I once again leaned into my community in addition to finding a spiritual director for the first time.

Changed

As much as I feel like I am still the same person with the same goals, I look back and see how my writing, research, thinking, and actions have come into focus. Weekly readings have transformed from attempting to read an entire book as fast as possible to deliver a clever synopsis to reading around a book, assessing the theme and primary content and choosing one nugget to extract in connection to my own ministerial research.

The idea of honing in is also true when considering my dissertation research. As I began the year my topic was discipleship with the energy being around mentoring toward leadership. But between current events such as #MeToo and DACA, conversations with cohort members and colleagues, the advance to Cape Town and my personal experience as a female and with minority leaders, I have grown in my hunger to not just raise up leaders but to embody a leadership more reflective of the kingdom of God in its diversity. This change looks like developing leaders within the Wesleyan tradition to go back to our theological roots to practice inclusive leadership development of the Other, encompassing both gender and ethnicity in this scope.

Leadership Impact

So how has a globally focused doctoral program impacted my leadership in my local context? Let’s begin to count the ways:

First, the DMIN LGP has caused me to make different decisions on the examples I use when preaching or facilitating a gathering, pulling from more reputable and varied sources.

Second, I have often been compelled by the Spirit to speak for injustice but this year I have had more courage based on the insight of the texts and experiences I have encountered to speak out when in a group discussion that does not encourage value of those not in the room. In addition, this has brought a more comprehensive perspective to our church staff meetings and my varied leadership roles with George Fox and the Wesleyan Holiness communities I serve.

And third, but certainly not lastly, I am more confident in my choice of a research topic and the need for it to be presented for the growth of my and other denominations. Thus, I am advocating for myself and others in new and creative ways.

“A year from now you will wish you had started today.” And today, a year later, I am glad I began when I did.

 

[1] Lamb, Karen.

Jay Forseth Year-in-Review

July 11, 2018 | no responses

From Montana to the world! That’s how I would summarize my first year in the Portland Seminary at George Fox University DMin LGP8 program. I am thankful for the opportunity to expand my horizons, and feel like this first year has been worth every sacrifice and investment.

It’s about people! Yes, this is academic, but why grow in academia apart from the people? The absolute highlight of year one was PEOPLE.  Mentors, advisors, colleagues, classmates, other cohort members, spouses, guests, and Jesus. Here is our first picture together, taken just after riding the ferris wheel at the Cape Town harbor with my newest friends…

We called ourselves the “Elite 8’s“, but I believe we had an even bigger calling. To grow together, learn together and help each other. Do we all agree? Not a chance! But, I think we love and appreciate each other. Fourteen of us–it’s special. Here is a picture on our final night together on our South Africa Advance (minus Dave–but we all understood his absence):

It’s also about the memories! I met my first animist turned to Christ, talked with a political prisoner who was incarcerated with Nelson Mandela, played “high five” with South African children, went on a mini safari, saw penguins (in Africa?), was stretched by my ridiculous white privilege, took a gondola ride to the summit of Tabletop Mountain, and worshipped God a half a world away. Check this out this memory to last a lifetime:

Themes I learned through our readings: The consumerism of the American church as well as our American consumeristic culture is appalling, Western Capitalism is a root problem issue that causes arrogance in our Western churches, the term “Evangelicalism” carries with it TONS of baggage (which is tough if your denomination’s name is “The Evangelical Church”), critical thinking skills are mandatory for serious Doctoral students, and much growth/understanding of ONESELF is necessary for successful higher education (more on that in the next question).

The books I referred to the most (other than Turabian): I looked back on all my Blogs from year one and was surprised which topics came up the most in my writing. Adler’s How to Read a Book was my most quoted. Should I be bummed about that? Then, books looking inward were the next most often quoted, like Leadership Pain by Chand, and Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership by Macintosh. I suppose, if I am being honest, these books as part of a Ministry Doctorate are perhaps more appealing to me than straight academic books. Not that I didn’t benefit from the academic books, or think they are unnecessary. They are vital! But, I believe I had to take care of some inner business to get through to the more academic studies.

Have I been changed? Certainly! I am not the same person I was in September. I believe my growth curve was most evident in seeking to understand where other people were coming from theologically and personally. For example, in my interesting interactions with Jake Dean Hill about egalitarian roles, I grew with respect and knowledge. Furthermore, I grew in understanding on the social issues of our day, like racism, and others relating to politics and religion (thanks to Douthat in Bad Religion). I very much appreciated the Zoom meetings where we could knock the ideas around a little, to attempt to grasp a bigger picture of how different opinions are formed. I only wish we had more time to interact like that. Thus, responding to each other’s Blog has been important and a good experience for me.

How will I lead differently? To put it mildly, I hope I am seeing things from a more global perspective, not just a ego-driven American one. I will remember what Dr. Jason, G, Jenn, M, and Mark said about their cultures and challenges. I hope to put into practice more GRACE towards differing viewpoints. In short, to quit being so dogged in what I thought was good doctrine. Humility goes a long way, arrogance goes backward.

And let’s not forget, RESEARCH! I come away with better focus towards my research topic–Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (FPU). This year has forced me to narrow my study into bite size chunks, and truly dig deeply into Biblical stewardship, a passion of mine. My field research did not go as I planned, and that is perfectly okay. I am enjoying the journey and process…

Thank you everyone for you assistance!

 

 

Mark Petersen: On Pilgrimage

July 9, 2018 | no responses

Mark Petersen is a Canadian ministry entrepreneur with a rich background of experiences and relationships in places like Colombia, the Philippines, and across Canada. For fifteen years he led a private family foundation that jumpstarted innovation by Canadian Christian charities. It was a journey with thrilling mountaintops and desperate valleys, high impact grants and dead-end disasters. He was networked to many significant ministry efforts by Canadian parachurch groups but was ready for a change.

Facing his midlife years, with kids having left the nest and reimagining next stages of life together with his wife, he decided to embark on a pilgrimage across Spain to the cathedral town of Santiago de Compostela. Just once wasn’t enough. Walking three different Spanish caminos over three consecutive summers, he encountered and walked with a bizarre but lovable cast of characters: a young French anarchist searching for a path to fulfillment, an elderly Indian mystic who punctuated conversations with quotes by Rumi, an Australian skydiver plagued by some terrible life choices, and a jilted Italian who ached to find love again.  Yet these faithful companions showed him that we have much more in common than the differences that often divide us.

The physicality of walking a pilgrimage was paralleled in his spirit. Like Jayber Crow in Wendell Berry’s novel of the same name, he echoed:

I am a pilgrim, but my pilgrimage has been wandering and unmarked. Often what has looked like a straight line to me has been a circling or doubling back. I have been in the Dark Wood of Error any number of times. I have known something of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, but not always in that order… I am an ignorant pilgrim, crossing a dark valley. And yet for a long time, looking back, I have been unable to shake off the feeling that I have been led – make of that what you will.[1]

He returned home to Toronto ready to make significant shifts.

The shifts were dramatic and sudden. The family foundation he had been leading went through a succession strategy that unexpectedly reshaped Mark’s employment. Now, instead of directing one foundation, he leveraged his past work and started his own firm. Today, Stronger Philanthropy has a diverse client list representing multiple foundations and organizations seeking to give well for kingdom work.  His book, Love Giving Well: Philanthropy as Pilgrimage, was published by Wipf & Stock in 2017 and began opening doors for fruitful conversations about giving and generosity. Finally, he and his wife chose to abandon the centre of Canadian culture, leaving Toronto for the fringes at the New Brunswick-Maine border. There, where the forest and rock meet the ocean, they are discovering the simple joys of a small town where everyone knows one’s name and ministry innovations continue to be birthed organically.

Mark is convinced that those who are stewarding much have a tremendous opportunity laying before them. Donors have historically been invited to relate to charities in a transactional way, they write checks and sometimes volunteer to host fundraising events, but rarely are invited to engage in more meaningful ways. This leads to a deep sense of alienation by generous people; they feel they are treated like human ATMs, yet they also fear the vulnerability of allowing themselves to be known.

Mark claims that for such people, there is an opportunity to move toward transformational giving. He states,

“Doing philanthropy without being willing to be changed ourselves is not adequate, and really defeats the purpose of giving. Giving is not about the gift, but about the giver engaging and becoming part of the community. Giving is about being changed oneself. We need to get our eyes off the financial transaction, and onto the transformation of the heart.”[2]

Choosing to study with George Fox and pursue the DMin is a way for Mark to consolidate his thinking and to offer Christian philanthropy new pathways forward, particularly for next generations who are inheriting the responsibility of giving. As next generations step up into philanthropy, they are hungry for transformative models that require more than just writing a check.

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[1] Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow. (Berkeley CA: Counterpoint, 2000), 133.

[2] Petersen, Mark. Love Giving Well: The Pilgrimage of Philanthropy. (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2017), 194.

 

Year in review

July 7, 2018 | no responses

I would like to reflect on three words that sum up this first year of the Leadership with Global Perspectives doctorate programme that I have just completed with Portland Seminary.

 

The first is stretching.

 

From the Advance in Oxford and London and the initiation and orientation sessions, meeting a new cohort of unknown American students and faculty (a real challenge for a high-end introvert), coming to terms with a new field of study, to weekly reading and blogging and asynchronous conversation, to writing of papers and assignments, this year has been stretching. It has demanded time and attention and focus that I have sometimes struggled to find. It has made me read things, write things and think about things that I would not otherwise have been confronted with, and it has broadened my horizons and my experience and my fields of reference above and beyond where they previously were. This process has been very stretching. It has made me read things that I did not always want to read and to talk about things that I did not want to talk about and think about things that I struggled to grasp and comprehend.

 

The second word follows on from this and is struggle.

 

This year has sometimes been a struggle. I have struggled with my subject and my areas of research. I have struggled to hone my thesis and find a laser-sharp focus. I have struggled at times with some of the reading. But struggle should not be seen or understood in purely negative terms. In the struggling and the wrestling and the not knowing and not understanding, I have had to think, and reflect, and reorientate, and confront. I have not always enjoyed this process, but it has demanded something of me and has pushed me to move forwards. I have to dig deep at times – deadlines and dates and demands have made sure of this. This has not always been welcome, but it has been mostly beneficial.

 

The third word that summarizes this first year of study is serendipity.

 

According to Wikipedia, serendipity refers to a “fortunate happenstance” or “pleasant surprise”, and this year has been full of pleasant surprises and wonderful happenstances. The initial Advance in London and Oxford was a great opportunity to get to know a new cohort of students and the faculty a little, and to see and hear and meet some amazing people and places that I would never otherwise have encountered. Our student cohort is made up a very diverse group of people, with different church and theological and socio-economic backgrounds, and this is enriching and enjoyable for me. It has been serendipitous to meet the gracious and helpful faculty, tutors and supervisors. It has been serendipitous to read and think and talk about new things, unknown topics and uncharted territory.

 

I finish the year knowing that I don’t know very much and grateful for this opportunity to rub shoulders and run with others who can enrich and educate and enlarge this English man.

 

 

Learning to Dance

July 7, 2018 | no responses

A few days into our trip to Cape Town, after touring the District Six Museum, we have a 45-minute wait for the bus that will take us back to the hotel. Not wanting to stand around, my friend Trisha and I set out to explore the neighbourhood. We happen upon the Cape Town Central Library, which to a couple of bibliophile doctoral students is about the equivalent of children happening upon a playground. With both delight and reverence, we enter.

I anticipate wandering through stacks of books, noting which languages are prevalent, which topics are predominant, and which local authors are celebrated. But serendipitously, just as we enter the building, a small men’s choral group starts singing. We follow the sound of their voices, grab our phones, and start recording.

For those in the library, it was simply a mini-concert by a musical group with great showmanship, a reality that reminds me of the fact that what I view as “ethnographic footage” might simply be a video of a choral performance.[1] But I can’t shake the sense that these images have something important to tell me about the broader culture of Cape Town.

I’m particularly drawn to the segment where the lead singer dances with two different female spectators. The differences between the two women are striking. The first woman is older, the second is younger; the first is black, the second is white; the first is wearing traditional garb, the second is in shorts and a T-shirt; the first moves fluidly, the second looks awkward. In her book Visual Ethnography, Sarah Pink says that when analysing images for ethnographic purposes, “we might think of the ways that meanings can be layered…building on and perhaps contesting each other….”[2]

Might such layers be seen here?

On the surface, the young black singer is putting on a good show, bringing his audience into the experience by inviting two women to dance with him as he sings. I assume the dancing is done in fun, without premeditation or ulterior motives. But is there another layer through which we might view this dance? Could it stand as a visual representation of the fragile state of race relations in South Africa? In the video, as in the culture, so many juxtapositions hang precariously in the balance—while Apartheid has officially been dismantled, ongoing struggles with racism, income disparity, and corruption remain firmly intact.

The singers bridge an obvious but unspoken gap, walking an ambiguous intercultural tightrope. While they sing in a tribal language and move their bodies in traditional dance moves, they are dressed in modern Western garb and introducing their songs in English. They reach out to an older black woman and then to a younger white woman, singing and dancing all the while.

A few days later, when we spend an afternoon at the J L Zwane Presbyterian Church in Guguletu, Wilhelm Verwoerd does a similar dance, figuratively speaking. Bearing the surname of his grandfather, Hendrik Verwoerd (aka “the architect of apartheid”), Wilhelm works to dismantle the divisions his grandfather designed. He builds bridges where his grandfather built boundaries. And with dignity and grace, Wilhelm stands in the midst of the tension without flinching.

With a rare mix of courage and humility, Wilhelm dances the tricky jig of owning white privilege without clinging to it. Of criticizing his ancestors without disowning them. Of speaking comfort to both the oppressor and the oppressed. And he does it with charm and sincerity. His life challenges the status quo. He is a picture of the future.

I, too, am learning to live in that tension. As a USAmerican living in France, I must find ways to embrace criticism of my fellow USAmericans (Trump?!? Are you kidding me?!?) without disowning them. It’s awkward to occupy that space, and challenging to do so with the courage and humility that Wilhem Verwoerd embodied. Yet, this is the wobbly space to which I am called.

But the truth is, that space is uncomfortable. It’s much easier to dwell in the USAmerican bubble, as many missionaries do, or to never invite strangers in, as many natives do. But as the Reverend Michelle Boonzaaier reminded us, leadership is “embodied presence in very uncomfortable places.”[3] This is what these young singers did, and this is what the women did, too, in getting up to dance. The first crosses an age boundary, dancing with a much younger man. The second crosses a race boundary, dancing with a black man. And the fact that it all took place in a library—a place known for silence and stillness more than music and dancing—only serves to underline the liminalty of the space. As a person who wants to be willing to cross boundaries, even when it feels awkward, I was inspired by the willingness of both women to leave the comfort of their group to enter into the fringes of the dance. They give me a picture of what it means to be an “embodied presence.”

The video of their performance has become for me “an ambiguous image that both imitate[s] and challenge[s]” the status quo.[4] Apartheid wounds still sting, while new wounds continue to be inflicted. Even those who are willing to “dance together” do so tentatively. And yet, by dancing together, they challenge the belief that reconciliation is impossible.

 

[1] Sarah Pink, Doing Visual Ethnography, 3rd edition (Los Angeles: SAGE, 2013). 149.

[2] Pink,105. Pink explains that there is no video footage that can be considered “purely ethnographic.” Images that I believe portray some special cultural experience may simply be just a mundane part of normal human interaction

[3] Michelle Boonzaaier, Cape Town, SA, September 23, 2017

[4] Pink. 148.

If you jump in the water, you are going to get wet.

July 5, 2018 | no responses

Getting Wet

Cape Town is situated at the southwest tip of Africa. It is a port city joining the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Off the coast of Cape Town rests Robben Island, picturesque and serene yet with a torturous past. The whole of South Africa is beautiful while painfully complex in its history and culture.

I arrived in Cape Town with an expectation of immersing myself in education of the culture as I began a doctorate focused on Leadership and Global Perspectives. I came with a vague sense of the water I was about to jump into but the sensation upon entry could not have prepared me for the intensity or the feelings of being submersed. I did not expect the loss of breath, the discomfort or the splendor waiting beneath the surface.

This metaphor of swimming, or drowning rather, seemed absolutely appropriate as I sat in the Cape Town airport at the end of my trip. As I sat staring, reading, writing, and weeping the following was beginning to permeate my heart and mind. “I am still sorting, reflecting on what I have seen, unsure I fully know. I don’t think my brain has caught up to what my body has experienced. I sit in a daze, full of emotion. I am trying to savor the moments of the past two weeks. Faces flash through my mind. Phrases such as ‘Be an embodied presence’, ‘God pitched His tent among us’, ‘We are at a crux’, ‘Future’s are created, they are not given’, ‘Reflect on your own death’, ‘I was raped since the age of 8’, ‘The uncomfortable way you feel is an invitation to enter the sufferings of Jesus’, ‘I have forgiven’, ‘Pray for us’, and ‘Savor this’ begin to animate the faces as the stories of South Africa replay in my mind.”

Drowning… and Reemergence

Before arriving in South Africa, I read David Welsh’s book on Apartheid. Apartheid, meaning separation “was the attempt to thwart, neutralize or abort the African urbanization” as Welsh explains.[1] And separate they did. People were separated by race, removed from their homes and eventually lost the right to be a citizen in their own country, deemed ‘temporary sojourners’. I met these ‘sojourners’ who had never lived anywhere besides South Africa and had not moved from their homes until forced. They were slowly being drowned, eliminated from their own country of origin although they would not go down without a fight.

Noor’s Story: Noor curates a museum in District 6 to commemorate those who lost so much and to continue to bring a voice to the need for restoration for the marginalized majority of South Africans. In this photo Noor shows us where his home used to be before it was bulldozed before his eyes to build new homes for white Afrikaners. Noor has been promised a home since the end of Apartheid in 2004 but has yet to receive this restoration of property.

Robben Island Tour: In visiting Robben Island, the Alcatraz of South Africa, we were guided by Sipho (pronounced See-Poe and meaning ‘Gift’). Sipho was a prisoner alongside Nelson Mandela who later returned to Robben Island as a guide. His presence struck me. Why would he want to come back to a place of torture? I asked him my question. Sipho responded telling me he did not want to come back but he had no work after Apartheid and the Robben Island museum kept calling him so finally he agreed to work for them. His first eight months were filled with PTSD, which eventually subsided and he began to enjoy his work. I thanked him for the gift of sharing his life and story with us.

Wilhelm Verwoerd: The image of Wilhelm conveys layers of history and culture shift. The art piece pictured from the 1960’s was a political statement on Apartheid from a black South African’s perspective. Wilhelm’s grandfather, considered the architect of Apartheid and Prime Minister at the time, is pictured closest to him as the executioner. Wilhelm knew his grandfather as a hero until learning the truth from other South Africans while training for ministry in Europe. Discontinuing his training for ministry, Wilhelm considered what it meant to have unknowingly lived his life under a false pretense. For the last several years Wilhelm has dedicated himself to living in and supporting diverse communities seeking reconciliation. Wilhelm’s presence was one of meekness and humility. He deferred to his colleagues when asked about questions he felt unfair for him to answer. He encouraged the white people in the room that we need to be educated on racism and its effects because we have much work to do in bringing reconciliation.

Swimming Upstream

Life in South Africa today continues to move on since Apartheid. Many of the observations I made inspired me to love others even when they do not love me, to live as the embodied presence of Christ, to forgive, to keep looking through the dump to find flowers, to listen to the quiet voices.

Sarah Pink’s insight on reflexive ethnography became rooted in me.[2] I was not merely a researcher set apart to study and go on my way. My life and the lives of the people I encountered began to influence one another through our pictures and shared experiences. I want to tell all of their stories because they have impacted me, not simply because they are impressive or factual.

In my journey to South Africa, I began to see how indeed, Africa has and continues to shape the Christian mind. The pursuit by our tour guides and new friends revealed a hunger for unity and a willingness to take risks and be adaptable to lead like Jesus. They are swimming upstream in their country, but they are making a historic impact on the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Growing Gills

The morning I left for Cape Town this verse was on the home screen of my phone. “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost you all you have, get understanding,” Proverbs 4:7. In search of wisdom, I’m in the midst of a doctoral program. I dove in and it is costing me all I have—all my presuppositions, all my entitlement, all my blind spots, all my expectations. I believe the Wisdom on the other side is worth it. I carry the images, the quotes and the stories from South Africa with me as a reminder of what it means to develop fish like qualities when jumping or being thrown into the sea.

 

 

[1] Welsh, David. The Rise and Fall of Apartheid. (Jeppestown: Jonathon Ball Press, 2009), 57.

[2] Pink, Sarah. Doing Visual Ethnography: Images, Media and Representation in Research (Second edition). London: SAGE, 2006.

Finding my place.

July 3, 2018 | no responses

The disparity that came with South Africa was disorienting. Black, white. Rich, poor. Christian, non-christian. Untamed wilderness, under-developed townships.

In the midst of the same day, I would begin my day in a vibrant city with the hipster trends of Portland and just a few hours later I would be standing in the grueling poverty of tin shacks. In some cases within the same hour, I could go from walking through the rubble of district 6 and then purchasing souvenirs in world-famous sites. The bouncing back and forth between this every day was jarring, to say the least.

I enjoyed walking on the shoreline with beautiful hotels and inside unique designer stores, but then just a short taxi ride later I could be confronted with poverty in downtown Capetown, where church signs said, do not feed the poor.

I was in a coffee shop with supercars as decorations and then later that day driving through the middle of drug-ridden and impoverished townships. I stood in the pastor’s office of his drug rehab clinic centered in the middle of this ghetto while we watched drug deals happening right outside the gates of the building.

I would be standing on the edge of the world one moment and inside the confines of Nelson Mandela’s prison the next.

 

It was too much too process in 10 days.

And of course amongst most of these scenarios you see my big face. And before you laugh off my selfies as a just a bad habit of a millennial let me tell you why I choose to present myself within all of these images. Within all of this context zipping by me, here’s all I could think to pray:

“Help me find my place in all of this.”

Where do I fit with what I just experienced? What am I supposed to do with all this information?

I’m not sure I have the answer for this yet, but one thing that this confrontation has done for me is to strengthen my handling of issues which are “hot topics”. As an upper-middle-class white male, I have often been afraid of my voice coming across as racist because of the privileged status I hold, and the anger that is sometimes projected onto what that privilege has represented for others. Although I don’t have the answers to our US questions, or even the race issues here in Sacramento California, I don’t want to shy away from the issues anymore. As a well-known black pastor said to a room full of white evangelical pastors after the Charleston shooting, “your silence is deafening.” My silence on racial issues has been based out of fear out saying something wrong. I’ve been shown I need to speak up. When I first started reading about Apartheid for this trip, I was only vaguely familiar with it. Upon learning the details I quickly became grateful that I’m young enough to not be counted amongst those who did nothing to try and end it.  Of course, there are the other social and human rights atrocities taking place today. Am I involved in the stopping of these?

There is one thing that I can take back to the states, and that is a perspective on how America has dealt with its shameful past of racial issues and civil rights. In the 20+ years since the fall of apartheid, to memorialize what happened in a way that honors those who suffered, and is also honest about the embarrassment of its country. This again shows a cast split when lined up with America while although we had slavery for 200+ years and had mass amounts of injustice for over a century after to minorities, it’s ill-effects are not properly placed in the people’s priorities. It has largely been ignored. Like South Africans, we are ashamed of our past, but for us, our slavery and our past of racial injustices has become the family member we don’t like to talk about. (At least for those who are not on the receiving end of the prejudice.) South Africa on the other has owned it’s mixed past and memorialized, both the good and the bad. It’s past becomes an inspiration at times and a warning post at others. Consider for example that the Apartheid Museum in South Africa has a whole room full of nooses. America on the other hand, well, “There’s a high school in Alabama named after Robert E Lee and it is 89% black. You don’t see the irony in that?”[1] More disturbingly, Alabama is also one of three states that have Martin Luther King Jr. day as a joint holiday with Robert E. Lee day. Seriously.

I’m plagued by the question, what issue will those who live fifty years from now look back at us and say, “how could they have done nothing?”

Where’s my place in all this?

I think it should be in a place that looks something like this.

 

[1] Lecrae, Propaganda. Gangland, Reach Records. Jan. 2016.

Dan Kreiss – Sharing the Music

July 3, 2018 | no responses

There is an old proverb that states; “Those who dance appear insane to those who can’t hear the music.” Dan Kreiss generally doesn’t care that others think he is insane (let’s be honest, there is a good chance they are correct) but has spent his life desperately trying to help others hear the music and join him in the dance. There is no way of measuring success in this endeavor, but he has enjoyed both the opportunity to share and the strange looks from unsuspecting passersby.

It is evident that much of the world has not heard or is unable to hear the music God is sharing with them. Dan is convinced that some of the reason lies with the way Christians broadcast that music and hopes to help the Church find more effective ways of sharing those dulcet tones with a hurting world. Rob Bell, in his book ‘Velvet Elvis’, suggests that the work of helping others hear the music; “…is less about the transportation of God from one place to another and more about the identification of a God who is already there.” Thus, encouraging people to hear the music God is sharing is more about helping them identify where God is already in their midst, loving and moving. The music is not bound by a building or ideology but is plainly evident in the relationships shared one with another. Dan’s desire is to be in the midst of those relationships, largely outside traditional areas of ministry to where people live.

Having lived for more the 15 years in the Wellington region of New Zealand (where all his kids were born so he has a quiver full of Kiwis), Dan has developed a unique perspective on mission and ministry particularly regarding how and where it takes place. Currently residing in Bristol, Tennessee, he is the director of the Youth Ministry degree program and Dean of the Catherine Peeke School of Christian Mission at King University where he encourages undergraduate students in their calling to serve God in the world through the pursuit of hurting young people wherever they are found both inside and outside the confines of the Church.

As a father of 4 fantastic, and mostly grown children (Jared, Joel, Danae, & Jason) and husband to the most amazing woman God placed on this good earth (Cindy), he has been blessed with a life far beyond his dreams; one full of laughter and stories, chaos and occasional calm, travel and stillness-the ebb and flow of a life in community. Uncertain of what life might look like with an empty nest he is anticipating opportunities for new challenges, growth and unique ministry settings, as well as a refrigerator that stays full slightly longer.

In an effort to further his reach and impact Dan recently completed his Master of Divinity at Emmanuel Christian Seminary and has since been ordained in the Presbyterian Church USA. This offers him opportunities to journey with people through significant life events such as marriage, baptism, illness, and ultimately death. These are the life events that most readily connect people to the music of God and offer opportunity to help those outside the Church hear for the first time. The culmination of his studies will be completion of a D Min from Portland Seminary in Leadership and Global Perspectives, after which time he intends to take several months off to remain hip deep in a variety of rivers casting a fly to unsuspecting trout and interspersing those times with reading books that he chooses for himself.

When not teaching, studying, or leading students on mission experiences, Dan is an avid outdoor person hiking and fly fishing but who especially loves to clear his head on long, hilly rides on his Scott CR1 road bike, making his heart race both from the effort required and the beauty of the surroundings.

Chip Stapleton Year in review or Becoming Aware of our Connections

July 1, 2018 | no responses

It is hard to believe that a year ago at this time I had not yet bought my ticket for London and was having serious questions with my wife and my friends and (mostly) myself about whether or not pursing a doctor of ministry degree was a good idea or not.  At the end of this first year, with a small, pinprick of light piercing the far end of the tunnel, I know I have much left to do, but I can definitively say that it has already been a valuable rewarding experience.

As part of this year-end entry, I have been asked to consider three questions: What surprised me; How have I been changed?; and how do I lead differently?  To begin to answer that first question, I will share the two words that have been resonating in my mind about this year, as I have been contemplating this year – and this assignment: connection and awareness.

The biggest surprise to me was how easily I was able to connect each of our readings and experiences to my lived experience in a small multicultural church in suburban Boston.  Our church is small, and very unique.  I am incredibly fond of it, but I have to admit that a year ago at this time, I was unsure how much of the ‘leadership’ lessons we were going to learn would be directly applicable into my current context.  As I sit here typing this, I can’t think of an discussion we had where I was able to sort of ‘turn off’ and think ‘this doesn’t apply to me right now’

The awareness comes in as wisdom and insight flowed for me in the opposite direction.  I have had the opportunity to work in a wide variety of church settings, and while my current might be nearest to my heart it is also one of the smallest.  I intellectually know that that doesn’t mean our church doesn’t have gifts to offer and insights to share, but I often fall into the trap of sort of ‘defaulting’ to the idea the our church and that don’t have much to offer (even if I have a lot to say!) because we are a small church and because I am a pastor of a small church, etc.

One of the great blessings and joys of this year for me has been a dawning awareness of the many ways in which God is already working in powerful ways right where I am – and, while I have much to learn and an abundance of room for growth (why else would I be doing this program, right?) God is using me that the gifts I have been given to lead, to serve and to help shape a community of faith.

This leads directly into how I have been changed.  The awareness of God’s working and the gifts and abilities already present in me and in my church, have definitely changed me.  Because of this awareness, I think I am awake again to the genuine possibilities that emerge when your steadfastly, faithfully and (maybe even in the eyes of the world) foolishly follow the call of God: to new places or to stay where you are, to be and do all that God has called you to be and do in and where we have been planted.

I have also been changed, of course, by the relationships that have been formed over the last year.  Who can imagine

It’s always easier to travel with good companions!

life before this group of faithful mentors, teachers, fellow travelers and friends.
Through presentations and lectures, early morning conversations over coffee and late night ones in the pub (amazing how often I remember or reference that week in London/Oxford – what a profound impact it has had), whether the discussion was face to face over a few feet or via our beloved ‘zoom’ and thousands of miles, it is in and through these relationships that I have changed and learned and grown the most.

Jason, MaryKate, Cliff, Loren, Dominic, and others have taught and mentored so well.  The ragtag band that gathered under the banner ‘Sevens’  for the first time in that German YMCA hostel dining hall in London (who knew such a thing even existed), has morphed into a group that has provided laughs and love, that has stretched and encouraged and challenged and comforted and loved.  Knowing them, getting to be a part of this group, how can I not be changed?

Finally, the question that perhaps isn’t the most important, but does serve as the culmination of this review, ‘how do I lead differently?’

To borrow (and paraphrase) from one of our London Advance speakers recent book, paradoxically ( Paradoxology by Krish Kandiah (highly recommend!) After this first year of my Leadership and Global Perspectives doctor of ministry program I believe that I lead both with more confidence and more humility.  After my experiences this year, I am more aware than ever of the amazing work that God is doing in the world, and the incredible gifts, abilities and talents that people are using to their fullest by working diligently, faithfully for God’s glory.  Working, leading, serving in new and innovative ways.  Our experiences as a cohort constantly remind me that everyone has something to teach, and conversely, we all have something to learn.  This has been, humbling.

At the same time, this year has given me wonderful insight into what it looks like to lead faithfully, creatively and with flexibility in our quickly changing world.  I am more confident that I am where I am because God has called me there and, having called me, God has  and will equip  me to serve well and lead the people that I have been entrusted to lead.

I am not finished yet, but I know what and who I am becoming: A humble, confident servant leader (in process).

 

“Spotlight on Jake” Bio Story

June 29, 2018 | no responses

I would like to introduce you to Jake Dean-Hill, originally from Southern California and currently residing in Richland, Washington for the past 24 years. He spent the first 10 years after graduating with a BA in Religion from Azusa Pacific University in full-time church ministry as a youth and associate pastor. While at Azusa Pacific he met his beautiful wife, Jennifer, and they married a year after graduating. Then he went back to school at Walla Walla University and earned a Masters in Social Work in 1998. A few years later he left church ministry and started a private counseling practice with his wife. They work with individuals, couples and families, but their passion is the work they do with couples. Their passion drove them to develop an online streaming video curriculum for couples called One Kingdom, which can be found at www.OneKingdom.us. During these years they also raised two beautiful kids who are truly the light of their lives. Their daughter, McKenna, is a junior at George Fox and is studying social work and ministry, following in her parent’s footsteps. Their son, Dawson, is a freshman at the University of Washington studying mechanical engineering.

 

One of the things he is most proud of is when he took on his wife’s maiden name, Dean, and became Jake Dean-Hill. It is a great symbol of his value for equality and egalitarian leadership. He has definitely had many opportunities to share about his passion for treating his wife and other women with respect and equality when people ask why he has a hyphenated last name. He meets with quite a few women in his counseling practice and loves to help empower them to be the strong, capable women they were meant to be, and for them to be validated by a Christian white male has been powerful. His strong wife has been a huge inspiration to him as well as other couples who are leading together and making a difference around the world with humanitarian efforts.

 

One of the other unique things he and his wife did in their egalitarian transformation process was change the way they structured their marriage and family. When their kids were at the age of 2 and 1, Jake decided to propose a part-time arrangement at the church he was currently working at so he could come home and help raise the kids and support his wife’s career. Sadly, the church leadership did not share his vision and only offered him a glorified part-time secretary position. Needless to say, he left the church at that point and joined his wife in a private counseling practice. After being in church ministry for almost 10 years, this was a devastating blow but ended up becoming one of the best decisions of Jake’s life. Having the opportunity to be home with his kids for half of the week gave him the opportunity to have a relationship with them that most fathers never get to experience. Not only did he get to volunteer at their school each week, but he had the unique opportunity/misfortune to be the PTO president as well. People always asked Jake if he had any regrets in his decision to come home, and he would often respond with his only regret is not coming home sooner.

 

One of the other things Jake is passionate about is helping to bring clean water to some of the poorest in the world. For the past 10 years, his family has been saving money in order to give every year to drill wells with a program called Cause Life through the non-profit organization World Help. Their relationship with this amazing organization gave them the opportunity a few years ago to take their whole family to Guatemala to dedicate one of their clean water wells. This was definitely a life-changing event for Jake and his whole family. Their hope is to continue drilling many more wells, and hopefully they will get to dedicate a few more around the globe.

 

One of the main reasons Jake is in this DMin program is to learn more about leadership and hopefully develop an artifact that will help organizations increase their gender-balanced leadership. He feels blessed to be going through this program with his wife, who is also doing research on egalitarian leadership in churches and how this affects marriages. Both Jake and Jennifer have a vision to encourage other couples in their desire to have a peer marriage and to travel around sharing their One Kingdom curriculum. Jake is also in the process of developing a corporate coaching business so he can have a platform to help businesses and organizations that want to develop gender-balance in their leadership and improve their relationship intelligence. When Jake is not working with couples or leaders he loves to play golf, be on the river with his family in their ski boat, play racquetball or squish with his buddies, and travel the world with his favorite adventure buddy, his awesome wife.

Jay Forseth “Student Spotlight” Bio Story

June 27, 2018 | no responses

JAY FORSETH

BIOGRAPHY

Superintendent for the Western Conference of the Evangelical Church (MT, WY, ND, ID)

Former Lead Pastor at Columbus Evangelical Church for 15 years (Columbus, MT)

Former Athletic Director and Vice-President for Advancement at Rocky Mountain College (MT)

Current Professor at Arrowhead Bible College since 2003 (Fishtail, MT)

 

PERSONAL

Lives in Columbus, Montana with his wife and two children

Loves outdoor adventures including hunting, fishing and hiking

Coached at all levels of athletics for over 25 years

Denver Bronco Fan

 

EDUCATION

Diploma—Denver Christian High School (Denver, CO)

B.A.—Northwest Nazarene University in Teacher Education (Nampa, Idaho)

M.A.—Idaho State University in Athletic Administration (Pocatello, Idaho)

DMin Student at Portland Seminary at George Fox University (Global Leadership)

 

AWARDS

1983 Colorado High School Basketball State Champion

1989 Athlete of the Year at Northwest Nazarene University (Basketball and Soccer)

1996 Idaho Middle School Teacher of the Year (Physical Education)

Stewardship Director for the Evangelical Church (Kingdom Resource Ministries)

Teacher and Presenter at over 50 seminars and conferences on Biblical Stewardship

NARRATIVE

Born a twin, to a mother in a wheelchair, in an athletic family with 7 children, I wanted be a CHAMPION of something. Realizing sports would only take me so far to lasting fulfilment, I instead decided to follow Jesus and be HIS champion, and that has made all the difference!

Called into the ministry at age 35, I am passionate TO KNOW HIM BETTER (Ephesians 1:17).

I am inspired by MAKING DISCIPLES and I try to live out the Scripture verse, “Deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow Him” (Luke 9:23). My life Bible verses are, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Not necessarily task-oriented or people-centered, I am GOAL-DRIVEN in my personality. I expect more out of myself than others do. This is difficult for a people pleaser like myself, but fortunately God works despite of me. I simply want to make an eternal difference for Him.

I am often asked, “What are you going to do with your Doctorate?” I don’t have a precise answer, but I believe God is going to put it to Kingdom use in ways that I cannot currently imagine. Since beginning my terminal degree, I have been voted Conference Superintendent in the Western Conference of the Evangelical Church. TO GOD BE THE GLORY is my motto.

Others have said I was “born to lead” and lead I shall, with humbleness and laser focus. Taking a Sabbath is vital to my soul care, as is the reading of Scriptures and personal prayer. I am staying connected to the Vine, as things are impossible without Jesus.

Attempting to stay balanced, my wife and I date every Thursday. We are both involved in our community as volunteers. Whether refereeing soccer, umpiring baseball, or teaching Hunter Education, my batteries are filled when I help make a positive difference in someone’s life.

Coaching sports is little different than being a Minister. We look for growth and maturity, which the Bible calls TRANSFORMATION. Ultimately, we strive for BEARING FRUIT that yields a crop 30, 60 or even 100 times what was sown (Matthew 13:8, Mark 4:20).

Basically, I get lit up being more of a giver rather than a taker. Not too bad of a life in Jesus for a bald headed, “not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree”, kind of guy!

Year in Review

June 27, 2018 | no responses

“I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in (me) will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).

What am I doing? Why would I think I can handle this work? I am a farmer not a professional minister like my colleagues. The name of our program is “Leadership & Global Perspectives”. With adopted children and grandchildren representing four other foreign countries I have the global part down. But leadership? How will I attain that?

Last summer when I interviewed for the Doctor of Ministry Program with Dr. Clifford Berger I was honest about my lack of leadership experience. Not only that, but I assured him that at my present conservative church I would never be allowed to be in a leadership position. The only credential I had was a Master’s degree in Bible and Theology. Yet, I was certain that God was calling me to ministry. My heart aches when I see the emotional, physical, and spiritual abuse of women. How will I ever be able to help them?

I am trusting God one day at a time. I feel strongly that the Holy Spirit has led me to Portland Seminary for training in ministry. One year has gone by surprisingly quickly and I believe I have confirmation that I am in God’s will.

Every book, every writing experience, my wonderful cohort, and the Advance to London and Oxford have helped to shape my future ministry. I have gone from being very fearful at the beginning of the year to having some confidence that God is building me up for the task He is going to give me.

Lead Mentor Readings

There hasn’t been a single book that made me wonder why we were supposed to read it. All of the books from Mortimer Adler’s classic How to Read a Book to Sarah Pink’s books on ethnography (a word I had previously never heard of) to the many books on leadership and finally the books on African theology and apartheid, made me think and reflect on ministry and the world around me. The books build on each other adding to my knowledge weekly; I feel that I have grown in my understanding of leadership in an ever-increasing global society. I am becoming a better student and this gives me the confidence I lacked at the beginning of the year.

London and Oxford Advance

It is one thing to talk about the world and another to travel to different places and experience the lives of others. The advances open our eyes to the fact that there are so many other people and other ways of loving and worshipping God than what we might experience in our own corner of the world. I learned to celebrate our unity as Christians in very different parts of the world and at the same time to appreciate the fascinating differences. What a wonderful Creative God – giving us the same desires to love and serve Him and to do justice to others. How marvelous that there are so many unique ways to do it.

A Cohort-based Program

Knowing that I am the only one in my cohort who does not work with people on a daily basis, I worried that I would not fit in. How does someone whose congregation is made up of goats, cows, and chickens relate to professional leaders? May God bless all of my colleagues. They have always treated me like an equal. We love and encourage each other as a family. This summer we had an intensive exercise. It was a struggle for all of us but the sharing and the forum responses got us through. If it was not for the support and inspiration of my cohort, I may have been tempted to throw in the towel. Because they believe in me, I have the confidence to continue in pursuit of God’s calling.

Writing and Journaling

The customized courses are invaluable for training in leadership. With help from my advisor my writing has become more sophisticated. The program is leading up to a dissertation. The project will be public knowledge eventually. I not only want to contribute something to the discussion of justice for women in the church, but I want it to be credible and creditable. My writing still needs to be ramped up a notch or two, but I sense that there has already been a difference since the beginning of the year.

The Personal Leadership Development Plan has been a great way to make a progress check. Spending time reflecting on where I started, where I am going, and how I am going to get there keeps me focused. It gives me a chance to see that I have matured and it gives me the assurance that God is indeed preparing me to serve Him in ministry.

So, what am I doing? I am learning how to lead. A great group of mentors and advisors are helping me in this program. I am doing research on the topic of justice for women in the church. I am participating with a wonderful cohort as we strive to lead in a global context. I am following in the Savior’s footsteps desiring to bring the peace and joy of the Gospel to those who are hurting.

 

 

 

Cape Town: What will it mean?

June 25, 2018 | no responses

Cape Town Advance – LGP Elite 8

What will it mean?

A rest would have been nice. I completed my final M Div course in June of 2017, took students on an inner city mission trip, spoke at a couple of youth conferences then buckled down to study for my ordination exams for the Presbyterian church (USA). I passed my exams the last weekend in July, and commenced preparation of syllabi and course materials for the new academic year.  Somehow I thought I should also launch into a new program of study, a D Min no less. So with a gasp of air as though my life depended on it, I steeled myself and ran headlong into this next phase of learning, with new people, places, questions, challenges, fears, anxieties, but also a sense that ‘Leadership and Global Perspectives’ was the program for me.

Did I mention that I am a closet introvert? New people scare the life out of me! The only way I was going to survive this initial advance was to find my happy place, which for me is on a road bike grinding out 30 miles or so on roads I had never before ridden in a new part of the world. Over the years I have found that a bike is the best way to get to know a city, culture, people, and community, at ground level.  You are close to the ground, vulnerable, out in the open, afforded no sense of privacy or invulnerability. But, you also meet new people, connect with a cycling community, see things from a different perspective, escape from uncomfortable chit chat with people I hardly know, and breathe the air as a local rather than from inside a tour bus.  This was how I was not only going to survive this frightening Cape Town advance, this was how I was going to filter and process the entire experience.

I was not unfamiliar with South Africa.  Having lived in New Zealand throughout the 1990’s I had been afforded a view of the dismantling of apartheid from a closer proximity than most people in the US. There is a historical bond between the two countries, particularly in regard to Cricket and Rugby that meant events occurring in South Africa were consistently headline news. Yet, even I was shocked at the stark economic disparity that I saw, which from my perspective was almost universally a racial divide.  I saw vast wealth as I rode along the esplanade of Camps bay, with stunning sea side homes, numerous luxury automobiles and beautiful people enjoying wine and expensive meals dining alfresco.  Contrast that with the slums I rode past in Hout Bay on my way to Chapman’s Peak. Ramshackle homes piled on top of one another, muddy and rutted paths, clothing hanging out to dry on electrical wiring and barbed wire fences, rubbish strewn all over and piled between the shacks, crowds of dark skinned faces in the local bus shelter waiting. Mind you, I am used to this. Several times a year I visit Camden NJ, one of the poorest and most violent cities in the country located in the wealthiest state in the union and only five minutes from one of the most ‘liveable’ cities in the USA, Moorestown NJ.  But, even that did not prepare me for the scale of the contrast evident in Cape Town. In visiting Robben Island and District 6 as part of the advance, it was evident that the system of political apartheid might have been dismantled decades ago yet, clearly economic apartheid was alive and well.

I was decidedly uncomfortable at times during the advance.  In addition to having to interact with people from my cohort (who I quickly grew to love and already feel a connection with that completely took me by surprise) we travelled in a tour bus.  The antithesis of travel by bicycle.  Big, safe, air-conditioned, separated from the people on the streets by large tinted glass windows. There is no way to remain inconspicuous when a load of wealthy tourists arrive in their tour bus. I felt awkward, conspicuous, hypocritical, as though I was treating the people of Cape Town living in the townships like animals in a zoo. The presenters we had heard thus far suggested otherwise but the logistics of moving such a large group around the various sites necessitated the sometimes awkward conflict between intention and function.

In spite of this tension one of the most moving events in the advance for me was visiting J L Zwaane Presbyterian Church, both for worship and then later for presentations and discussion of specific issues such as race and gender inequity and the work of the J L Zwaane Church within the township. These were the experiences I had hoped for, these were the people I wanted to know. For me the application was almost immediate. There were brothers and sisters of color in the room that were not from South Africa but who had traveled with us as part of the LGP program. They arrived at the church with the rest of us on a massive tour bus, but their understanding of the issues was far superior to my own. In hearing them, I had to ask myself whether or not I was really willing to allow this advance experience to change me or would it go down as just another stamp in my passport. For, if I was genuinely listening I had to be willing to hear the messages of the women and African Americans of our group. I believe I heard them say that my attempt to gain understanding of the issues in South Africa needed to have meaningful repercussions in my life upon my return to the US. I wasn’t sure what that would look like but I committed myself to doing all I could to find meaningful ways to continue the dialogue and make changes in my own life accordingly.

Though this had been rolling around in my head for quite some time, the Cape Town advance gave me the impetus to develop and gain approval for a special topics course at King University. I don’t assume to have many of the answers but I wanted to be part of the process of facilitating the critical  thinking of students around issues of Race, Gender and Sexual Orientation. There are 20 students signed up for the course and I am scared to death, but willing to meet the challenge. I endeavor to listen to a variety of voices during the final development stage to determine what this course should look like ensuring appropriate structures, worthwhile texts, and meaningful measures of assessment. In addition, on the flight home I was convinced that our chapel programs should reflect the diversity and breadth of our faith to a greater degree. I took it upon myself to develop opportunities for more ethnically diverse chapel speakers and participants to be part of our weekly programs and presented this to our chaplain who is looking at ways it can be implemented immediately.

I feel incredibly blessed to have begun this journey in this way. Cape Town will long live in my memory as more than just a pretty place but one in which I allowed myself to grow further into becoming the man God intended me to be. Cape Town marked the start of a new journey, much of it by bicycle, as I was captivated by a land and its people, coerced into admitting my own biases, challenged to bring academic understanding and tangible application to my own context, all while surrounded by some of the most fantastic people in my DMIN cohort LGP#8 – The Elite Eights. If this is how the journey begins I can’t even imagine where I will end up, hopefully somewhere I can get to on 2 wheels.

 

Leverage the privilege

June 23, 2018 | no responses

In all his whiteness, the Afrikaner grandson of the architect of apartheid stood before us.  Lamenting. A Black Christ was pierced through and bleeding on the cross.  “That man,” Wilhelm Verwoerd exclaimed with his thick Afrikaans accent.  Curiously, he pointed with his middle finger at the soldier who stood mocking the Christ-figure, and continued, “That man is my grandfather.”  The artist had painted the likeness of his grandfather onto the Roman soldier’s face; one gaze, and this revolutionary art said it all.  Wilhelm’s grandfather was Hendrik, at once both a despised figure and yet his father’s father.

Our LGP8 cohort heard from Wilhelm as he described how studying in the UK and meeting Black South Africans as peers and equals during the turbulent eighties was what convinced him to abandon the apartheid ideology.  As he embraced equality of races, he described the pain of being sidelined by his own family.  Where once others were pariahs to him, he now was a pariah within his family circle.

How can one live with this disturbing and painful legacy?  How does one live with this heritage?  I believe, like Hendrik, we must leverage the privilege.

Rather than relativize this legacy or bury it in the past, Hendrik embraces it today. It becomes a platform for greater advocacy, learning and listening.  By acknowledging his privilege, and leveraging it for the benefit of others, he shows the pathway to effective ministry in our world.  His actions leave room for others.  He chooses silence to let others speak.

But who among us is privileged?  Chris Lowney, author of Heroic Leadership, proposes that self-awareness is critical to finding one’s leadership voice.  As we dive deep into our own stories and identities, we begin to recognize our own privilege and how we are often blind to its existence. We often don’t comprehend how our privilege disempowers others.  Race, gender, sexuality, economic power, travel and experiences, and yes, education.  In each of these I have a privileged position.

I’ve been confronted by my privilege ever since seeing that image and hearing Wilhelm speak in Cape Town.  In my role as a broker for family philanthropy, I daily balance on a thin line that offers tremendous privilege if I wanted to take it.  It’s easy and convenient to lean into the privilege selfishly. I find it takes concerted effort to let go of that opportunity and deploy it for others.  In fact, it takes intentionality and wisdom to learn how to rearrange my place in the world to give up the space I fill.

I’m convinced that Christian philanthropy must by virtue of the gospel look different than traditional philanthropy.  Traditional philanthropy utilizes the giving of funds as an investment into personal brand marketing.  It’s simple money laundering.  In contrast, Christian philanthropy must become a platform for self-sacrificial service, as we advocate, listen and learn from those with whom we are on mission together.  Finances can become a tool to give voice and give power to the marginalized.  Yet even the way I do my work must be thoughtfully conceived to empower others.  Money talks loudly, and frequently, too frequently, it sets the agenda and drives action.

My developing dissertation topic will explore the challenges of generational transitions in faith-based family philanthropy.  How will wealthy millennials act as they assume leadership of philanthropic foundations which steward their family’s wealth?  Rather than feeding a sense of entitlement, millennials will be invited on a journey toward leveraging the privilege for others.

This cohort of next-gen inheritors will be invited to embrace the legacy of their Christian parents and grandparents.  If the family is healthy, there will be empowerment as philanthropy is used as a tool for jointly sharing in the joy of giving, and millennials will be included and given responsibility early. New expressions of Christian ministry will rely on these funds.  But in famous and wealthy families there is often a hidden legacy of pain and dysfunction, and significant challenges emerge as the new generation emerges into leadership.  I pray, as Wilhelm discovered, that even these painful legacies can be redeemed for good.

This presentation reviews the multiple faces of privilege we encountered during the Cape Town Advance in 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

Jake’s Visual Ethnography of Cape Town

June 18, 2018 | no responses

Student’s Personal Interests:

One of the first things to spark my interest at the CapeTown Advance was making the connection with my amazing LGP8 cohort. The diversity and quality of each individual impressed me and the quick connection I made with many of them blew me away. In a very short time, I felt bonded to these strangers to my delightful surprise. There was so much I wanted to learn from and discuss with them and I felt an immediate comradery with them on the DMin journey. (more…)

Blended Hope: The Terroir of South Africa

June 14, 2018 | no responses

To view the presentation, click here: Blended Hope: The Terroir of South Africa [turn on sound; manually move between images; wait for audio. Total run is approx 8’30”] (more…)

Student Spotlight: Kristin Hamilton

June 8, 2018 | no responses

Who is Kristin Hamilton?

“She’s a bossy little thing; always telling everyone how it could be done better. She is naughty and talks too much, but don’t let her catch you being mean to her friends. She is a fierce protector and she can get real mean.” – Mrs. Chicka, kindergarten teacher

Kristin lives out loud, travels without a map whenever possible, and loves working to make broken systems whole. She passionately defends those who are considered “less than,” and has a way too optimistic view of the world that is often hidden behind a thin layer of cynicism. This all makes her hugely popular with people comfortable in the status quo (not).

Growing up in an unusually multi-cultural family in eastern Washington, Kristin didn’t realize the song, “Jesus Loves the Little Children of the World” wasn’t about every family. It simply made sense that the Kingdom of God is multi-colored, multi-faceted, and incredibly diverse. Learning at the feet of her grandmothers, women who were passionate about missions and serving the community, there was no doubt in her mind that God’s love is for everyone.

As a third-generation church minister, Kristin learned that not every church or Christian viewed all people with welcome arms. While working for the State of Washington and serving in the church, she noticed that the secular workplace was often more loving and accepting of people than the church. In 2003, She made the “mistake” of asking God to break her heart over the things that break God’s heart, which started her on a wild ride.

Kristin quit her job and returned to school to quench the thirst for learning more about the ways of God. While in school, she taught government and upper level Bible classes to high school students at a small, Christian school. It was her hope that she could be a voice for embracing the multi-faceted Kingdom among her students. She learned that students were thirsty for this message, but that the messiness of it put her at odds with some administrators, parents, and pastors. This caused a crisis for Kristin as she was not sure how to continue with the message without burning out.

In 2010, Kristin felt God call her to work on her own spiritual formation before entering the fray. She enrolled at Northwest Nazarene University in the Master of Spiritual Formation program and began to meet with a spiritual director. In those two years, Kristin noticed that God was beginning to untangle her spiritual “knots” and was calling her to a new depth. It seemed like a call to activism, but she felt so ill-equipped even with her shiny new master’s degree. Conversations and a whole lot of prayer led her to enroll at George Fox Evangelical Seminary to pursue her Master of Divinity. Four years, a move to Portland, and one heck of a roller coaster ride later, she had clarity about the vocation God was giving her. In her journal she wrote, “I exist to persuade the church to fight for equality and systemic justice for all people and leave the ‘sorting’ to Jesus.”

The Doctor of Ministry in Leadership and Global Perspectives at Portland Seminary is the perfect fit for this self-proclaimed lion-hearted advocate. Kristin loves learning and is soaking in everything she can about leadership, love for people, and smashing systemic injustice. When asked what the future holds, Kristin happily responds, “I have no clue! I am just walking this road one step at a time. The whole thing has been pretty wild so far, and I tend to mess things up when I plan the trip, so I’m going to take the Spirit’s lead.”