Back To School (BTS)

And so the adventure continues: I am officially a student again.

Yes, it’s another undergraduate degree.  But I’m OK with that.  Because it is simply a tool for the credentials necessary to follow God’s call and go to Ethiopia.  They (being SIM, an international Christian missions’ organization – see last year’s post) tell me I need a degree in an agricultural program, I find Goddard College, with their self-oriented and created curriculum and I am able to tailor-make my own plan of study within the Sustainable Agriculture course.  They say jump, and I’m a Tigger.

But truly, it’s the right move, and it’s been a fast move!  As of two months ago I wasn’t even seriously considering going back to school.  I was trying to evade academia, actually, and count on God to change the Ethiopian government’s international worker standards (that’s legit, right?)  Instead, He chose to give me a simple connection with Goddard at an art show fundraiser, stir my heart to start thinking about the possibilities of paying and arranging for school (as an added bonus, He even put the school in my backyard – I’m riding my bike 2 miles north everyday for the residency this week), provide some finances and a stellar internship program to complement the degree requirements…..and I’m off!  Student ID card and everything (it’s even a decent picture.)

So here is where I’ll download on you some of the challenges and struggles of being an “adult learner” (per Goddard-ese) in the BAS program, as part of the UGPT umbrella, starting off at a L2 with 11 “dangling credits,” and having to orient myself to using the SIS, the LITS database and the APL protocol. You got all that right?  Neither did I, and I’m in my third day of residency. (There are enough acronyms here to put the military to shame.)

First of all, something I already have a love/hate relationship with, is the ability to design my own curriculum.  Instead of teachers, we have a faculty advisor each semester, who guides us and prompts us in our areas of passion, helping to streamline our focus and build a 15-credit-hour semester with material that we mostly seek out and prescribe ourselves.  They provide narrative assessments of our work and progress, namely looking for how we are developing as a person and life-long learner.  And though I came into the program with a pretty good selection of broad ideas I’m passionate about, whittling those down into titles and definite subjects is the hard part: sustainability as pertaining to agriculture and community life; indigenous farming methods, specifically in sub-Saharan Africa; faith-based approaches to poverty relief and social justice, and; cultural appropriation and sensitivity.  While I do so appreciate the scope of independence I’ve been granted, it’s also a little unnerving to have so much freedom in designing my topics and study plan.  (As an independent thinker, I still appreciate having a ‘box’ from which to gauge whether I’m inside or outside.)

Just like you after reading these few paragraphs, my brain is fried, my eyes are bloodshot and I’m fighting for windows of time to deflate and process.  And we’ve only just begun.

Here’s to 5 more days of residency as the semester kicks off.  Here’s to books on my night stand with titles like,
Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples,” and
Research is Ceremony: Indigenous Research Methods,” and
When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself.

Here’s to Ethiopia. Here’s to Goddard. Here’s to God.

 

 

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Rooted and Grounded

I remember working in the blueberry field at Spring Rain Farm two years ago, weeding out overgrown thistles and sorrel colonies.  The berry plants themselves were still fairly young and we had to be extra careful as we were working around them so as not to disturb their roots.  If we grabbed the wrong root shoot, a slight tug would unearth the whole plant and we’d have to re-plant it back into the soil immediately – any time spent out of nutritious soil is shocking to the root system and delays the growth of the plant.

For whatever reason, a fair number of blueberry plants in that field were easily uprooted, having a hard time establishing and grounding themselves in the soil amongst all the aggressive weed pressure.

something I’ve learned about transplanting potted plants in the landscaping business, is that however you prepare the home soil for the new plant (be it shrub, tree, bulb or herbacious flowers), once you do any amending and mixing in of minerals or organic matter, you want to water pretty heavily both before and after planting so that there’s a good supply of moisture for the new guy – water is essential for transporting nutrients through the soil to the roots.  And finally, once you’ve planted, you want to stomp the ground around the plant to squeeze out any air pockets remaining in the soil – there are no nutrients in air and though it is critical for life, too much of it keeps the roots from getting fed, which in turn stresses the plant.

In the same way that the soil conditions and quality matter so much to plants, so our own life conditions and quality matter to our spirit.

In Ephesians 3 where Paul write in verse 17, “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith as you are being rooted and grounded in love.”  This rooting and grounding is essential for our growth in Christ.  It is through establishing our foundation in Him that we are nourished and capable of expanding, stretching our limbs, and growing.

As most gardeners and farmers know, the size of the plant above ground level is in direct proportion to the size of its below-ground members – with the underground portion growing to many times the size and spread of the parts we can see.  The fraction of a person that lives in the visible, physical body is merely a fraction of the whole being.  If we are firmly rooted and nourished in our invisible parts with the Lord, the rest of our being will prosper and grow.  But if access to nutrients, water or air is hindered in our foundation, our whole being will suffer, being stunted.

The things which nourish our roots are time with God in prayer and thanksgiving (Colossians 2:7), sound teaching and doctrine, and putting our gifts and talents to use (1 Timothy 4:13-15), and being intentional about surrounding ourselves with other Christians and fellowshipping with believers (Hebrews 10:24-25).

All plants want to grow, are yearning to produce fruit and scatter their seeds for the next generation, they will spend their life and full force of energy to do this, reaching out to sometimes impossible depths to get the food and nutrients needed to create and sustain that healthy, vibrant life.

Roots will generally grow in any direction where the correct environment of air, mineral nutrients, and water exists to meet the plant’s needs. Roots will not grow in dry soil. Over time, given the right conditions, roots can crack foundations, snap water lines, and lift sidewalks.

Can we say the same thing about our spiritual growth and life with God?  Are we intentionally seeking the source of our nourishment and being?  Are we breaking through the concrete of hardened hearts, lifting the oppressive systems that trod on the poor and ‘least of these’?  Or are we poorly rooted, allowing the adventitious weeds and empty air to gradually separate us from Life?