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Jun  2014 13
Immersion Class Headed to Nicaragua

The immersion class Women’s leadership has played an important and historic role in Nicaragua. Years of war have contributed to a decrease in the population of men, and a history of political and economic repression has accelerated a cycle of poverty. In these conditions, women have taken on many forms of leadership in their communities.

On Friday, June 13, six students from Phillips Theological Seminary  travel to Nicaragua as part of an immersion class to learn about the models of leadership that have helped Nicaraguan women survive in extreme poverty. The immersion course is taught by Assistant Professor of Pastoral Theology and Ethics Dr. Melinda McGarrah SharpThe class is working with JustHope, an organization committed to creating long-term partnerships with communities in Nicaragua. 

“We’re not going there in order to teach,” said Sharp. “We’re going in order to learn about, from and with these leadership models embodied by women that enabled them to survive in horrendous conditions in the past and in the midst of extreme poverty in the present.”

The immersion course is one of four specialization seminars available to Doctor of Ministry students in the Transformational Leadership for Women in Ministry program at Phillips. Sharp describes the program as learning about and drawing from models of collaborative leadership in a way that addresses the experiences of women in ministry. She believes studying the way women’s leadership has functioned in Nicaragua addresses goals for both the degree program and the specialization program.

“This community is a place where the structural elements of liberation theology are still working,” Sharp said. “It’s helpful to women re-imagining their own role in transformative leadership in ministry.”

Phillips student and Baptist minister Rev. Ellen Strickland says she has been reading, packing and praying to prepare for the trip, and she is looking forward to a full sensory experience.

“I hope that when I return I will have something to share with my congregation about being a missional church, whether it is local or a distant land,” Strickland said.

Student and United Methodist minister Lorri Kentner said the assigned textbooks and journals for the immersion class have been very enlightening.

“I am looking forward to talking with and learning from the women of Nicaragua,” Kentner said. “I want to learn about Casa de Paz and all the work they do.”

Rev. Lara Blackwood Pickrel, student and Christian Church minister, said the assigned pre-trip work helped her begin to think through her own assumptions about poverty, charity, development and social justice.

“I am looking forward to learning from the women of JustHope and Chacraseca,” Pickrel said. “Their experience and wisdom are valuable in their own right, and I also suspect that I will glean some wisdom about community transformation that can inform the life of my congregation.”

Sharp thinks that immersion classes create a unique learning opportunity that students would not experience inside a classroom.

“The world is a really messy place. If we stay in the classroom, we only have one kind of access to the world,” Sharp said. “There’s no way to grasp the story of Nicaragua without going there.”
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