November 23, 2018

Thankful in Ireland!

Thanksgiving greetings from Ireland! Our Serge Dublin Metro team celebrated together yesterday, with a handful of Irish friends drafted in. I was in charge of the sausage-pecan-cornbread dressing. I knew I couldn’t get cornmeal in the local shops to bake the cornbread so last weekend I launched out on a quest for polenta to use instead. Who knew that would take three days to find?! I also ended up making my own sausage mix from ground pork and seasonings, for that authentic USA flavor I was craving. (Trust me, it was worth it!) And just in case I have a hankering to make a pumpkin pie sometime this season – haven’t found canned pumpkin on these store shelves either – I bought a pumpkin when they were available before Halloween, baked it and froze the puree for future consumption. Putting my cooking-from-scratch skills learned in Ethiopia to good use!

It may not be easy to get all my American holiday favorites in Ireland, but there are so many reasons to be thankful for what the Lord has done this year to bring me here and to lead me into this new ministry in global theological education. This Thanksgiving I am very, very grateful:

  • For the many of you who pray and give to help make all this possible
  • For a cozy apartment in Dublin (and the sale of my house in Virginia)
  • For opportunities to connect with others working in God’s kingdom and to make plans for future theological training: at the Evangelical Leadership Forum in Poland in May; the Serge Africa regional retreat in Kenya in August; the Fellowship of European Evangelical Theologians in Prague later that month.
  • For the chance to teach and train emerging leaders in Bible study and biblical interpretation: Serge Ireland’s ‘Encounter’ program last summer for university students from the US, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland; at the South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies in September; the monthly cohort in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s ‘Accredited Preachers Course’; and the courses I teach online for Fuller Theological Seminary
  • For supportive and encouraging friends and co-workers in Serge, in EPC World Outreach (wonderful ‘family gathering’ in Greece in July!), and at DĂșn Laoghaire Presbyterian Church
  • For God’s kindness to me as I learn to live on my own in this new season of life – all the ups and downs you would expect, but I can certainly see how very good God is to me in the midst of it.
Another thing I'm thankful for is my trip to Panama the first week of November for the triennial meeting of the International Council for Evangelical Theological Education (ICETE). Many of the people involved are colleagues and friends I worked closely with during my years in Africa. I was at the ICETE meetings in 2009 (Hungary) and 2012 (Kenya), but skipped 2015 (Turkey) due to all my complicated transitions. So it was the first time I’d seen many of these people since I left Nairobi in 2013. Such a lovely sense of homecoming to be together again!

While in Panama I also agreed to give a few hours of my Theological Education Specialist role each week for the coming year to Theologians Without Borders (TWB), a new initiative promoting mutuality and equitability in partnerships between Western seminaries and theological schools in the ‘Majority World’ (meaning Asia, Africa, and other less-resourced regions). This is a need I’m passionate about as a result of my own experiences in Ethiopia, Kenya and India. Think of the ways that short-term mission trips from the US or UK, always well meaning, can sometimes inadvertently serve the needs and interests of the go-ers more than the receiving community. That happens in theological education, too. TWB will help encourage ‘fair trade’ in these relationships in various ways: offering a matching service between Western seminaries or individual educators and theological institutions in the Majority World; providing cultural orientation for Westerners who’d like to teach short-term in Majority World theological schools; helping  Majority World scholars also have opportunities to teach short-term in the West without needing to leave their Majority World institutions permanently (thus reducing brain drain). A brand new initiative – we’re just creating it as we go. But the major players in evangelical theological education globally have affirmed the need for something like this and their desire to see TWB succeed. So we’ll see what God does next. Please pray for Theologians Without Borders and Executive Director Ian Payne (New Zealand)!

Much to be thankful for. For American friends, I hope your own Thanksgiving celebrations this weekend are rich with family, friends, and grateful hearts. And thank you again, all of you, for what you’re doing to partner with me and with theological training for emerging leaders in God’s big world!

International Council for Evangelical Theological Education

2018 International Consultation
Panama City, Panama (29 Oct - 2 Nov)

Reunited and it feels so good! So lovely to be with friends and colleagues from all over the world, especially those I've known in Africa. I supervised the final stages of Seblewengel's master's thesis in Addis Ababa about 15 years ago, before she went on to become the first Ethiopian woman to earn a PhD in theology. Now she teaches and serves as a graduate program leader at the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology, where I used to teach. Just one of numerous friends I was able to reconnect with in Panama.


One special event at the Panama meeting was dinner celebrating a new book, Challenging Tradition: Innovation in Advanced Theological Education. It’s on global, multicultural approaches to theological research (not just ‘how it’s done in the West’!) and I was honored to be invited to contribute a chapter. A privilege to work with these thinkers and innovators from all over (above). 


And I'm very thankful this year for my Serge Metro Dublin team
and the brave Irish friends willing to join in our Thanksgiving feast last night!