In celebration of our Myanmar cohorts, as well as a place to wear our Bogyoke Aung San Market finery purchased on our Sunday (after church) market experience, most of us attended class dressed in traditional longyis. During our community immersion, although we primarily saw men wearing longyis and women wearing skirts, longyis are also worn by women but in more elaborate patterns and expensive silks than we have chosen. Women observed working on the highway development project wore longyis instead of skirts, no doubt for ease of movement.
It is not every day that DMin students have the experience and benefit of two theological school presidents and theologians in class, and we spent the first part of Dr Molly Marshalls’s Incarnational Theology class with Dr Samuel Ngun Ling, president/principal of Myanmar Institute of Theology. His lecture on cross-cultural communication from his upcoming book was a fascinating glimpse into Myanmar culture, and Dr Ling’s presentation left us not only wanting to hear more but also interested in purchasing his book upon publication. Later Dr Ling gifted us with a copy of his 2005 book, Communicating Christ in Myanmar: Issues, Interactions and Perspectives.
The rest of the morning we returned to our small groups to continue presenting and presiding our case studies, an opportunity for leadership and learning about our cultural differences and similarities in our diverse ministry settings. Some of us were surprised that pastoral counseling issues, while contextual, were also global, and we spent the afternoon and evening addressing this with Drs Rosell and Van Bik. Dr Van Bik talked with us about an area many pastors are striving to gain experience in: mental health. Like Dr Rosell, Dr Van Bik also emphasized the difference between Western and Eastern views of mental illness/wellness, and he provided us with a handout which outlined challenges in intercultural communication. We acknowledged our own biases, discussed specific ways to become more culturally sensitive pastors and counselors in our ministry settings, and, perhaps equally important, how to become more culturally sensitive colleagues.
I’m from Overland Park and in my last year of the Masters of Divinity Foundations program. I have appreciated that Central is concerned with us as whole people and is purposeful in equipping us as ethical, caring, conscientious and knowledgeable pastors. The courses have been academically rigorous, but also have required us to put our hearts and actions under a microscope. Being in classes with people from such diverse denominations, theological viewpoints, cultures and life experiences has also deepened and enriched the experience. Central has been a place of learning, training and stretching, and I couldn’t be more grateful for my time here.