At the close of one year of the Doctor of Ministry, Leadership Global Perspective studies, I think back to how elated I was when I got accepted into George Fox Evangelical Seminary. Since I don’t fit the usual profile of the candidates for this program, I am especially grateful to the faculty for affording me the opportunity to participate in this exceedingly innovative program. It enables me to swim in the same deep waters of the well-accomplished, highly esteemed, big fish of my cohort 6. But, they are also gracious and do not gobble me up, but gently move me along with them. I acknowledge that it is only by the grace of God that I got accepted into this program, and it is only by the grace of God that I will be successful in earning my doctoral degree. The journey thus far, has been exhilarating, challenging, thought-proving, and humbling.
Over the one year period, cohort 6 had three courses with our lead mentor, Dr. Jason Paul Clark. We began in the fall with “Engaging Leadership Concepts,” then moved on in the spring to “Developing Leadership Strategies-Global Concerns in Theological Perspectives,” and lastly during the summer we had “Spirituality and Leadership-Global Concerns in Sociological Perspectives. Dr. Clark assigns the reading material for the cohort to contemplate, post on a blog and discuss asynchronously and then he leads them in a fast-paced synchronous chat that develops the students’ critical thinking and analytical thinking capabilities. These interactions are avenues for further enrichment and reinforcement of the topic theses in the readings.
The surprising thing about the readings is that it is always enlightening but not necessarily geared toward theological or biblical themes. Dr. Clark emphasizes to our cohort that it is our responsibility to utilize the critical thinking tools we are developing to discern the theological implications and ramifications of all the reading material and its application to our lives and ministry. The fact that it is written by a non-Christian or from a sociological, psychological, economic, philosophical, anthropological, or political stance is of no consequence.
I discovered that other disciplines can inform my theological outlook and impact my ministry objectives because human beings do not exist in a theological vacuum. Any attempt to understand the complexities of human life in the real world, must be seen through other lenses as well. For instance, we were assigned a book entitled Collateral Damage: Social Inequalities in a Global Age, written by sociologist, Zygmunt Bauman. He demonstrates how collateral damage is purposely targeted against a certain population and how it is related to social inequalities.  This book caused me to do a lot of reflection on the population that is the focus of my research, that is, vulnerable youth. My research up to this point has uncovered a lot of risk factors for these individuals, but Bauman has introduced me to a new risk factor—having a high potential of being victimized by collateral damage. This information has inspired me to do further research along these lines.
Personal Leadership Development Plan
In the Fall and Spring Modules, students are required to devise a “Personal Leadership Development Plan” that takes into consideration the required readings, their research, the results of a psychometric profile, spiritual formation practices and self-care. In a journal format, they identify their vision and mission goals and outline a strategic plan to accomplish them. In the Fall Module, my initial research was primarily exploratory, getting acquainted with the literature on the subject of vulnerable youth. My research topic was focused on the risk factors and resiliency factors associated with this category of youth. In the Spring Module, I concentrated my research on the harm institutional life has on children who are placed in them and the trauma involved in removing children from their family homes. As I work and re-work the journal Plan questions and considerations, Module by Module, my research and ministry objectives are increasingly becoming more and more crystallized and are beginning to take on a definite form, shape, and direction that is sustainable for the dissertation process.
Hong Kong Advance
The Hong Kong Advance in the early part of the year appeared to have a great impact on everyone associated with GFES. This was a unique experience that enabled us to witness first- hand the magnitude of globalism and consumerism in the Hong Kong culture. The Advance not only exposed us to Chinese culture, cuisine, currency, and signage, but it also enabled us to get the big picture in how interconnected the world is on so many levels. Some of the experiences were similar to those in any major city in the United States from the crowding in the subways to Starbucks, and Seven-Eleven stores. The Advance has helped me to see that ministry in a global perspective requires active engagement in the culture involved. It means to be curious about the culture and to do extensive research on it. It means to purposely have a keen awareness of everything around me and to analyze and process what I experience. It means to sincerely care about the people I am serving and to ascribe value to all of them.
I found the egalitarian approach by the GFES faculty impressive at the Advance. Students and faculty sharing the same dining spaces and learning environments of guest lecturers and speakers. The faculty made the students feel welcomed and valued, everyone equally a child of God in their eyes. I felt that the faculty exhibited a genuine concern for each student’s future in the program and they are committed to our academic and ministry success.
In sum, the 2015-2016 academic year for the Dminlgp6 cohort can be capsulized by a time of “new beginnings:”
It was a time of acquiring new knowledge;
Learning new ways to read a book—intelligently;
Learning new ways to work—at a high cognitive level to produce something of supreme value;
Learning new terminologies, concepts, and ideologies;
Learning new ways of experiencing and interpreting the world around us;
Learning new ways of perceiving our highly globalized, consumerist, technological world;
Learning new ways of understanding the interrelationships between culture and theology;
Creating new friendships in cohort 6 and beyond;
Learning about a new culture in a shared experience with our new GFES community.
In other words, all of the above endeavors in the Dmin program establish the foundation for extraordinary spiritual, intellectual, and psychological growth and development in our research and ministry. It is a way God has opened up new horizons to explore and to empower us in increasing our effectiveness in service and obedience to Him. The sum total of these experiences has changed my life forever. I definitely am not the same person I was prior to entering the program. The accelerated growth and maturity have been phenomenal in ways I never expected or imagined. Amazing Grace.
Zygmunt Bauman. Collateral Damage: Social Inequalities in a Global Age (Cambridge: Polity, 2012), 8.