It does not seem that long ago when I sat in an entirely empty house doing my first online chat that fateful day of September 2013. We had just bought our first home in Florida after transplanting to the Sunshine state the previous summer. We had fully moved all of our belongings the week before. Due to the delay in connecting of our internet I had to return to our rent house with a TV dinner tray, a folding chair, and my computer. Thus began my matriculation into a doctoral program with George Fox University.
Since that time the race has been on. Weekly readings, blog post, comments, end of semester assignments, field research, and the essays. I came into the program with a large dose of naïveté. I assumed that I would be taught about all types of leadership within a global perspective and then out of that learning I would eventually choose a topic to do my dissertation work. You can imagine my shock when one of our first assignments was to report on what we were going to study and the topic of our dissertation. Well, I have come a long way from that TV tray and folding chair. I now sit here, or should I say “stand at my desk,” about to embark on my culminating work of the very dissertation that I had no clue about when I sat in that empty house not so long ago.
When I teach about globalization (all of which I learned through this program), to missionaries and leaders, I mention the triple-S forces that globalization has upon people. These triple-S forces are speed, scope, and simultaneity. These same forces can adequately describe this doctoral program. In reference to speed: in two years time we have previewed and personally blogged some 55+ books. These books, along with the lead mentor, have added new dimensions to my leadership and teaching that I will be unpacking for years to come.
As to scope: I have been stretched in directions I would have never chosen. Polanyi, with his political and economic origins of our time. Taylor, with social imaginaries and his behemoth of a book, Secular Age. There was Zygmunt and his collateral damages, guns, germs, and steel with Diamond. Ross, and how we became a nation of heretics. Friedman and the failure of nerve. Kets De Vries with his leadership mystique. All these were only doorways to whole new territories of learning and growing. Beyond these, I have purchased approximately 75 other books and numerous journal articles which continue to expanded my scope as both a leader and a child of God.
Finally, the word simultaneity. Our Monday chats and advances are truly global as we communicate with everyone at the same time. At first the speed and scope by which we engaged our synchronous chat was overwhelming. A comment would be made and while attempting to read, four more comments would be made. By the time I finally pecked out my comment I didn’t’ even know what I was commenting on. This took serious getting use to. However, this painful-fast-pace experience became the highlight of the week. This is globalization on a personal level. Friends from Uganda, Ethiopia, Wales, London, and Canada joined those of us in the USA and for one hour we enjoyed each others company and academic stimulation. As the song goes, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve been through,” except my cohort mates. Friends, co-works, and family members know that I am in a doctoral program, but only my fellow academic soldiers truly know what it is like to be in the weekly trenches sloshing through the stuff of life all while attempting to accomplish this great achievement known as higher education. So I sing, “I get by with a little help from my friends.”
The overall program has helped me asses my skills, abilities, and overall knowledge, or, the lack thereof. I have written about my strengths, fears, weaknesses, and personality type through the exercise of developing a PDLP. My outlook on ministry, and my future has only improved. In doing the PLDP I incorporated the Merlin principle and projected back from 7 years in the future after graduation. I saw the favor of God from the diligence of my labor and the reward that comes, not from seeking favor, but from being obedient and a servant leader.
But all that that is in the future. I am still in the press of assignments and questioning my abilities to get it all done in a timely manner. Yet even in the midst of the triple S-forces of this program I have learned far more than books could teach. I was complaining to the Lord one day about the press between the office, the family, the home, and school assignments. I felt the Lord reply, “What I have for you is much more than just a term paper or even a dissertation. These are your training grounds, your reps and your sets, that will build you to do what I have for you to do. Don’t hate the pain, run from the pain, or inoculate the pain, but rather embrace the pain!! Grow through the struggle and complete the exercises that I have for you. Get understanding. Get wisdom. Prov. 4:5, 4:7. Do the hard things, for there are greater things for you to take up and accomplish once you are strong from this process.” I now embrace the fact that I am in the academic gym getting stronger to face the greater challenges ahead. Research has become my new bench press. Notations and foot notes my pull-ups. Writing out what I have learned – my squats and dead lift. I am getting stronger. I am pressing back against the triple-S forces and through this DMin program I am preparing for whatever may lie ahead. For His Glory.