November 2016, I get a message from Stu Cocanougher about his work on a Dmin program. He wanted me to read his blog post and see what I thought about it. He then started sending me different videos of Dr. Jason Clark describing the Leadership and Global Perspectives program through Portland Seminary. I remember thinking to myself, yeah no chance I have no desire to work on a Doctorate, even thought for the past three years my mom and God have been harping on me about just such a thing. Two weeks pass and I cannot get the idea out of my head so I decide to start praying about this program. It became pretty clear God wanted me in this program and who am I to argue, a few interviews later and a bunch of emails and I was on my way. I had no idea this year would so radically affect my life and my walk with God.
The first thing which struck me was what seemed to be an insurmountable mountain of books to read, a dip into the reading later and I found the programs choices for reading were engaging and challenging. The challenges of adding a reading a writing schedule to my already busy day are immense. As a pastor I have many responsibilities that pull me in many directions, as a husband and a father of three boys I have responsibilities, yet God called me into this program so I knew I could find balance and I did. There are things in my life I had to lay aside, volunteering at different events and programs had to be removed from my schedule but in time they will return.
I have been to many different places, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, South and Central America, Southeast Asia, but I had never been to Africa. To be honest I never had a desire to go. So, my first trip to Africa was through our advance. After getting my bags and exiting the airport I was confronted with two things, first the absolute genuineness of the people I met, Deon and Anwill. The second, the beauty of South Africa, I have never seen a country like South Africa. The weather was amazing and the food was just as good. The best part though was meeting for all the people of my cohort for the first time. It was good to finally meet them face to face, even though we had seen each other over the first month of the program on our weekly online synchronous chats. They were all just as nice and inviting as I expected. We also got to meet our leaders of the LGP program, Jason, Loren, Cliff and Heather, we could not have asked for a better group. I also was paired up with my advisor, Dr. Darrell Peregrym. Dr. D, as our group calls him, has been a great guide on what to expect and has given me so much help in determining my dissertation and how that will shape my experience in this program. I could not have asked for a better person.
I was challenged in Capetown, from getting to spend time with those who fought apartheid, to visiting Robben Island where Nelson Mandela and a host of other political dissidents where held. The time spent hearing their stories and the impact of the reconciliation has had on their lives going forward was amazing. It was two weeks that felt like just a moment in time. I wish it could have been longer.
I have never been much of a journal writer, so when I read in our course schedule we would be writing about ourselves I was not sure how that would turn out. Well, I liked doing it, sort of like introducing myself to myself. It forced me to take a look at things in my life I usually do not address. This whole program has forced me to look into my beliefs and how I interpret the affects of God and scripture on my life. I feel like I have become a better leader because I have become more empathetic to those around me and their situations. I have a personality that can be described as a bull in a china shop. Over the last year, because of our time spent reading impactful books, time spent hearing other perspectives, not just listening but hearing, I feel I have a better outlook as a pastor. Being able to put who I feel I am on paper has been very cathartic in my life. I did not write down everything I could have (I am not ready for some of them) but my walk has been better.
I cannot wait to see what the next two years in this program holds. I do not have any question they will challenge me, frustrate me, and cause a few mini strokes with stress, but the time spent will be worth the pain. Nothing worth while is easy, this program included, but it is worth it.