“When I look at you, I see myself. If my eyes are unable to see you as my sister, it is because my own vision is blurred. And if that be so, then it is I who need you either because I do not understand who you are, my sister, or because I need you to help me understand who I am.” Lillian Pierce Benbow, Past National President, Delta Sigma Theta Inc. 1971-1975
Although divided geographically by the Atlantic Ocean with a total of 7,903 miles apart from Raleigh- Durham Airport to the Cape Town Airport, I have come to realize that the experiences and problems faced by so many black Africans in South Africa is very similar to the struggles people of color face here in the United States. When I looked into the eyes of the people within the townships of Cape Town, I didn’t see something other… I saw myself. I saw my life experiences being reflected throughout the culture both expressed and witnessed. I wondered how that could be possible. It weighed very heavily on my heart. How do we shift the sobering reality that exists post-apartheid and civil rights? The injustices that continue to permeate throughout our communities leave us with broken promises spoken by those who only want to get elected but no fulfillment insight. The people no longer want reparations, they are calling for restitution. Where is the hope? As we met with the J L Zwaane Presbyterian Church community, I saw a glimmer of hope. It was the beginning of a new day. An opportunity for us to sit with the tension and not only reflect but feel compelled to respond. It was an awakening of leaders to see the pain and recognize the generational impact of systemic oppression. Furthermore, it was being awaken to understanding how our own power, privilege and race impact our communities, our cities, and our countries. It is true what Nelson Mandela said “Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.”
“Pain which is not transformed is transmitted“-Wilhelm Verwoerd, grandson of former South African Prime Minister, Hendrik Verwoerd who was responsible for the racial policies enforced in the apartheid.
As we work collectively to turn our common suffering into hope, how do we as leaders transform pain and not transmit it? Rev. Michelle Boonzaaier, with IAM.org, in her lecture session exhorted us by reminding us that being a leader means being an embodied presence. We have to be willing to be vulnerable and open. She stated “anytime I find myself uncomfortable to engage with people is a place where I can encounter God”. As leaders a part of our responsibility is to take risks and sit within the tension that exists on the fringes. Our vulnerability becomes transformational through relationships. When we engage in relationships with one another we all bring our truths. As leaders, we must hold our biblical truths lightly within the space we have created to foster our relationships. We cannot force our truths but give room for genuine connection through listening and understanding. It does not mean we make all things permissive but we understand the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit to bring Truth and transformation in our lives. Our challenge as leaders is to allow our impact and influence to come through real, truthful and honest relationships.
I found myself, at times, uncomfortable and challenged with what I was witnessing and experiencing at our Advance. Instead of resisting it, I embraced it. Our lead mentor Dr. Jason Clark encouraged us to jump in with both feet. Leaning into these experiences requires our whole bodies and presence. In doing so, I was able to engage others in our program in deeper dialogue about the racial issues and injustices that existed in both South Africa and America. We created a space that made room for us to become vulnerable and uncomfortable in order to grow. I am grateful for those opportunities.
“Honesty, sincerity, simplicity, humility, pure generosity, absence of vanity, readiness to serve others – qualities which are within easy reach of every soul – are the foundation of one’s spiritual life.”– Nelson Mandela
As leaders our values are at the core of who we are and how we lead. It is one thing to say what are values are it is another to see how they are shared and applied. When we visited Learn to Earn, I found myself both inspired and challenged. What are the values that dictate how I lead and engage with others? What do those values say about who I am? I wish I can say that I have the answers to these questions but I do not. What I am blessed to have is a wealth of knowledge and experience afforded through this advance opportunity. For that I am eternally grateful. I hope that I continue to look across the ocean and see myself in order to connect our compassion together to establish hope for the future.
 “The Alpha Eta Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated,” “When I look at you, I see myself. If my… –
The Alpha Eta Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, January 13, 2012, , accessed October 13,
 “Nelson Mandela Quotes,” BrainyQuote, , accessed October 13, 2017,
 Erika Andersen, “15 Inspiring Quotes From Nelson Mandela On Leadership, Change And Life,” Forbes, December
05, 2013, , accessed October 13, 2017, https://www.forbes.com/sites/erikaandersen/2013/08/21/15-inspiring-
My Personal Interests
At the Advance in Cape Town I was interested in seeing how life is for South Africans since apartheid was declared illegal in the 1990’s. It was interesting to compare the situation to the United States. I am old enough to remember the segregation of the mid 20th century. How are the two countries alike? How are they different?
New Knowledge and Synthesis
We had help in preparing for this experience in South Africa by reading from several books – Mark Mathabane’s Kaffir Boy; Matthew Michael’s Christian Theology & African Traditions, and David Welsh’s The Rise and Fall of Apartheid.
I felt better prepared to understand the poverty and remaining apartheid in South Africa.
The experience in Cape Town South Africa turned the ‘book knowledge’ into real life. The encounters with African leaders helped to shape my thinking in the area of justice. In South Africa as in the United States, those in power have an obligation to care for the less fortunate.
My focus of study in the Leadership & Global Perspectives course is on justice for women. In South Africa I found that the practice of hierarchy among those in power is the same whether it is hierarchy over other ethnic groups, the “weaker sex”, or the poor. Interestingly these are the three groups that Paul addresses as he admonishes the church in Galatia on human relations. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” I am currently putting this insight into my writing. My task now is to answer God’s call on my life to minister the Gospel of forgiveness, hope, and peace to all others, no matter what their ethnic background, gender, or economic status.
Several key points were made on the Advance that have helped me to be less judgmental or condescending. Meeting people who lived through the tragic days of murder and torture made me realize that these are real lives that were affected. Most of these people were not bitter, but forgiving, demonstrating genuine Christianity.
At the Learn to Earn ministry, it was pointed out that “relief outside of a crisis is not good”. Though I may feel compassion and desire to give charity, I must be careful how I do it.
A strong emphasis on family values is credited with why some blacks choose to live in the slums. Family members dying of HIV/Aids need their care. Why aren’t more hospitals being built for the black people? Perhaps they are afraid of being isolated and forgotten by those who love them most.
My heart was also grieved when black women were dismissed as they tried to express their feelings of marginalization. I try to be understanding, but I know since I have never been told I can’t do something because of my skin color I can only empathize as best as I can.
For the ethnography aspect I used a slide show of photographs that I took in South Africa. The photographs will reflect what life is like in South Africa today. Those old enough to remember may spot the similarities and differences between South Africa and the United States.
The photos reflect presentations and field trips. The music you hear is “Oh, Happy Day” sung by the famous South African- Soweto Gospel Choir.
Here is the link to my project – https://youtu.be/FV9BwgFjl9o
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8
As a small girl I witnessed our own ‘apartheid’ in the United States. We called it ‘segregation’. I remember signs over bathrooms that read ‘whites only’ or ‘colored only’. I remember when Rosa Parks courageously refused to move to the back of the bus. I remember hearing our own “Nelson Mandela”, Martin Luther King Jr. fight against injustice in a peaceful way.
Currently I am at Portland Seminary studying for a Doctor of Ministry degree in Leadership & Global Perspectives. To follow Jesus in His footsteps as leaders we must practice justice, mercy, kindness, and understanding with others.
This semester we studied about apartheid. Our trip to Cape Town, South Africa gave us first hand experience in seeing how well justice has been done for the black people since apartheid was declared illegal in the 1990’s. It is a mixed bag in comparison to the United States.
For example – the slums in Guguletho remind me of the old ghettos in Chicago. Today the Chicago ghettos have been cleaned up.
But that brings up another more important comparison – many of the blacks remain in those slums to care for family members that are dying of HIV/Aids. In the United States we have hospitals, but how many visit the dying? Christian values seem more overt in South Africa.
In South Africa families were moved away from their homes in District 6 to supposedly ‘nicer’ homes. But family ties and traditions are more important. Here in the US we had ‘integration’ forcing children to leave their neighborhoods and go to strange schools.
In the US the laws protecting against racial discrimination, though still imperfect, have some teeth in them. South Africans are struggling to enforce the laws. In Cape Town we saw many blacks working in jobs and enjoying many things that they would not have in the 1970’s. But 87% of the land and wealth of the country is in the hands of 13% of the people, mostly whites.
Both countries had charismatic leaders who gave hope to the people – Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. But today corruption in government is stalling justice for the people.
How will South Africa look in the next generation?
 You can purchase their CD’s directly from them:
http://www.sowetogospelchoir.com/cd/blessed/ They have a CD that focuses on apartheid. There is a tribute to Nelson Mandela and also the African National Anthem.
Jean grew up in Northern Ohio, which is essentially Midwest living at its best – corn fields, dairy farms, pond swimming and ice skating, and the Cleveland Browns and Cleveland Indians. It was a good and simple life…school, church, family, and community. She was fortunate to have two spirit-filled parents who instilled Christian values, encouraged her to seek out her own faith journey, and loved her enough to “set her free”. Her faith, born from weekly church attendance at York United Methodist Church, church camp, God seeking and soul searching, solidified her desire to pursue a bachelors and master’s degree in social work. And to top off the Midwestern experience…she completed those degrees at The Ohio State University where she met her life partner, Ron (at the ice rink no less). Jean views her social work profession as “lived faith.” After all, what better expression of Christ’s commandments then to fulfill the mission of social work:
The primary mission of the social work profession is to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic human needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty. A historic and defining feature of social work is the profession’s focus on individual well-being in a social context and the well-being of society. Fundamental to social work is attention to the environmental forces that create, contribute to, and address problems in living.
Social workers promote social justice and social change with and on behalf of clients. “Clients” is used inclusively to refer to individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Social workers are sensitive to cultural and ethnic diversity and strive to end discrimination, oppression, poverty, and other forms of social injustice.
As idyllic as Jean’s Midwest childhood was, the mountains were calling. While summer jobs had always been quirky – driving tractor during hay season, babysitting, elder care, driving an ice cream truck for Mr. Barge the high school English teacher – Jean desired an even bigger adventure. In the fall of 1987, one of Jean’s high school friends suggested Jean join her for a summer job at a ranch in Montana. It sounded amazing – “how do I sign up?” A penned letter sent snail mail and a penned response reply closed the deal. Jean was hired at Sweet Grass Ranch in Big Timber, MT. Two days after high school graduation, Jean boarded a flight on her own and headed west (and then returned for multiple summers).
To say Jean’s experience at Sweet Grass was transformative is an understatement. It wasn’t just the beauty and serenity of God’s creation that was life changing – it was the people, the culture, the risks and adventures, and the introspection which resulted in self-discovery, and change. God knew what he was doing by gifting Jean with three years of growth – just one year after college graduation and months after her marriage, Jean’s mom died after a three year battle with ovarian cancer. The strong, independent, faith filled young woman was devastated. As is typical, family dynamics changed – each family member was dealing with their own grief and the family struggled to find their new normal. At the same time, Jean’s new husband Ron had been hired at his dream job and left for four months of training. Once Ron finished his training, Jean left her job, local friends, and church family to relocate to an unknown community, in an isolated part of the state, for Ron’s job transfer. Can you say spiritual crisis? But out of the storm comes beauty…”the greater your storm, the brighter your rainbow.”
Fast forward twenty five years later. Jean and Ron are empty-nesters, parents of two biological children – Seth and Emma – who have been “set free” to pursue their own dreams. One is in Colorado attending a military academy and the other is pursuing her dream to become a physician’s assistant. Over the years, the family hosted two exchange students (in an effort to bring culture to small town Ohio) from Hong Kong and Taiwan. Keira and Stella (respectively) are now members of the family – always welcome and returning for holidays or a weekend get-away from college. Approximately ten years ago, three local girls “officially/unofficially” joined their family by virtue of their own personal tragedy. Through the years the whole family has grieved the death of the girls’ biological mom, celebrated a wedding, and rejoiced at the birth of a new “grandchild”.
The mountains are still calling Jean (and now Ron, Seth and Emma who love the mountains as much as Jean). The family seeks out mountains and wilderness as often as possible, but at the very least each summer. Seth lives in the Colorado mountains – and takes advantage of the hiking, skiing, and snowboarding and Emma will be heading to Sweet Grass Ranch in Montana this summer to live her dream (and ideally have her own experience of discovery). Travel is a treasured family value!
While still in Ohio by necessity, Jean and Ron embrace life in the Midwest. Jean has been consistently employed in social work jobs, living her faith professionally and in the community. Jean currently holds an assistant professor of social work position at Mt. Vernon Nazarene University and is in private mental health practice. As members of the local Methodist church, they frequently host family, the church congregation, and community friends at their old and spacious farm house as a ministry of hospitality. Jean leads a community center for teens and donates her time to community organizations as a committee member. In her “spare time” Jean tends to her farm pets – a horse, two dogs, cats, and lots of wild critters (the critters are not really pets but they become a part of the barn family when you see them daily, i.e. the resident possums or raccoons). In addition to two jobs, family, church, and community commitments, Jean began a Leadership and Global Perspectives doctoral program at George Fox University in 2017 to fulfill a life-long dream of a terminal degree.
Jean would tell you that life is good. God is good. But the mountains are still calling…
As a generation influenced by Bono and U2, my understanding of Apartheid was limited to what might fit on a poster slogan or synopsis under a picture in a history book. The depth of abuse, racism, misunderstandings, sinfulness that can be seen from all sides is enough to make me want to crawl in a hole and pretend it didn’t and still isn’t happening. The stark contrast of studying these complexities in a beautiful city, while staying in an almost waterfront hotel, eating at western restaurants and traveling by tour bus were sometimes distracting in the journey to learn about the social, political and often religious turmoil that is South African history. I was challenged in self reflection and examination which is never an easy process while in foreign land with a group of people you don’t know. Classmates, mentors, support staff all went out of their way to lay the foundation of what we learned.
When the plane landed in South Africa, I came with a metaphorical suitcase empty ready to fill it with all the things I was going to learn. South Africa delivered to me a truck load that was overflowing, gaining more than I planned on, more than I thought I could hold. The Information and experiences piled high within me and will shape and continue to influence my thoughts for many years.
Prison life at Robbin Island for Mandela and fellow prisoners, District 6 and the rights violations, the townships of Khayelitsha, and Guguletu brought to reality the movies watched and the books read about Apartheid. What I know of this area through the JL Zwane Centre, Presbyterian church, Learn to Earn, Golden Flowers Man gave me the impression of simply dipping my toe in the vast ocean that is Cape Town. I was moved by speakers like Wilhelm Verwoerd and Winston Mashua. For both of them the daily reminders of who they were, as a result of their heritage, has shaped their reaction to God, to their family and to the messiness of living in a society that doesn’t see things the way we do. I would have loved to have sat down over a meal with these men and had the chance to hear more of their personal story, their walk with God and how He continues to teach them about the brokenness of the world we live in.
I think because I live in a relationship based society, the connections gained by my cohort will be one of the highlights to this trip. If you told me that you could bring together people from Washington, California, Oregon, Idaho, Texas, Montana, Tennessee, the foreign country of New Brunswick, France, and Asia, throwing them together with a Londoner and some Oregonians leading, I probably would have told you that this would be an interesting social experiment. However, by the grace and leading of God, it works. The respect that is shown, even when we disagree, is telling of hearts that love the Lord and love people. From late night deep conversations in the lobby, walking on the streets talking about what we learned that day, to going to the Afro-Portuguese restaurant, or African dinner with local music, time spent with this group from many life experiences, generations, and denominations has been not only fun but enriching. The conversations that took place after visiting locations and hearing speakers had the most impact as we unfolded what we experienced and began to process how to live that out.
Moving beyond the preconceived stereotypes that exist in all of our lives on how we see other people, in Africa or North America, forces us to look inward without blame or excuse, yet to begin asking the questions of how do we find answers? The philosopher Benjamin Parker said, “with great power comes great responsibility.”1 In this circumstance, our knowledge is our power and we have a new found responsibility to be a part of the solution in this world. As our cohort grows closer together, openly discussing how each of our world views interact with one another, we grow, challenge and are pushed to move our toe from just touching the water to immersing it into the ocean of change. Africa did not scare me away from difficulties, but rather helped me see the complexities that plague every country and every individual, especially me.
1 a.k.a. Spiderman’s Uncle Ben
Dave Watermulder is Presbyterian minister seeking to bridge a life of faith with a love for the world. As a “preacher’s kid”, he saw the importance of a strong church community, especially in times of trouble. He grew up seeing the church as a place that could make a real and meaningful difference in people’s lives. While serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in the West African nation of Cabo Verde, Dave experienced a call to ministry that would bring together his Christian faith with a deep passion for connecting with people across cultures and backgrounds.
With an affinity for meeting new people and making connections, Dave’s pastoral ministry has always gravitated toward helping the church to intentionally welcome and connect with those who feel on the outside.
As a student at Princeton Theological Seminary, Dave focused on “missional theology” (when it was still considered “cool”) and was influenced especially by the writing of Darrell Guder, Lesslie Newbigin, David Bosch and John MacKay. While in Seminary, Dave had the chance to live and serve for a summer in Ghana, and it was there that he again experienced the hospitality and love that the global church offers.
When he became sick and needed help re-arranging his flights home, a Ghanaian pastor friend stepped in. Although there was an airline strike going on and very few flights were able to leave, this pastor made sure that Dave would be able to get home in one piece. It was this experience of being cared for while far away from home and in a strange land that again helped to shape Dave’s conviction that the church in the US could do the same among those who come to this country.
After serving in a small, multicultural, urban congregation in Providence, Rhode Island that included people from 20 different nations, Dave now serves a church in Silicon Valley. The animating thrust of his ministry is to see people’s faith come alive and the church to be thriving, all for the sake of the world. Dave has been accused of focusing on welcoming people from other countries and cultures as if it were a gospel imperative. And that accusation is correct!
Dave is married to Lisa and they have two kids at home, Abby and Theo. They also have one child in heaven whose name is Mateo. Dave is an avid traveler, having been to 30 countries and he hopes to experience many more. He also loves to read and to play ultimate Frisbee. His one party trick is being able to walk on his hands, which delights little children, but is harder to do, the older he gets!
Being a part of the DMin program in Leadership and Global Perspectives with Portland Seminary has been a perfect fit for Dave. The chance to experience a larger, more global outlook, especially for church and ministry leaders is so important. As the world becomes smaller, and arrives steadily into the United States (in particular), the experiences and cultural competencies that are gained in this DMin program are invaluable.
Pleased To Meet You…Let Me Introduce Jason
Jason Turbeville was adopted from a Catholic orphanage at the age of one month in Birmingham Alabama. He grew up, as most military kids, moving every three to four years, Denver, El Paso, Augusta, Oklahoma City, Fort Worth. He played football and baseball but loved being an offensive lineman, a protector and road grader. Jason still loves football, if you are looking for him on a Saturday afternoon, the best place to start is in front of his T.V. watching college football, don’t look for him there on Sundays, he is not much of a fan of the pros at this point. Jason has always been a bit weird. He has a very dark sense of humor that sometimes gets him into trouble. Jason loves dark movies, not horror stories mind you, but movies like Fargo. He also loves vampire and werewolf movies, cannot get enough of them. Jason also has a love for 1980’s metal, Iron Maiden, Megadeth, W.A.S.P. and others, but he also has an affinity for classical music, whether it is symphonic, piano, or guitar. He just doesn’t get rap though.
Jason met his wife Susan in High School and married soon after. His first son, Matthew was born in 1999, and it was through his son that he found God. He also has twin boys, Joshua and Christian, who were born in 2002. He grew up going to different churches, Methodist with his mom, Episcopal with his dad, and a host of others, but never understood the relationship that could be had with God. Shortly after finding his relationship with Christ he found himself drawn to Seminary. If you would have asked him why, he could not have told you, but would have said definitely not to preach.
Fast forward two years and Jason found himself in the unlikely position of being asked to help at a junior high weekend retreat. It was at during this unlikely time he found himself drawn to youth ministry. Jason was asked to help teach 8th grade boys and was partnered with a man who had been teaching youth for 25 years. He learned how to lead a bible study and from others in the group what it meant to be a youth minister. He had found his calling. He spent the next twelve years as a youth minister in three different churches. During this time Jason was also introduced to missions through his first mission trip to Serbia. His love for reaching the lost through missions almost burned as bright as his love for youth ministry. Jason loves to take people on their first mission trip so they can get a better understanding of just how blessed they truly are, and hopefully ignite a passion for others.
In 2015 Jason was at odds with a deacon at the church he was serving and it ended with him leaving his ministry. He was devastated to say the least. He moped around for three months and began to search out God’s will for him. Jason and his family started attending a church with a wonderful pastor who helped Jason move through his transition. Lonnie is the type of pastor anyone would love to have. Through his mentorship Jason moved to a place where he was ready to serve again. Jason thought he would always be a youth pastor. “Adults bore me” was one of his favorite lines. Imagine his confusion when every youth minister position he applied for came up dry. He started to wonder if he was still called to be a minister, with the encouragement of his wife and the support of others he volunteered at a church plant,he was allowed to preach every other week and was given the opportunity he needed. God had changed his calling, Jason thought he would be in youth ministry until he died, but now he knew his calling was as a pastor.
In November of 2016 he became Southside Baptist newest pastor and could not have been happier. He knows God has put him in this position to be a part of people’s lives. He does not approach his position lightly, his job, as he sees it, is as a shepherd. Jason believes his upbringing, through many faiths, including as an atheist, and his battle with his own demons were worth the fight. He is a pastor because he wants to help people heal, from spiritual and emotional hurts. If you were to ask his wife Susan, she would say it is the perfect place for her husband. She sees his joy in serving like it was when he first found Christ. If you were to ask his friends, they would tell you Jason is doing what he was made to be. Jason laughs when he looks back over the course of the last three years, he should have seen it coming.
Jason sees his opportunity at George Fox as more than just schooling. He sees it as stepping stone to be able to be a part of something bigger. The opportunity to be part of the global community, and to make a difference for Christ. In the Leadership and Global Development program Jason has found a home.
Twenty years ago, in a gunfight lasting less than 30 seconds one police officer was wounded, two brothers were killed, and a second a police officer was shot and died at this student’s feet. While serving as the Police Watch Commander that night this student was charged with maintaining public safety, providing lifesaving services, and when necessary leading men and women into harm’s way to protect the lives of others.
Evil takes many forms, and even though a brave young Christian was shot-down in the line of duty, his death was not in vain. Inspired by this tragic event, this student developed a passion to help others learn how to protect themselves from both physical and spiritual harm. Following the Biblical doctrine of the Apostle Paul, this student developed a Holy Spirit inspired passion, wisdom, and discernment surrounding the wearing of Christ as protection against the schemes of the devil called the Armor of God. Fast forward 20 years and this student’s vocation still has him engaged in safety, lifesaving, and leading others into danger through a marketplace ministry. Therefore, for security reasons, this essay introduces Mic Anthony (alias) and provides some limited facts about his location, vocation, and personal hobbies.
First, this student is currently serving in a marketplace aviation vocation in the Middle East. His home is in the North West portion of the United States. His vocations include aviation manager, parcel delivery services owner-operator, foreign mission committee chairperson, and first-responder volunteer chaplain. As a marketplace missionary, aviator, and chaplain, he hopes to be Christ’s salt to flavor, preserve, and heal while carrying Christ’s light to illuminate his love, grace, and presence wherever he travels or responds to the least reached people in their hard to reach places who need help (Matt. 5:13-14).
Second, this student’s passion and love is found through his stewardship of an Armor of God discipleship ministry, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and active around the world for the past 15 years. He believes in showing and sharing Christ through a challenge coin that he designed with the six pieces of the armor of God (Eph. 6:10-18). His goal in using this discipleship vocation is to reach and save the lost, teach them how to put on the whole armor of God, and show them how to become victorious when defending against spiritual attack.
Third, the greater human element and need that this student sees are to reach the leaders of the North American church and help them recognize how much they have become desensitized from the threat of spiritual warfare. He wants to inspire these church leaders to action, so they will train and equip their congregants as the body of Christ in how to resist Satan. He believes these leaders can be taught and then teach others how to defend against evil schemes and overcome the forces of darkness by wearing the full armor of God. As Paul says, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood,” but against rulers, powers, and forces of darkness (Eph. 6:12).
This student’s areas of interest include researching and writing about the effects of training youth and adults on how to wear the full armor of God. His thesis holds that the more Christians who follow the armor of God regiment of preparation, prayer, and perseverance will become more spiritually healthy than those who only use prayer or take no defensive action during spiritual attack. His long-term goals include the successful journey through the Dmin Leadership and Global Perspectives degree program while remaining open to God’s additional calls on his life to mission, ministry, or pastoral leadership positions. His hobbies are bow-hunting, worship team acoustic guitar, and taking his wife shopping.
Kyle is in his sweet spot when he is training and launching leaders into vocational ministry. Having been in full-time ministry since he was 17, and ordained by the Assemblies of God at the age of 23, Kyle spent the first decade of his ministry experience working in youth ministry. Serving in Pendleton Oregon for 5 years, one of his highlights of ministry is when his youth group of roughly 50 kids raised $40,000 in 10 months to buy a vehicle for a missionary to Jordan. Kyle served for 3 years in Modesto California and recently transitioned to join the team at Trinity Life Center in Sacramento, California. At this church he is the director of Pathway Ministries which has a vision to see a new generation of pastors, missionaries, and evangelists trained and launched into vocational ministry. Having seen the disconnect between real world experience and theological education Kyle intends to bridge the gap to make more rounded ministers. Most of Kyle’s time is spent time ministering and building disciples and connecting young pastors into mentoring relationships where they can be spiritually fathered and mothered. The most tragic sight to Kyle is the glimpse of unrealized potential and Pathway ministries is a partial solution for that to many student’s lives. Kyle is also the Coordinator for Northwest University’s Partnership Program in Northern California – Nevada. In this role he assists churches in getting their internships accredited so they can receive practicum credit for serving at their local church.
Kyle graduated with his Bachelor’s in Christian Ministries and a Master’s degree in Theological Studies from Southwestern Assemblies of God University. Kyle is currently pursuing his Doctoral degree from Portland Seminary at George Fox University to better prepare himself for what he senses God calling him to do. He hopes to be part of the solution to get cheap and effective ministerial training into the unreached areas of the underdeveloped world. Currently, for his thesis he is studying how to use online delivery to bring practicum learning experiences into leadership & ministerial graduate programs.
Kyle has been married to his lovely wife Anna, for 8 years, and they have two sons, Caleb (3) and Judah (1) and they plan on eventually adopting two more boys. You might find Kyle on the weekends in the backyard gardening, or playing a board game with his family, like Settlers of Catan.
You can more about Kyle and what he has written at his website kylechalko.com
On a trip to Paris to celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary, God called Jenn Williamson and her husband David to move to France. While they had never dreamed of becoming missionaries, Jenn and David embarked upon a journey that would change the course of their lives. After spending two years raising support, they left their beloved home, jobs, and church to move to France with their two teenaged boys.
While her official job description is “church planter,” Jenn believes that French people will plant the best French churches. For that reason, she focuses her attention on equipping and empowering young French believers who have the potential to plant churches. She has also served on two French-led church plant projects and teaches in a French-established church planting training center.
With a Masters in Ministry Leadership, Jenn loves to develop leaders through mentoring and coaching. Those that she mentors often go on to make great contributions to the Kingdom work of God. Jenn believes that a leader is not measured by the size of the fruit that grows on her own tree, but by the fruit that grows on the trees of those she serves. For this reason, Jenn likes to think of herself as a runway—she looks for ways to lay down her life so that others are enabled to take flight.
Recognizing that the demand for mentors exceeds her own capacity, Jenn is also committed to the training and development of French mentors for emerging leaders. To that end, she works with her colleague Alain Stamp to launch mentoring communities all across France. Inspired by Leighton Ford, Jenn seeks to raise up leaders who lead like Jesus, to Jesus, and for Jesus.
Though called to serve the church in France, Jenn also has a heart for her fellow missionaries. Having come to the field late in life, Jenn knows first-hand the challenges that missionaries face in adapting to a new culture and establishing effective ministries. Together with other experienced missionaries and French partners, Jenn has launched an association aimed at helping missionaries transition to the field. This association, called Elan (elanmission.org) is unique in that in invites the participation of French partners into the adaptation process, building trust and collaboration between foreign workers and French nationals from day one on the field.
Those who invite Jenn to preach, teach, or speak at conferences often describe her as having a “prophetic voice.” She has a way of bringing Truth to life, making it both relevant and accessible to those who hear it. Transparent, vulnerable, and honest, Jenn embraces both the challenges and joys of following Jesus while eagerly encouraging others to come along.
Though she loves to travel and meet new people, at the end of the day, her favorite thing to do is curl up on the sofa with her husband, David, her dog, Gemma, and glass of red wine. And if a theology debate happens to break out—all the better!
Jenn is an empty-nester, an avid reader, a reluctant swimmer, a beginning knitter, and lover of Ignatian spirituality. She blogs at therhythmsofgrace.com.
Pain is an odd companion. It demands your attention, but seems to increase the more attention it is given. Because of this, a common theme I hear from people in pain is that they have “gotten used to it.” The reality is that pain becomes the filter through which days are evaluated. As Cavanaugh puts it, “Pain is often called ‘blinding’ because it eliminates all but itself from the field of vision.” A “good” day is one in which the pain is somehow lessened, or there is some delight that steps between the person and the pain to mitigate it. A “bad” day is one in which the pain has worsened, been compounded, or the person simply is not able to find another focus to distract.
I left for South Africa in pain and I returned home from South Africa in pain. The pain did not relent, but there were good days and bad days. I asked friends at home to pray that the pain would open compassion in me rather than make me surly and withdrawn. I think maybe it was a draw between the two.
One can hardly experience South Africa without noticing the pain. Even in our luxury hotel nestled on the waterfront of Cape Town, we were surrounded by people living with deep pain as a result of Apartheid and the ongoing effects of a white supremacist structure. Our servers, for example, shared that many of them see their children only every six months or so because they had to leave the West Cape and come to Cape Town in order to find good work. While pain laced their words, their smiling reassurance that they loved taking care of people reminded me that finding joy in daily life mitigates that pain, but the pain does not relent.
The best, worst day of our time in Cape Town was the day we travelled to the District 6 Museum, and to Robben Island. In both places, survivors of the atrocities committed by the government shared matter-of-factly and with a bit of humor stark descriptions of the pain inflicted over and over again by a government determined to subdue and subjugate an entire race of people in South Africa. Fear, pain, starvation, degradation, and humiliation – these were the tactics used by one group of human beings toward another group. What quickly became clear is that, while apartheid has ended, the effects have not. Political prisoners may no longer be housed at Robben Island, but they remain in a prison of frustration and pain because they remain second class citizens in their country. The government may not be perpetrating forced removals as they did in District 6, but neither are they returning the land and restoring the homes to those who were removed. The government of South Africa continues to fail its black citizens.
Traveling to Gugulethu and Khayelitsha Townships, we saw and heard about the effects of this government failure. The beautiful people of JL Zwane church shared their vibrant heritage in dress and in worship on Sunday, and followed with a stark witness to the ongoing pain on Monday. The pastor of JL Zwane church stood, to me, in stark contrast with those government “leaders” who have taken without giving, and promised without fulfilling. Listening to him, I kept remembering Max DePree’s words, “Leaders don’t inflict
pain; they bear pain.” This pastor and his team work tirelessly to bear the pain the government inflicts on its people. In our discussions, we came to realize that our positions are not so different because many things in our countries our not so different. As leaders who follow Christ, we are called to bear the pain, even when it is inflicted on us and our people by our own government.
In my efforts to find compassion through pain, I kept notes in my journal regarding where I noticed pain among my own colleagues during this trip in an effort to pray for them and, really, to know them better. There was so much pain present in this group of 40 or so people. In my own cohort, every person grappled with some sort of pain, be it physical, emotional, or spiritual. Other colleagues suffered pain from illness or injury, the pain of being separated from family, the pain of coming up against their own biases and not knowing how to resolve them, and the pain inflicted by the biases of others. Reverend Michelle Boonzaaier introduced us to the pain she experienced when she realized
that God loves those who hate her just as much as God loves her. God is the God of those on both sides of any fence as well as those in the middle. There is deep pain in realizing that, just because God loves me, that doesn’t make me “right” and others “wrong.”
Looking through my “list of pain,” I realized that there is so much more pain in the grey areas of life, than in the black and white/right and wrong places. Apartheid was wrong, but ending apartheid has not ended the pain. Slavery and Jim Crow were wrong, but ending those laws has not ended the pain. There are many grey, nebulous spaces where pain continues to be inflicted and wounds continue to fester. There is little healing happening while these grey areas exist.
As I said, I returned home in pain – worse pain actually than when I had left. One thing I brought home with me, however, was a sense of community in pain. While the pain I have right now is some of the worst physical pain I have experienced, I am practicing stillness in the midst of it, meditating on the pain of others and praying for mitigation and healing for all of us. Instead of just asking God, “Where are you in this pain?” I am asking, “What pain am I to bear as a leader? Who needs me to come alongside and bear some of that pain?” I wish these practices eased my own pain, but there is something deeply mitigating in knowing that I am a part of a body of leaders, in our DMin LGP family and around the world, who are called to bear the pain of others as we bear each other’s pain and we bear the pain of our communities together.
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…)
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.
“A year from now you will wish you had started today.” 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.
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.
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.
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.
 Lamb, Karen.
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 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.
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.”
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.
 Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow. (Berkeley CA: Counterpoint, 2000), 133.
 Petersen, Mark. Love Giving Well: The Pilgrimage of Philanthropy. (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2017), 194.
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.
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. 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….”
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.” 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. 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.
 Sarah Pink, Doing Visual Ethnography, 3rd edition (Los Angeles: SAGE, 2013). 149.
 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
 Michelle Boonzaaier, Cape Town, SA, September 23, 2017
 Pink. 148.
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. 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.
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. 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.
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.
 Welsh, David. The Rise and Fall of Apartheid. (Jeppestown: Jonathon Ball Press, 2009), 57.
 Pink, Sarah. Doing Visual Ethnography: Images, Media and Representation in Research (Second edition). London: SAGE, 2006.