DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Thoughts from Under the Mango Tree

Written by: on March 13, 2015

I’m not going to lie. Reading Caroline Ramsey’s two articles while sitting in Haiti sent me for a bit of a loop. Provocative theory and management practices and phronesis, OH MY! I read the articles several times, and then I looked out over my surroundings. In a world where context is everything, how would these two worlds connect?

While some of the technical terms were lost on me, I particularly enjoyed the narrative portions of “Provocative Theory and a Scholarship of Practice” and “Management Learning: A Scholarship of Practice Centered on Attention?” Ramsey had a way of telling these stories in real-speak to connect the principles (or theory) with the practical.

I focused on three specific quotes:

“First, knowing is not consistent and sustained, but is interactive with the world and is shaped by that interaction. Secondly, it is generative; in interacting with the world, the practitioner, ‘knowing in action,’ produces and innovates a new world.” (“Management Learning,” 4)

“My learning was continually shaped by the relationships within which my work was embedded.” (“Management Learning,” 14)

How does theory relate to practice? Ramsey proposes through a relationship of engagement, not the application of theory. (“Provocative Theory”, 2)

Here in Haiti, there is a lack of critical thinking. When one is living day-to-day in survival mode, thinking five years in the future is a luxury one cannot afford. It is nearly impossible to teach sustainability, or how to plan ahead. Business practices run amuck, and while there is a slight twinge of creativity, this is a country where theories come to die. Would action and practicality thrive, if given the chance?

But, then I considered the term “phronesis,” which is defined as wisdom in determining ends and the means for attaining those ends. Where better for this concept to be considered. Of all places, Haiti is in need of such wisdom. Accomplishing anything here is remarkable, and to make any significant accomplishment in a wise and thoughtful manner is even more so. Foreign aid is literally dumped into the country, often with little or no thought as to implementation, effectiveness or sustainability. Even more often, a “one size fits all” approach is used by governments and NGOs when attempting to improve conditions in Haiti.

Haiti is a perfect example of a country where knowing is truly interactive. Pragmatic solutions are almost always the most successful, and developing such a solution requires careful listening and the development of relationships of trust. Political dynamics, weather, and many other forces are constantly changing in Haiti, and the solution that worked last month will generally not work today.

I am left with the thoughts of relationship. We learn through relationships. We evolve through relationships. Today, Pastor Mongerard and I spoke of how our partnership has resulted out of a relationship of trust with significant communication and learning best practices. I have learned because of him and the work we have accomplished together, and I hope he feels likewise.

So that’s what I’m left with, sitting here in Haiti, with Stefania, under a mango tree. Wishing you all a good night!

About the Author


Ashley Goad

Ashley is the Global Missions Pastor at First United Methodist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana. She's a UNC fanatic, Haiti Enthusiast, Clean Water Activist, Solar Power Supporter...

12 responses to “Thoughts from Under the Mango Tree”

  1. mm Deve Persad says:

    Life under the mango tree…glad that you’re back. Relationships, trust, communication; those all take intentionality. The humility required to affirm another person serves to breathe life into them and encourages confidence in presenting ideas. The safety of a mutually submissive relationship has incredible potential. Thanks for modelling that with your Haitian friends. It would interesting to know whether they sense that mutuality. How often do our teams let our hosts know how much they have blessed or changed them? Imagine if we do that more often?

    • Ashley says:

      Deve, I think I’ll preach on that in April while I’m in Haiti. For so long, I’ve been serving in this community, and because of them, I’ve been changed from the inside-out. They have had a huge impact on my life. It’s time I let them know!

  2. Michael Badriaki says:

    Ashley, greetings to you, Stefania and your friends in Haiti. I agree with your initial question on how this week’s articles might be suitable for other contexts. The concepts can seem quite distant from the context and that’s why it is always a good thing to be aware about the possibility that certain concepts might not be fitting as you pointed out. This is also why I appreciated Caroline’s articles because I believe she is addressing a similar issue in management. The difficulty in management, missions and ministry at times lays people’s willingness to learn anew and unlearn their fast held concepts.

    You properly mentioned what works in Haiti when you write, “Pragmatic solutions are almost always the most successful, and developing such a solution requires careful listening and the development of relationships of trust. Political dynamics, weather, and many other forces are constantly changing in Haiti, and the solution that worked last month will generally not work today.”

    As I interacted with the articles this week, I also see how your thought about the pragmatic solution approach might mirror the ideas Provocative theory presents. “Knowledge is seen as situated and emergent, created and expressed in social practices.” You also conclude well by emphasizing the need for relationship and I say, Amen to that!

    Great stuff!

  3. Liz Linssen says:

    Hi Ashley
    I confess I too found the articles a challenge indeed! Being a very practical and ‘today’ person, I struggle to apply such academic thinking to every day issues. BUT, as you say, there are valuable points to think about.
    It must have been quite a contrast indeed to read these articles whilst being in Haiti. As you say, relationships are so important, and Ramsey provides some good pointers.
    Enjoy the rest of your stay!

    • Ashley says:

      Thank you, sweet Liz. I am always striving to connect the academic to the everyday practicality. … It’s tough sometimes 🙂

  4. Ashley,

    Yes, it is all about relationships. Amen to that! This is definitely true in my research work. The past two weeks, God has graced me with some amazing open doors of relationships with some Native elders. I am so grateful for this. But it did not come to me through cleverness or planning or theory. No, it all came out of other relationships. I now have access to some native leaders that I would never have had if I had not taken the time to build relationships with the few people I started with. Great doors have opened through some very simple friendships and one thing has led to another. But now I need to follow up on these new leads and be open to what I will learn with and from these new friends.

    I know relationships are valued in all cultures and situations, but what I am learning in my studies is how especially important this is when dealing with tribal people who don’t have a lot of trust towards those who are white, educated, or Christian. So these open doors are all the more miraculous to me. I am grateful to God for opening these doors. Now I have to go through them.

    • Ashley says:

      Bill, what if we were to really focus on relationships? And what if we were to teach our congregants or students that relationships are the most important assets in life? And what if we teach them that people are not projects? What if we bring humanity back and build community through relationships? How would that change our world? … I love the lessons you are learning. Thank you for being so open and honest, as I am learning with you!

  5. mm Julie Dodge says:

    You and your darned mango tree. Oh wait – I think I have a mango fruit pop in my freezer. That might suffice…

    Ah – but back to your writing. You note the challenges in Haiti. Starting with a need for wisdom, but I might wonder about a need for hope even before that. Hope brings a sense of future and purpose, which then opens the door past survival in the moment. But even then I would wonder if perhaps Haitians are simply present oriented in their worldview, as so many other cultures. I think in many ways, we in the western world come up with our great theories for how things work according to our understanding and context. And the theory may still be good, but need to be adapted to the context of other ways of being and doing. I imagine that there are a great many theories about life and living, and work and doing, that have been generated in Haiti. But are they theories of hope or despair? That of course, is where the Jesus part of the story comes in. Not to oversimplify, but really, where else to start for both hope and wisdom? Perhaps not very scholarly, but absolutely practical.

    • Ashley says:

      You know, Julie, as I reflect on your thoughts, I am in a quandary. Haiti is one of the most distraught places I have ever seen…yet it is full of hope. That is a complete contradiction, but their hope is in Jesus. They may not know their physical future, but they know who their Savior is. (That is a huge, sweeping, general statement, but in my experience, it is largely true.) I have so much to learn from the Haitians… So much.

  6. mm John Woodward says:

    Ashley, thanks for bringing these articles to a very real, down to earth perspective. I have to ask, how do you handle overwhelming situations of poverty and need that you see in the world? Do you ever despair and want throw up your hands and just give up? There are times when I in places and think, “Oh, Lord, how is this every going to change? This is impossible!” And I want to just bury my head and wish it would go away. But, I then think of the other “impossible” situations that church has faced over the years, and how Jesus has turned many lives and communities and even nations around. But, as you suggest, what is so important is the relationships. It is by focusing on people, giving them a leg up, opportunity, hope…that begins that slow process of turning toward a better future. I think if I concentrate on the big picture, the grand goal, that is where I despair, but when I concentrate on this one life here, this one life there, and see change, I begin to see Jesus’ teaching on yeast and mustard seeds in action – that big things come with His watering and nurturing of the little things! So, keep caring for that one starfish that today you saved…it could be the beginning of something big! Thanks Ashley for your care and love for the little people of the world! My prayers go with you as you work in Haiti!

  7. Ashley, Great on taking the academic treasures that you found within Ramsey’s writing and be able to look up from your articles and see the world around you. Ramsey notes that the role of context is central to all of the above discussion that she has stated regarding scholarship of practice. This scholarship of practice recognizes the constitutive importance of ongoing relations with practice. She summarizes that in this role of contacts we should emphasize the process of attentional relating rather than an understanding of academic theory. I believe you have given attention, which is the key process according to Ramsey, to the context that you are trying to practice academic theory. Haiti certainly provides an experimental lab unlike any other, where you can immediately receive feedback on any implementation of academic theory.

    In essence, you are the embodiment of this scholarship of practice that Ramsey writes about. She questions “how do we become more practically wise thus make more skilled judgments in our practice?” Her conclusion brings her to our need to pay attention. It is to “how we attend to our emergent and ephemeral contacts that we build the materials upon which we might deliberate, judge, and know” how to apply that which we have studied. Overall you have done an great job of pulling straws to construct your blog. Perhaps you are more of an academic practitioner than you ever imagined.

  8. mm Stefania Tarasut says:

    Ashley, I wish I was with you under that Mango Tree… You know what Haiti needs ( 😉 ) haha! Just kidding… but seriously! I do believe that relationships would change Haiti… and relationships change us. See, theory is built on what we know and our comfort. Theory needs to be adjusted depending on context… and you can only fully understand your context through relationships. Theory without the practice of relationships is unhealthy.
    Eat a mango for me…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *