I knew it would be festive with flowers and wonderful music; I knew it would be thronging with smiling graduates and their proud families; I knew the speeches would be uplifting (and mercifully brief); and I knew the significance of graduating the first ten Doctor of Ministry students shared by Central and Myanmar Institute of Theology. What I did not know was how deeply I would be moved by their successful completion of this course of study. Like a mother eagle watching her chicks soar, I was filled with deep joy at their launching of new dimensions of ministry.
Several of the doctoral students live in remote areas of the country, so coming to Yangon to check in with their supervisors and delve into library holdings was difficult. Some were without internet in their villages, so the travel was both arduous and necessary to make sure they were on course with their research projects. Their perseverance is laudable.
Doctoral robes, designed by medieval monks in chilly monastic environs, are not worn lightly in blazing Yangon March weather! By the time we had sweltered through the service, we appear rather damp in the multiple pictures. I fear that sweat in my eyes had me appearing less joyful than I felt. (So the arrival of the robe was a mixed blessing!)
The Doctor of Ministry students decided to gather for a dinner party last evening, knowing that they would have little opportunity to be together again. They also wanted to welcome their president and honor the Director of the DMin program (and his able assistant) with generous gifts and gracious words. It was so much fun to reflect together on our first seminar together at MIT (taught with Dr. Heather, whom they sorely missed), their subsequent courses in Shawnee, and what new opportunities they see in ministry because of their study. They feel the weight of new responsibility, which is altogether appropriate.
My leadership position allows me many blessings. Last evening I received a new mantle from the tribal tradition of Thawng Hnin Zam, from Chin State. There is a “Festival of the Horse,” where a leader is named the “horse” and receives a beautiful shawl acknowledging that status. I received this gift with gratitude and clear acknowledgement that I represent the many persons at Central who make this shared work possible. Faithful faculty and staff make sure that appropriate accrediting and logistical tasks sustain this programmatic initiative. And the generosity of the Luce Foundation is the grounding support.
Sunday I will worship with Ywama Baptist Church and bring gifts for their clinic. Gage Park Baptist Church in Topeka sent a generous gift, as did other individuals. I am always happy to be the “bearer of gifts” to this worthy ministry.
This extended time in Myanmar offers new opportunities to learn. A great way to view this nation is through the eyes of faithful friends whose long experience makes them reliable guides for the pilgrim who wishes to be more than a tourist.
Molly T. Marshall
Central prepares women and men for seeking God, shaping church, and serving humanity.