May 11 2011

Unique Perspectives for Common Good

A few weeks ago, as the final project in our oral speaking class taught by Dr. Rubin, international students at Candler held a “Mini Symposium.”  The title of this symposium was “International Student Perspectives on Resolving Conflict in and through the Church.”  The presenters in our symposium consisted of six Korean students, including me, and two African students.  We felt wonderful community support from Candler faculty members (Rev. Ellen, Dr. Kraftchick, and Dr. Jenkins) and American students who came to listen to our presentations, and we had a great time sharing unique perspectives based on different social contexts and on resolving conflicts.  One purpose of our class was to enhance our ability of oral speaking in English, but as an international student at Candler, I also learned the importance of my presence at Candler.  Sometimes in my first year, I felt difficulties due to my different cultural aspects and social context from my American classmates.  However, through this symposium, I found that my differences contributed to diversity at Candler, and this diversity can serve to give unique insight to the dominant culture.

The topic of my presentation was a lesson from inter-religious dialogue in the ministry of Rev. Won Yong Kang.  First, I introduced a social conflict raised by some conservative Christian groups in South Korea.  In 2007, Christians Youth Union held a massive prayer gathering for the destruction of Buddhist temples; this gathering caused a serious social conflict among religions in South Korea.  In order to resolve such a conflict among religions, I suggested following the pattern of inter-religious dialogue among six major religions in South Korea like that led by Rev. Won Yong Kang in 1965 as an alternative in relationship among religions. (Rev. Won Yong Kang was a Korean Presbyterian pastor and studied at Union Theological Seminary, so he was greatly influenced by Christian Realism)  Rev. Kang emphasized that believers should transcend the issue of salvation for members of other faiths, because this issue often cause violent behaviors to other religions.  Rev. Kang hoped that through inter-religious dialogue, believers can be more morally and spiritually mature by learning from other religions and serve the common good, especially social justice and peace.  While preparing my presentation, I found that there is a “Christian Dialogue Academy,” which keeps alive the spirit of Rev. Kang’s ministry, and this organization leads inter-religious dialogue to seek the common good. For example, one project involved gathering leaders of various religions to discuss a way to revitalize the rural economy in South Korea.

Even though I could not search all the specific aspects of Rev. Kang’s ministry, I found one possibility to make peace in society as well as among religions. When we consider the relatively short history of Korean Protestantism (about 100 years), Rev. Kang’s leadership is very striking, and his ministry was a prophetic ministry which attempted to give alternatives to the dominant culture (according to Brueggemann’s definition). Social conflict among religions is not a problem of only South Korea.  This issue is prevalent throughout the world, and I am confident that a Korean Pastor’s peaceful and active ministry can be one example for resolving the social conflict.  Similarly, as a Korean student at Candler, I want to keep contributing to Candler’s diversity by introducing unique perspectives based on different social context from American’s.  For me, this contribution is one of best my “joys” at Candler.

-Won Chul Shin

Won Chul is a rising second year MDiv at Candler from South Korea.


Jan 21 2011

Not in Kansas Anymore

Students from all over the world converge at Candler. Each individual brings unique perspectives, passions, and gifts, and Candler offers students boundless opportunities to engage in conversations that generate a passion for further exploration of God’s multi-faceted creation.  When I joined the Candler community it became apparent right away that my theological education would be contextualized by a larger world view; an opportunity with which this small town Kansan was eager to engage.

After arriving at Candler I immediately answered the call to be a conversation partner.  Conversation partners are native English speakers who volunteer to meet with international students once a week.  I was paired with a Korean student who wanted to gain proficiency with his English.  Getting to know Wang has been a highlight of my seminary experience.  Learning about his family, his culture, and how he experiences God has been meaningful and humbling.  It has been meaningful in the sense that he has given me new perspectives into God as a father, a husband, and as a foreigner.  Humbling in the sense that he is very intelligent and has bravely chosen to study theology in English; a difficult enough undertaking in one’s own language.  It is a wonderful gift to me to help him learn to articulate his ideas about life and God in ways that I have never imagined.

One-on-one interactions are not the only way I have interacted with people different than me.  As a class representative on the Candler Coordinating Council, our student governing body, I get to meet with other student leaders on a regular basis to discuss the ways in which we utilize our student funding for programs.  The council also encourages collaboration between organizations and offers several opportunities a year to discuss, in open forum, issues of cultural competency that help our community grow together.

I have also been involved in cross cultural dialog through classes that are cross-listed with other schools at Emory.  Classes with Business, Law, Nursing, and Public Health students have given me the opportunity to hear about issues in the world from a different academic perspective and also to talk about the church in a way that many people often do not experience; one as an active agent for justice.  One of the most fun and intense of the interdisciplinary opportunities available to Candler students is the opportunity to compete in the Global Health Institutes Case competition.  Interdisciplinary teams are formed, given a global health issue and then over a few days analyze, produce, and present a viable solution to the issue.  Not only did I make many friends from other schools, but the lens through which I see issues now incorporates little pieces of their law, health, and entrepreneurial perspectives.

Candler has offered me an authentic world-view-expanding experience. Through individual relationships, participation in Candler student organizations and doing interdisciplinary work, it is clear that I am not in Kansas anymore.  I am looking forward to taking this experience back home so that I can offer a theological lens with a broader world view to the communities I serve.

-Patrick McLaughlin

Patrick is a second year MDiv student from Hutchinson, KS and a Student Ambassador. In addition to his time serving the community, he serves as a class representative to the Candler Coordinating Council, is a Candler Conversation Partner, and is a member of the Candler Singers.


Jan 18 2011

Mindfulness

This stained glass window appears in the entrance of Spurgeon’s College in London. The words Et Teneo Et Teneor mean I hold, and am held. I first saw it in 2006 when I was visiting England and Scotland. It’s a beautiful statement about our state as people of faith. While we are mindful of our need for compassion and guidance, so Christ already has been mindful of us.

At a recent CAYA (Come As You Are) worship service, the casual worship atmosphere offered by Decatur First United Methodist Church, the offertory song was titled Less Like Scars. Originally recorded by Sara Groves, this song is an emotional outpouring about what it means to hold and to be held. The words of the chorus express:

And I feel you here
And you’re picking up the pieces
Forever faithful
It seemed out of my hands, a bad situation
But you are able
And in your hands the pain and hurt
Look less like scars and more like
Character

Powerful and remarkable words. Forever faithful and able - two descriptors for Jesus the Christ. To be mindful of Christ means to have felt sustained, lifted up, protected, safe, and empowered. The actions of Christ are not reflected in the scars from being nailed to the cross. The actions of Christ are reflected in his character. To me, character means how you are mindful. How do your actions and words reflect your character? All of these things originate within the deep recesses of our brains, where the intricate patterns of the network of our brains flash and ignite our thoughts and imagination. For most of us, these deep recesses cause us to think more about ourselves. This is human nature. This is the natural way of how we think. So, my question now is, how was Christ mindful? He thought of serving everyone except himself – he was the least of his worries.

It may not seem like a new concept, but it is. It’s a concept that gets communicated, but we never truly live it out. One of the most important parts of the Christian faith is our genuine concern for the other. We are commanded to love God and to love our neighbor. To love is to be mindful. Although I grew up a Christian, I was never in church (outside of Vacation Bible School as a young child). I did not truly dedicate my life to Christ until I was 17, at the same time I was baptized. It was a remarkable moment in my life. I say that because of a group of friends that were mindful of me. If it was not for their persistence in telling me about their faith journeys and struggles, the community and support they found in a church family, and the personal transformation they had experienced, I would have never found myself. Because Christ was mindful of us, we can discover who we truly are. Because my friends were mindful of me, and were acting as the hands and feet of Christ, not only did I find myself, but I found Christ. He did not rise and conquer the grave for just any reason or to prove his identity. Christ rose for us. Christ conquered the grave so that we might have life. Christ was, quite simply, being mindful of us.

At Candler, I have found an atmosphere that is mindful of the other. Whether it is participating in a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Service Project with Emory University and local communities, holding a chili cook-off fundraiser to raise money for the ongoing Haiti relief efforts, being in conversation about issues facing the future of the church with people of different perspective, or helping create a community garden for a local congregation, Candler illustrates how vital it is to be in service to one another. Through the opportunities that Candler offers, both in and out of the classroom, I have been able to recall the moment that I found myself – and build on it.

Candler has helped me to dig deeper – offering me the possibility and freedom to identify my own voice and celebrate my own path of spiritual growth. Over the last three years at Candler I have realized it is okay to be journeying into the unknown, following all the twists and turns. After all, it is our journey that gives us experience and our experiences that shape who we are and what we are to do in this life. I am grateful that Candler has not only shown me how to be truly mindful of the other, but along the way finding myself.

-Mark Batten

Mark is currently the Coordinator of Admissions Services at Candler. He is also pursuing a Master of Divinity part-time. His areas of interest include liturgical formation, the spiritual disciplines, and creation care. Away from the office and class, Mark enjoys kayaking and piloting the latest tech gadgets.


Dec 17 2010

An Intentional Forum for Women’s Voices

While Candler students are on Christmas break we are highlighting a number of people, places, and organizations that help to make the Candler community such a powerful place in which to prepare for a life of service to the church and the world.  This week we feature the Candler Women.

Candler Women is a student organization committed to empowering and equipping women to faithfully lead and serve global communities. Candler Women’s meetings and other events provide the opportunity for women of all backgrounds, ages and concerns to come together for fellowship and to dialogue.  Our most recent activities have included the 100 Women at Candler Luncheon and Dialogue, Candler Women Arts Exhibit, Celebrating Our Stories Book Project, Karaoke Night, Self-Care Day, Survival Tips for Seminary luncheon and the formation the Candler Women Sacred Spaces.

Candle Women won the Emory University Campus Life Outstanding Student Organization Event 2009-2010 for the 100 Women at Candler Luncheon and Dialogue   The event exceeded our expectations and create a space for food, friends, fellowship and a forum for women’s voices.  The proposition that women of all backgrounds, ages and concerns could come together with a collective voice to dialogue about call, purpose and self-care was extremely powerful. During the noon hour, CST 252 was vibrant and buzzed with excitement as we shared our stories about how we are currently discerning our call, our understanding of individual and collective purpose at Candler and how Candler Women can help in the area of self-care.

The Celebrating Our Stories book project has resulted in the publication of a collection of narratives and poetry from students, staff and professors.  The book was a collaborative project that included graphic and cover design from the talent within the Candler Women community.  The first printing sold out in a matter of days and is now in its second edition.  A copy of this initial project now resides in the Pitts Theological Library.

The next Candler Women’s Week of activities will be from Monday, March 21, 2011 through Friday, March 25, 2011 and will culminate in an overnight spiritual formation retreat.   We invite you be a part of Candler Women activities and events as we all set the stage for an encounter with the Divine and continue to strive for our most exciting and transformative year ever!

- Diana Williams

Diana is a third year MDiv Student at Candler and President of the Candler Women.


Nov 26 2010

The Gift of Uncertainty

Quentin SamuelsI participated in an interesting conversation with a prospective student a couple of weeks ago and, to my surprise, I gave some advice about the application and discernment process that I would not have given him two years ago when I first began this journey through Candler.  He wrestled with oft-noted questions concerning such topics as  whether this was the right “time” for going to seminary, what he would do with his degree upon completion of the Masters of Divinity Program, and what it means for God to place a specific call on his life different from people closely connected to him.  My advice to him was to embrace his uncertainty as a gift.  A divine one at that.  I challenged him to not view his uncertainty as a hindrance, but rather grounds for liberation.

Uncertainty during a process such as applying to divinity school is truly a gift from God and it took me two and half years at Candler to reach this epiphany.  Now, I know at this point, it is hard for some people to comprehend how uncertainty could be accepted as a gift.  Well, I thought back to when I was applying for Candler.  I questioned every aspect of the process.  I knew that from the point that I enrolled into the MDiv program at Candler my life would be forever changed.  But it was this feeling of uncertainty that provided access to a type of faith that I never knew existed within me.

First, uncertainty allowed me to be receptive to options for my life that I may have never considered, but ones that God had arranged for me.  Sometimes we can be so rigid in how we believe that we can serve in ministry that we impede our own ability to hear God speak to us in novel ways about our calling.  Secondly, my faith was totally dependent upon God’s direction during this process.  Uncertainty served as a gift by pulling me closer to God in previously unimaginable ways.  The process was both scary and exhilarating at the same time.  And surrounding it all was God’s grace working within me to provide peace and around me to open doors.

Furthermore, in thinking about uncertainty as a gift, my mind immediately turns towards one of my favorite Biblical prophets, Jeremiah.  His uncertainty in his call as a prophet could have stifled what God had in store for him.  But in turn, his uncertainty actually performed an alternate function in his life.  It pushed him to ask God specific questions about the worthiness of his call: questions that he might not have considered had he not experienced doubt.  What I feel has been the best aspect of this spiritual conundrum is that when we are uncertain, quite often we find ourselves asking important questions about our future, decisions, and calling that we might occasionally overlook if we are sure about what we are supposed to do and where we are supposed to go.  In many cases, it is through our questions that we unlock answers to this divine mystery that we call life.

So if you happen to be in a discernment process during this season, or hopefully applying to one of the programs at Candler, accept and embrace uncertainty as a gift.  It can work in your favor in amazing ways.  Uncertainty doesn’t have to be something taboo or a sign that you don’t have every aspect of your life sorted out.  Conversely, uncertainty coupled with the grace of God’s guidance, should be understood as avenues for God to lead you towards your destiny.

-Quentin Samuels

Quentin is a third year MDiv student from Washington, DC and a Student Ambassador.  He is also President of Candler’s Black Student Caucus and an active member of the Candler Baptist Community.


Nov 19 2010

Finding Strength in Intentional Moments

As we near the end of what is for some of us our first semester in seminary and for others the first semester of their second or last year, I sense a great level of stress and burn out from a number of my colleagues. Whereas many began this journey excited, eager to fulfill their call to be at Candler, and confident in their ability to think and write critically, many are now doubting their competence and are trying to cope with the fact that they may not be receiving the grades in which they are use to receiving. Have we become so consumed with academics, meeting our own high expectations, making A’s, and passing exams at the expense of our well being that we have forgotten the very thing that we should be critically attentive to on this journey? “Self.”

I along with several of my colleagues have been privileged to take Introduction to Pastoral Care and Counseling with a master practitioner and constructivist Dr. Gregory Ellison. This class has played an integral part in rejuvenating my personal faith, regenerating hope, and transforming my spiritual life. One of the most powerful components of this course is the contemplative journey that we embark upon as a class to become more self-aware and reflective as caregivers who consciously give care to self and others.  As we go on pilgrimage with individuals that we know and many of whom we are getting to know while engaging readings surrounding theories and practices of care in pastoral care and related disciplines, students are challenged to not only develop models of care for the unacknowledged groups in which we will serve in ministry, but to begin to be attentive to their own voice and establish for themselves healthy practices of self-care.

Seminary should be a time in which we begin to foster and nurture a rich life in which we can draw strength. Self-awareness and self-care is critical to how pastors and leaders best serve others. One puts themselves and others at risk when self-care is not a priority. In carrying out our preoccupations whether in ministry, studying, or other work, we can divert our attention to the point where there is literally no time for the essential experience of being attentive to self. Yet, the truth is that in order to flourish in our studies, ministry, and other endeavors, we must make time for the experience of centering down and caring for self.

The journey of a Seminarian does not solely involve thinking critically and theologically, wrestling with difficult texts, and developing and critiquing arguments, its also involves one’s intentionality to create moments where they participate in leisure activities and develop spiritual disciplines that will empower them for the tasks above.

For those who are in Dr. Ellison’s course, we know that we are on the last part of our journey where we are returning home, which is symbolic for returning back to familiar places and familiar material, but looking at it with a different perspective. Some of us return home with a profound appreciation for some of the things and people that we left behind on the journey. As I return home for the holidays, I would like to share some of the wisdom that I received while on pilgrimage in this course. Hopefully this will help the rest of my fellow colleagues endure the race until the end of the semester.

  • Our greatest glory is not in ever falling, but in rising every time we fall. (Confucius)
  • It is one thing to be informed about the things that heal you, but it is another thing to give yourself liberally or freely to them.
  • Vocation is a response that a person makes with his or her total self to the address of God and to the calling to partnership. (Katherine Turpin)
  • While ability is important, ones willingness and capacity to be tenacious is what helps them to succeed.
  • So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap a harvest time, if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9)

Remember to care for yourself!!!

-Ashley Thomas

Ashley is a first year MDiv student from Atlanta and a Student Ambassador.


Nov 5 2010

Candler Class of 2011: Reflections on a Global Education

Maria in MexicoSome call it wanderlust. Others tell me it’s the result of growing up in a small town. My parents’ conclusion is that they let me watch the Travel Channel one too many hours as a child. Whatever the reason, I’ve never been able to sit still for long. Whether it’s backpacking across Zimbabwe, studying Ancient Christianity in Greece, or even just climbing on my bike to get out of town (and into some of the amazing trail rides outside of Atlanta), I’m usually found wherever the rubber meets the road.

During my undergraduate years, I learned how to put my thirst for travel to good use. I felt a strong desire to seek an education influenced by classroom learning and on the ground experience. Beginning my freshman year, I came to understand academia not as an ivory tower set apart from the world, but as the ivory composing the tusks of the elephants that live as part of our world. I traveled to Mozambique, Turkey, Ireland, and other locales, seeking practical application for all that I was learning. In the process, I met people who challenged me to speak, think, and care in diverse and life-giving ways.

View from MozambiqueWhen I decided to apply for divinity schools, my number one priority was finding a university where education wasn’t limited to the classroom. I looked at many places that viewed theology as an integral aspect of a global community, but Candler stood out as a place already engaged in the world even from its home space. Atlanta is a city where global NGOs converge with refugee communities, where church is not limited to local neighborhood, and where a school of theology utilizes the international perspectives all around it. Because of these reasons and more, Candler became the obvious choice.

Moving through AustraliaTwo and a half years later, I enter my last semester of divinity school having spent almost as much time inside the classroom as outside of it. Hours of contextual education in a women’s prison, three and a half months of the summer working for a development organization in Africa, two weeks at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Australia, and an additional summer in Mexico are all opportunities that were made possible to me because the faculty, staff, and students at Candler believe that education is at its best when it is inclusive of global perspectives. Thanks to Candler, I am equipped for leadership in the real world, and it feels bittersweet to be preparing to leave an institution that has supported my passion for a global education.

- Maria Presley

Maria is a 3rd year MDiv student from Mississippi and a Student Ambassador.


Sep 24 2010

Spiritual Gifts: Knitting for Our Neighbors

I firmly believe that utilizing our spiritual gifts in an effort to give back to our community is of utmost importance.  My favorite aspect of Candler’s coursework is Contextual Education (ConEd).  Through ConEd I, every Candler student is given an opportunity to explore his or her spiritual gifts during their weekly hours on site in a church, hospital, foster home, or outreach community setting.  One of Candler’s professors took it a step further with her spiritual gifts and began a knitting group called Project Warmth: Crafting a Better World.

Dr. Karen Scheib, Director of the Women, Theology and Ministries Program, recognized knitting and crocheting Balls of Yarnas some of her spiritual gifts, and she chose to use these gifts in an effort to further help those in our ConEd I communities.  To that goal, she created Project Warmth and invited everyone to be involved. She began by purchasing loads of yarn and multiple sets of knitting needles.  Dr. Scheib was excited to share her gift and teach all of us how to knit so that we could give back to the communities in which we had become so entrenched and attached.

Quilt SquaresLast year, Dr. Scheib was the faculty advisor for my ConEd I group which served at the United Methodist Children’s Home.  For this particular ConEd site, we planned to make a patchwork lap blanket to give to them.  Each of the students in my group helped knit different colored squares that Dr. Scheib finalized by crocheting together into a blanket.  She had many ideas for other sites such as hats and scarves for homeless adults and baby blankets and mittens for underprivileged children.

God makes each individual uniquely different and blesses us with a variety of spiritual gifts; I can safely say that knitting is not mine.  What was supposed to be my square wound up looking like some unnamed shape!  While I certainly believe that more practice would have helped, I was never able to relax for fear of messing something up!  I have no doubt that through the years of ministry that I have ahead of me there will be many more “false starts.”  But I believe that I will be guided to my appropriate niche each and every time if I remain patient and steadfast in my relationship with the Lord.

For many of my classmates, however, knitting actually became a spiritual discipline and served as a form of self-care – a skill which is really stressed at Candler.  Despite all of the reading, papers, and extracurricular activities, all of us must find the time to take care of ourselves.  Taking time out of our day for knitting gave us time for reflection and meditation amidst our chaotic schedules.  Dr. Scheib explained that we were doing something for ourselves by knitting, but also doing something for others by giving to charity.  The dual purpose of this project helped and continues to help all of those involved.  I believe that all of us have gifts that can be shared with the community at large, and I admire Dr. Scheib for sharing hers with not only the Candler community but also with those in need throughout the greater-Atlanta area.

- Mia Northington

Mia is a 2nd Year MDiv student from Tennessee and a Student Ambassador.


May 1 2009

Earth Day and a Green Emory



Two weeks ago, Emory and Candler celebrated Earth Day along with millions of people across the globe. You may not know this, but Emory University is one of the leading universities in the country in terms of environmental consciousness and sustainability.

One of the student leaders on Candler’s campus in terms of Greening the seminary and sustainability issues is Alison Amyx (pictured right). In honor of her green activities on campus, Alison, a first-year Master of Theological Studies student, won the Myki Mobley Memorial award at the 2009 Candler Honors Day awards. The Mobley award is given to an MTS student who “demonstrates both academic excellence and significant social concern.”

Alison hosted two events on campus on Earth Day, Wednesday, April 22 featuring Dr. Katy Hinman, a 2006 Candler MDiv grad who also holds a PhD in Ecology and Evolution from SUNY Stony Brook. Dr. Hinman is the Executive Director of Georgia Interfaith Power and Light (GIPL), a non-profit group in Atlanta working with faith communities (churches, temples, mosques, synagogues, and other centers) on issues of Creation care and energy conservation.

Earth Day also included a screening of “RENEWAL,” a documentary film about the efforts that faith groups of all stripes around the world working are taking to combat climate change. Click on the image to the left to watch a short clip.

One of the reasons I love working at Emory is its institutional commitment to put energy (no pun intended) and resources into sustainability. Due to the work of Alison and other Emory faculty, staff, and students, Emory has the following green distinctions:

  • Earned one of only 11 spots on the Princeton Review’s “2009 Green Rating Honor Roll.”
  • More LEED certified building space than any other university in the nation (including the Theology Building, which is in the process of LEED certification)
  • Named “2008 Distinguished Conservationist of the Year” by The Georgia Conservancy.
  • Offered 129 courses with a sustainability component or focus, including 13 in Theology, Religion, or Philosophy.
  • Featured on CNN and CNNU for our green initiatives (see below)

CNN piece, April 22, 2009,on sustainability at Emory

(4 minutes, 24 seconds run time)

CNNU project, April 29, 2009 on student involvement in environmentalism

at Emory. Look for Alison Amyx’s nine- seconds of fame from 1:59-2:08. (3 minutes, 20 seconds run time)

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Feb 20 2009

Seminary Travels with Juana Jordan

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Our Guest Blogger this week is Juana Jordan (pictured above, on the Bahamian island of Eleuthera on the rocks at the Glass Window). Juana is a first year MDiv student who came to Candler from Tallahassee, Florida by way of Jacksonville, Florida. She is seeking certification for ordination as an elder in the United Methodist Church in the Florida Conference. Juana is a second career student whose former life was that of a journalist and radio co-host before coming to Candler.

It was after reading a blog in this space last year that I made the decision right then and there – once I was accepted into Candler, I too would take the opportunity to fill my passport with stamps before I left there. And now, after completing one semester, I can say I’m on my way to doing just that!

Preachers in the caveMy first stop: Nassau, Bahamas. I thought what better way to kick off the New Year and prepare for my second semester than to spend 10 days among the Bahamian people learning about evangelism. I mean after all, it was one of the gifts I felt God had given me. So I figured, why not test it out and see if this was really one of the areas of ministry God was calling me to? The trip was part of the Evangelism Regional Seminar, a January-term three-credit course sponsored by the World Methodist Evangelism Institute, that I along with nine other Candler students (pictured above right in Preachers Cave, said to be the first spot where English settlers arrived on the island of Eleuthera) took part in. We were joined by one of Candler’s evangelism professors, Dr. Wesley de Souza and the center’s director, Dr. Winston Worrell. The tour was scheduled from January 3-13, with the first three days dedicated to a tour of Nassau and the surrounding islands, including Spanish Wells and Eleuthera, which is about 50 miles and a 2 ½ hour ferry boat ride east of Nassau and Harbor Island, off the north coast of Eleuthera.

I must admit, the trip was definitely not what I expected. Actually it exceeded any expectations I had. Dr. de Souza, during preparation meetings before leaving for Nassau and as part of our assignment, asked us to journal our expectations of our learning experience and then to chronicle our time there. Our experience started as soon as we arrived in Nassau that Saturday night. Dr. Worrell didn’t waste any time telling us where we would be preaching on that Sunday (most of all of us, those who volunteered, were assigned to local churches). We were told the ministers would pick up each of us and we would have lunch with them that afternoon.

IMG017I got the assignment – my first outside of the United States — to preach at John Wesley United Methodist Church on the island of Eleuthera. I was excited, yet nervous. For one, I hadn’t finished my sermon and secondly, there I was, on the first day we arrived, being shipped off that Sunday morning for a 2 ½ hour ferry ride by myself to another part of this country that was still foreign to me. I was the only student with an assignment outside of Nassau. And I’ll tell you, I wondered why that was. I wondered what God had in store.

I soon realized it was an opportunity for me to experience, in part, the gift of hospitality offered by the Bahamian people I met. Upon hearing that I was coming to the island of Eleuthera, the Methodist ministers between that island and the island of Spanish Wells and Nassau worked out a plan that would allow me to stay overnight in Spanish Wells. Now get this: Spanish Wells isn’t exactly a place most African Americans hang out. Now you will see a few on the island, working and such. And they have students who attend school there. But they don’t live there. In fact, many years ago, blacks weren’t even allowed to spend the night there — at least that’s what the native Bahamians told me. I learned that Spanish Wells, which got its name from the Spanish ships that used to stop over at the primarily white settlement to get water because of the island’s many wells, is pretty much still all white. Fishing is its dominant trade. In fact, it’s the Spanish Wells fishing house that provides lobsters to the U.S. Red Lobster restaurants.

Me and the LewisesBut I can now say I stayed there. I had a chance to speak to the students of the All Age School there and interact with them in their classes. I particularly enjoyed the religion class. And I had the chance to have dinner with the minister and his family, who put me up in their apartment. Many of us on the trip had opportunities to go into the homes of our Bahamian friends (Juana is pictured right with Rev. and Mrs. Lewis, a host family) and sit around the table in conversation and spend time in their neighborhoods and within the churches in which they served. Most of our days were spent in sessions where we discussed what evangelism looked like in the Bahamas and how to effectively do evangelism there, particularly when almost the entire country is Christian. There were sessions on faith-sharing and even opportunities to walk within some communities to share our faith. A few of us, Michael Hunt and Lance Eiland, Julie Gordon, Cynthia Whitehead, Monica Jefferson and I even got a chance to be interviewed on a few of the radio programs, which are broadcast across the entire Caribbean and into New Zealand. I had the chance to be on two radio programs, sharing with listeners the ideas being discussed in the evangelism conference.

But what I probably enjoyed the most were the Wesley sessions, where groups of us conference participants would get together to share experiences about ourselves and our culture. The Wesley groups were originally a part of the Wesleyan tradition for new congregational development and renewal. Monica Jefferson led our group in discussions about who influenced us spiritually as a child and invited us to reflect on what our experience there had taught us. Not only did I learn more about my fellow colleagues in ministry, but I gained insight into our new Bahamian friends, realizing that we are all more alike than different and face similar challenges in ministry and our individual lives.

I shared with my fellow seminarians and workshop participants that I was beginning to see what God was doing with me there. This seminar was the fulfillment of prayers I had prayed in regard to my ministry and a fulfillment of the promises God made to deliver on my desires. I didn’t realize until later that this list I had been compiling of the 100 things I would like to accomplish in my lifetime was dwindling somewhat as God was crossing some of those things off the list. I had written my desire to connect with people of other cultures and have the opportunity to speak and minister internationally and have them share their faith with me. This trip has allowed me the chance to do that. It connected me with people and other ministers, some of whom asked me to speak at other future events and churches. This seminar was the marriage of my former life as a journalist and my present life, which I could see coming together in this place. And Candler made it possible. It opened up a world that I didn’t realize existed for me. This opportunity presented me insight into the ministry God is possibly shaping me for and brought ministry of the “other” up close and personal.

It’s prompted me to live my life with the expectation that God has so much more in store for me and those of us he has called to serve.

I must say, this isn’t a bad start. Today the Bahamas, tomorrow…maybe South Africa. I’m praying!