How often are we called to reflect upon two years of our lives? And how can you possibly put those thoughts into 1,000 words or less? One particular way comes to mind. I hereby give you the “Top Lessons I Learned in DMINLGP”.
- Walk with God
After seminary, I never expected an academic journey to bring me closer to God. But, through all of the twists and turns, I have emerged from these two years in a beautiful relationship with God. I largely credit this to the Personal Leadership Development Plan, simply because I was challenged to write expectations for myself on paper. When I write something down, I commit to it. From this, I formed a small group of women for prayer, study and encouragement. From this, I intentionally created a plan to read the Bible. From this, I drew close to Him in times of sorrow and in times of celebration. And now, I have steps in place to continue growing.
- Dissertation Preparation
Looking back at Dr. Clark’s classes, a theme for year one was developing relationships, and for year two, cultivating and solidifying those relationships. From our reading, and especially through interactions with the cohort, I learned the importance of listening and being present. This led me to a key lesson in my dissertation research and study – people are not projects. In cross-cultural mission partnerships, others must be treated as equals and with humanity and humility.
- Reading & Blogging
Over the course of two years, I have read books that never would have appeared on my personal reading list. I have been challenged. Some I detested, like Social Geographies: Space and Society by Gill Valentine. Others I loved, like Visual Faith: Art, Theology, and Worship in Dialogue  or Models of Contextual Theology by Stephan Bevans. I realized toward the end of our coursework that each book was carefully selected by our Lead Mentor to stretch our minds, think outside the box, and purposefully ignite conversation. Did I enjoy reading a book a week? Not particularly. Did I become annoyed at times, wishing I could concentrate more on my personal research and study? Yes. Did I learn lessons I did not expect to learn? Yes. Reading the varying perspectives from my cohort-mates allowed me to see the book through 13 different lenses, a rare educational tool.
- Favorite Books
Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community by Andrew Marin
This book taught me to listen with intent of learning, not judging or fixing.
A Guidebook to Prayer: 24 Ways to Walk with God by MaryKate Morse
This book became the cornerstone for my women’s small group. The practical prayer practices allowed us to experience God in new ways, individually and as a group.
Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Society by Jared Diamond
I love history, and this is a book I recommend for all history buffs. If we do not learn from our past, we are certain to repeat it.
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns
There are good leaders, and there are great leaders. Kearns’ account of Lincoln’s life inspired me to persevere, even when defeat seemed imminent.
- Cape Town Advance
Stories are present at all reunions. Storytelling is therapeutic. It helps us process feelings and provides room to learn and grow. Cape Town was the ideal, though slightly jet-lagged, family reunion. Our time was filled with beautiful, heart-wrenching stories, but not solely amongst our LGP family. We heard stories of apartheid, stories of resettling, stories of imprisonment, stories of reparations, stories of hurt and anger, and stories of healing and reconciliation. These stories live on in my heart and mind.
I have heard many of my colleagues reflect upon their DMIN experiences, and an oft-repeated regret is a lack of camaraderie amongst their classmates. In my case, however, the LGP4 Cohort has been the definition of camaraderie. The cohort kept me accountable to turn in my assignments on time. It sometimes shed a new light on what I perceived as the worst book ever written. The cohort became especially helpful during our dissertation preparation classes. The feedback from my small group was invaluable, and I credit them for my progress. As expressed by David Brooks, we are not self-contained individuals. We are intertwined through relationships.
- Emotional Intelligence
I am effective in discussing material things, such as skills, safety, and health. I am much less competent discussing emotions and character. As we learned, reason is separated from emotional intelligence. I have discovered I had been living life on the surface, yet emotions are at the center of our thinking. Emotions are not separate from reason but are the foundation of reason. They tell us what to value. While the conscious mind writes the autobiography of our species, the unconscious mind does the work. This program taught me to educate my emotions to promote wisdom and discernment.
Every weekend, I pray over my cohort-mates and the requests they mention from time-to-time. Often, I will follow up the prayer with a text message, just to say hello or give a word of affirmation. My LGP4 relationships have evolved into family relationships. From Mitch’s random late night questions, to trip planning with Julie, to ministry dreaming with Michael, to beers shared with Bill, to pithy phone calls from Clint, to my newfound sister in Stefania, I could not be more thankful for a group of people. My cohort-mates have encouraged me, challenged me, and loved me. For that, I will forever be changed.
 Valentine Gill, Social Geographies: Space and Society (Harlow, England: Routledge, 2001).
 William A. Dyrness, Visual Faith (Engaging Culture): Art, Theology, and Worship in Dialogue (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001).
 Stephan Bevans, Models of Contextual Theology (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2002).
 Andrew Marin, Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009).
 MaryKate Morse, A Guidebook to Prayer: 24 Ways to Walk with God ((Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2013).
 Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Society (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1999).
 Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006).
 David Brooks, The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement (London: Short Books, 2011), Loc. 64.