Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World


Written by: on November 16, 2020

The Towers stretch high into the sky as I pass through the city gates. Guardsmen who I recognize bow to me not out of recognition, but out of courtesy for a visitor to the City of Towers. I walk the streets that I once knew, everything exactly as I had left it and yet completely different. I gaze up to see curtains being pulled back as the tower dwellers stare down at me in curiosity, hoping they’ve found a new visitor with whom to share their wealth of knowledge. The sheen of their white robes reflect in the sunlight. They are ones I knew, but they do not see that it is me.

Though I suppose that is to be expected.

I’m no longer the same as when I left.

I wander toward my old Tower, pausing along the way to wave at those I pass. Some smile and return the wave while others give a wary look at my gray traveling cloak. I chuckle to myself, but grow somber as it looms ahead of me.

How long has it been?

The shape is still there, soaring above me. But there are things I notice that I didn’t before. The tower does not have the same sheen it once did. In fact, it seems quite dull as I compare it to what it was before I left. What’s more is that the foundations are cracked, something in my pride that I never noticed before. I shake my head at the reflection that one strong push could send this Tower tumbling now.

“Can I help you?” a voice asks.

I turn around to see a Young Expert approaching me. How strange.

I smile and bow my head in deference. “I am simply passing through,” I reply.

The Young Expert looks me up and down. “We don’t get many Strangers passing through these days.”

I nod. “Why would they?”

“Why, to learn from our great wisdom and knowledge!” they declare.

“And what they want is locked away in these Towers?” I ask.

They look startled. “Where else would it be?”

I close my eyes, remembering that moment long ago. That moment when the fog began to roll in and the discontent began to settle. When I open my eyes, I smile. They have the same look in their eyes. The same look I had so long ago.

I point to the Tower. “What happened to the one who lived here?”

The Young Expert shrugs. “No one knows for sure. One day the Expert who lived there was just…gone.”

“What happened to their knowledge?”

“As per the Law of Expertise, it was questioned, dismantled, disproven, and shown to be incorrect in its basic assumptions. The knowledge was then dispersed amongst the other Experts of the city to do with as they will.”

I laughed. All that work, for nothing?

The Young Expert gives me a look. “Why are you laughing?”

“My friend, I spent my whole life amassing that knowledge only for it to be lost. How are you not laughing?”

Their eyes grow wide. “W-Wait. You’re the Expert?”

I shake my head. “I haven’t been called that in I don’t know how long. I don’t go by that moniker anymore.”

“Where did you go? Why did you leave? Who are you now? I have so many questions!”

“And I don’t have all the answers,” I laugh again.

They look at me in confusion.

I gesture at the city around me. “Once I lived here amongst the Experts, but I grew discontent with my life. I felt there was so much more out there, but I was afraid to take the step.”

I see the Pilgrim in my mind.

“What is the most important step?” 

My Journeys play like a reel in my mind’s eye.

“I Journeyed through the fog, stayed for a time at Knowing’s Edge, and was carried by the great river of grace and to the place of Peace. I have met many Travelers and Pilgrims and Wanderers, all seeking, but never fully arriving. For each stop is but a waypoint to something else.”

My friends at Knowing’s Edge flash across my mind.

“Ever searching, but never fully arriving. Not yet at least. And that’s okay.”

“What were you searching for?”

“What we all search for: An understanding of who I am.”

“And who are you?”

I smile and look them in the eye. “Young Expert, begin the Journey anew. The City of Towers is not where your heart belongs. Like my own knowledge, one day what you held so dear will be lost to time. We are but a breath in this world.”

I see tears in their eyes. So much is built on that foundation.

“There is much to be seen and done outside of the walls. All it takes is an adventurous spirit, a humble heart, and a companion with whom to begin the Journey.”

I can see the Young Expert trembling. I’ve struck a chord in their heart. I hold out my walking staff for them to take.

“Come, my friend. The Journey and your Transformation wait beyond Knowing’s Edge.

They hesitate a moment before shakily taking my staff. “What should I call you?”

I smile and give them the name I searched for so long ago. A name that I strove for with all of who I am, clawing my way to the top. But it is a name I feared, one I never felt worthy of until I finally undertook the Journey – one I’m still not fully comfortable with, but I’m learning. It is a name that carries with it the trials and tribulations of the Journey, one that instills Peace, Hope, Joy, and Love.

It is the name that looks beyond accomplishments, beyond the Tower I built around myself to make myself worthy.

It is the name that the One Who Calls has given me.


About the Author

Dylan Branson

Small town Kentuckian living and learning in the big city of Hong Kong.

11 responses to “Transformation”

  1. Darcy Hansen says:

    Lovely. Really lovely. The journey of transformation is less linear and more circular. We begin, we travel, we return to our roots, but see them in a different way. Does Beloved stay in the place that was once home? Or does he move on? Where does he belong now that he is Beloved? Can any one place contain his desire for the more of life that comes from the journey?

    I remember returning home to Alabama after being away at college in California for a year. Everything seemed so small. While visiting with a friend, in a frustrated tone, she remarked how much I had changed. I knew she was right. I couldn’t put my finger on the many ways I’d grown, but I knew in my bones I could never live in Ozark, AL again. I knew I would never really have a “home” again. A wandering spirit had filled me to overflowing. That remains true to this day, so much so that being in one place is very difficult for me. Still, I long to hear the word, Beloved. So I keep journeying.

    Thank you for this beautiful story you’ve gifted us with this semester, my friend.

    • Dylan Branson says:

      Darcy, I feel the same way when I go back to Kentucky to visit my family. I think there’s another element to it that it’s not just us who have changed, but it’s the people we used to know as well. There’s so much we miss when we’re away from the ones we love / who love us. I was talking to a friend not too long ago about potential next steps and the one thing she adamantly said was, “Wherever you go, don’t go back to Kentucky. You’ve outgrown it.” That was a hard pill to swallow, even if I’ve known that’s true for a long time. But, like the Tower, nostalgia calls to us like a siren, begging us to come back. But the reality is much different from what we want to believe.

      I’m reminded of the movie Interstellar when Matthew McConaughey is watching the video from his daughter back on earth after decades have passed from being on the planet he was visiting. Nothing ever truly stays the same. There is always some change, no matter how minute it may be.

  2. Jer Swigart says:


    The Expert rediscovers the pilgrimage and then embraces a new name…THE name. He is now a lifelong pilgrim and “Supernatural Aid” to the next wave of young Experts-to-be-Pilgrims.

    Great writing, Dylan. So captivating. So helpful. Thank you.

    • Dylan Branson says:

      We all need someone who’s walked the Pilgrim’s Path to get us started on the Journey and to walk a ways with us. Every Journey is different with different challenges and celebrations. Sometimes we find our Pilgrim Guide in the most unlikely of places.

  3. Greg Reich says:

    Dylan my young companion, this is truly beautiful and inspiring. I have lived away from Montana where I was raised for almost 40 years. Despite my many journeys and wanderings when I return for a visit it still feels like home. Though I am in no way the same person I was when I left but, I still feel it’s home. It has nothing to do with the people or the community they are all strangers. For me it is the country, the wildness, the undomesticated sense of freedom that draws me home. If and when I return I will return as an outlander. I would have it no other way! One can not sojourn through life and return home any other way.

    • Dylan Branson says:

      The unfamiliar familiarity. We return “home” to find that what was once familiar is no longer that. We see home with new eyes and those who knew us before see us with new eyes as well. Returning home can be like Rip Van Winkle who fell asleep for decades only to return home and find that everything has changed. What impacts did we leave? Or did we leave any? How did our being there change those around us? What do we have to offer when we return?

  4. John McLarty says:

    I’ve enjoyed this journey all semester, but this post struck me in a very personal way. I’m currently serving a church I grew up in. Many of the people remember me from before, but I am most definitely not the same person. Some of the people I had admired and respected are not who or what I remember. They want me back in the tower-(there’s a literal tower!) – to be the expert. I’ve wanted to remain a pilgrim. (Maybe that’s why I’ve waited until now to start a DMin.) There’s much truth in the words of Jesus about prophets having no honor in their own hometowns! So the question is- can the pilgrim maintain that identity of wanderer/wonderer while also firmly planted in a role where “expert” is very much expected?

    • Dylan Branson says:

      John, I wonder if that’s where the idea of being a differentiated leader comes into play. The need or desire for having a “resident expert” is an emotional need and process. So the leader keeps a sense of detachment – in this case, leaning into the wonder and wandering of the pilgrim – while still being present with those who desire the expert. Perhaps it’s also that the differentiated leader also invites the congregation into the journey.

  5. Chris Pollock says:

    I hold my breath at the thought, ‘an understanding of who I am.’

    What. A. Sweet. Ending.


    What an encouragement. The journey into this ‘knowing’ is so worth it.

  6. Shawn Cramer says:

    What a perfect ending note to a semester’s worth of journeying together… beloved. Just one last affirmation of taking the courage to risk with your writing this year.

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