Year-in-Review Story – Summer 2015
Today I sat with a Native elder named Leonard Little Finger for six hours on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Leonard is highly educated and worked as a hospital administrator and teacher for the past 55 years. We talked about leadership. We talked about language. We talked about culture. We talked about education. We talked about family. And we talked about the sacred prayer and ceremonies of his people. Leonard is not an evangelical Christian. When he asked me about my doctoral program, I had the joy of recounting what has happened to me in the past two years. Had it not been for this program I would have never met my new friend Leonard.
I had no desire to attend another Christian school when I started thinking about doctoral programs. I had two Christian degrees already. Why get another one? Then I discovered the George Fox LGP program. I was shocked when I found a program that seemed to fit me at a Christian institution. You see, I left ministry in 1994 burned out and disillusioned with evangelicalism. I was tired of uncritical thinking and of incompetent leaders. I had had my fill of this after 16 years. Then I discovered that the lead teacher of the LGP program was a pastor in London with the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, an organization that I had exited quickly 30 years before. So I decided to make an appointment with this man, Jason Clark, before saying yes to George Fox. The conversation was full of honest questions and honest answers. It was also filled with sanity and laughter. Perhaps this program would be a good fit for me after all. I will never forget that day at the Starbucks near the Portland airport and decided to apply to the LGP program. Surprisingly, I was accepted and these have been two of the best years of my life.
What has happened in the past two years? The first lesson I is that we cannot stereotype people, churches, or ourselves. I was unsure if I was capable of functioning academically well at a doctoral level since I am more of a practitioner than a scholar. But being in the program made me realize that I could keep up with a workload that pushed me beyond my wildest expectations. I have now changed the way I perceive myself and have grown in confidence. I have also changed in my reading abilities. When one has to read a book every week, one learns how to read. And not all of these were fun reads. I did not relate to some of the books. But I kept pushing myself – and never gave up. I also became a more confident writer through this course. I always felt that I was a decent writer (after all I teach writing at a college level), but when others actually read your writing regularly, the stakes raise considerably. I don’t know how many posts I have written, but it is probably over 75, and that doesn’t include our other writing assignments, some of which were 30-pages long. But I did all of the assignments for all of my classes and I never missed an on-line chat. I think differently. I write differently. I read differently. And I lead differently – which brings me to my next point.
We are surrounded by leaders in the LGP program. Who are they? First of all, are the George Fox administrators. All of these men and women have been amazingly professional and kind. They treat each student like they are human beings. They are flexible. They are loving. They are models of Christ. Secondly, are our teachers and advisors. Jason Clark and Randy Woodley have been the two key people with whom I have had the most interaction. Jason has been affirming and Christ-like in every way; he has also been very human. I could not imagine my life without his influence. Randy Woodley is a prominent Christian indigenous leader, but he does not flaunt that fact. Since I live close to the University, Randy and I meet together face to face. Through his example and friendship, I have become a different leader, a better leader, a more humble leader. I will never forget Randy’s first words to me. “Bill, I can help you with the intercultural part of this program, but I can’t help you with the leadership part since I know nothing about White leadership.” Thus began my research journey into traditional Native-American leadership practices and values. I have learned so much, but there is so much more I have yet to learn. I hope I am a better leader because of all of this. Time will tell.
The other leaders we have interacted with are some incredible people we have met at our annual Advances in London, Cape Town, and Hong Kong. What a privilege to meet leaders with different worldviews than our own. These men and women impacted my life through their work and words. I will ever be grateful for these experiences; they are solidified in my being.
What About You?
My name is (almost) Dr. Bill Dobrenen. I did not begin the LGP program for the title. However, the title will open some doors that I would not have otherwise. So what would I say to someone considering this program? If you want to become a better person, a better thinker, and a better leader, take a step of faith and join an LGP cohort. You will make friends for life. You will enhance your portfolio. You will see the world in a new way. You will grow and change. I cannot urge you strongly enough. This is one of the best decisions I have ever made. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me any time, firstname.lastname@example.org.