Perkins School of Theology in South Africa 2015

Eleven students from SMU’s Perkins School of Theology with faculty leader Dr. Evelyn L. Parker, associate dean for Academic Affairs and professor of Practical Theology, are participating in a May 17-31 South Africa immersion course through the Perkins Global Theological Education Program (GTE). During their time in South Africa, they will explore ministries of Christian hope “in practice” via engagement with the people of South Africa in Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Cape Town.

Members of the group will share their experiences, including reflections and photographs, here on the SMU Adventure blog during the trip.

The Perkins Global Theological Education Program (GTE) prepares Christian leaders for complex cultural experiences through seminars and significant immersion experiences in other cultures. Students learn to build intercultural relationships, resolve cultural conflicts and guide intercultural ventures.

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Finding hope in the next generation

Today’s reflection is from Perkins student Jonathan Allen, Master of Theological Studies degree candidate (2016).

The day began with a zero six-thirty alarm urging me to embrace the morning breeze and awakening sun. As we all gathered for our devotional and breakfast, we were informed of today’s itinerary. Our driver, Oupa, arrived on time as usual; and after we all boarded the van, we were off to The Urban Studio (a center for contextual ministry) to meet with Dr. Stephan de Beer.

In our discussions, we explored various post-apartheid issues present within the city of Pretoria. Dr. de Beer made striking comments regarding the work that is still left to do to move past the Apartheid era, and thus stated that he felt it was not completely over.

Such issues that still plague South African society today include: homelessness, domestic abuse, educational disparities, social housing, and more. To delve deeper into the reality of this crisis, we were taken to a few places that embodied these problems.

Dr. de Beer instructs at the former brothel, which has been transformed into studio apartments.

Dr. de Beer instructs at a former brothel, which has been transformed into studio apartments.

We toured a former brothel that had been transformed into an apartment complex, which houses women who were once part of the sex trade and victims of rape. Because The Urban Studio directs much of its attention to youth in the community, we also had the opportunity to visit a local school where we were met by beautiful children hula-hooping.

As we walked through the gate they all began to show off their skills, and a few of us joined them for the challenge. Other children were practicing dance moves inside, while others were playing on the jungle gym. The entire group considered this stop to be the most inspiring moment we have encountered since our arrival. Those kids embodied the hope that we have all been looking for. They showed us a sense of expectation that this world has embedded in the lives of its little ones.

All around the city, we continued to identify the number of youth that flooded the streets. This too was an amazing symbol of life and hope for the South African people. After we returned to The Urban Studio we had a delicious lunch that consisted of some of the best chicken we had ever had. Then, we debriefed and expressed some of the observations made throughout the day. Once we sat for dinner later, we compared our experience to identifications of hope. Hope, therefore, is a non-compromising pursuit of better. Hope is seen through the lives of the South African people, especially the youth.

Glenn “Selfie Ninja”  Luhrs (bottom right) takes a photo of the group. Dr. de Beer is at the bottom left. The others, from left, are Jonathan Allen, Joyce Brooks, Hannah Escalante, Joyce Campbell, Katherine Kennedy, Sadie Brink, Phyllis Harris, Kantrice Robinson, Matt Bell, Charles Robinson and Dr. Evelyn Parker.

Glenn “Selfie Ninja” Luhrs (bottom right) takes a photo of the group. Dr. Stephan de Beer is at bottom left. The others, from left, are Jonathan Allen, Joyce Brooks, Hannah Escalante, Joyce Campbell, Katherine Kennedy, Sadie Brink, Phyllis Harris, Kantrice Robinson, Matt Bell, Charles Robinson and Dr. Evelyn Parker.

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The morning session with Dr. Stephan de Beer of the Centre for Contextual Ministry. We discussed the South African City and the Challenge for the Church.

The Centre purchases dilapidated structures, obtains funds to rehab them, and rents the space to sustain the buildings.

The Centre purchases dilapidated structures, obtains funds to rehab them, and rents the space to sustain the buildings.

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