Well, I promised I would write about my life so it makes sense to those who I haven’t yet updated. As my Facebook profile now suggests, I’m living in Los Angeles – yes in the U.S.A., and completing a PhD at Fuller Theological Seminary. And I can already hear the voices…
“Whaaat?? Wasn’t I just recording an album? And haven’t I just released a DVD? And what about all those interviews I was doing in Melbourne?”
Haha. Yeah. I know. It’s been a pretty big six months.
But most of that was to make way for this. As my life seems to do. Right now I’m sitting in an unfurnished apartment (if you’re in L.A. and have an unused lounge or TV, message me!!). I live in an apartment block of Fuller housing, and have my first pre-reading book sitting on the floor. With a visa change in progress today, Tim will join me as soon as he can, and hopefully will again cook my meals ‘ready steady cook’ style which we so often did at home in Sydney. The quicker the better… yesterday I overdosed on organic Mozarella cheese and baby tomatoes, today it was baked potatoes and snowpeas. Two ingredient dishes are quickly improved by the presence of a Tim Sheerman.
“What’s so great about Fuller? Why don’t you study in Australia?“
Well among other things, Fuller is for post-graduate students only. By that I mean that it has no undergraduate or Bachelors programs, so to be a Fuller student you must have completed a first degree elsewhere. You also may have to prove adequate cross-cultural experience, so you generally have worked outside the States or the country where you live. You usually have, it seems, about 5 years of pastoral, theological or mission work. Also, wanting to study in a Theological Seminary is a big part of it… Fuller has three schools – Theology, Psychology and Intercultural Studies. The faculty are looking for a type of Christian maturity that enables you to tackle the depth of all three disciplines. These courses are intended to be as cross-disciplinary as possible as compared to a very singular focus I would get at my beloved The University of Sydney. They acknowledge faith-based learning, and are deep, let me tell you. In every single way.
Probably the best way to explain is to introduce you to some of my flatmates. On Friday night, we had our first gathering on the “Flawn” – the fake lawn. There are 100 apartments in “Koinonia”, in three floors. So that makes for a whole lot of kids and noise… it’s Summer here and water balloons were flying everywhere… hitting the occasional adult who laughed and shook the water off their clothes.
I chatted briefly to the Asian man who was standing closest to me. Before leaving to study at Fuller he had been in business, predominantly traveling to and from China – he explained he was second generation Taiwanese. He had begun work with the poor in a rural area and was looking to gain more understanding to become the Business Manager of a Chinese charity he had already linked with. I misunderstood him by thinking he was working with the American poor, but he laughed softly and said, “No. There are few American poor. And the poor here are relatively wealthy”. His eyes suggested that what he had seen was compelling enough for a change of career.
During our conversation he mentioned that his wife had died two weeks before his commencement at Fuller. I asked him if he was sad, and whatever I had seen in his eyes was gone. He said, “I am not sad. I am at College having the time of my life. My wife wanted me to be here”. I was kind of quietened by this thought, and this man who exuded such deep joy yet was planning to live in an urban ghetto in China after losing his wife.
Another neighbour is Amin, which he explains means Benjamin in Arabic. He is from Egypt and is working towards understanding and dialogue between Muslims and Christians. He tells me that Australia is the most beautiful country in the world. I think to myself that while Australia is beautiful, it must have a fantastic tourism marketing campaign for an Egyptian living in California to credit us so highly. He mentions that he is now on his seventh year of study completing the PhD. He walks me down the path, explaining that his intention is to return to the Middle East next year. He is deadly serious about his work, only breaking into a smile when he explains that they have been excitedly awaiting me in the doctoral program. I gulp.
The layers are still being peeled back, as they do each and every time you leave one community for another. Misunderstandings, offences, and apologies are a daily occurrence. It is not appropriate to complain about coffee beans here… very awkward for my particular sensibilities that have been forged by my Italian friends, for whom discussion about food is a daily occurrence. Most Americans do not care about the quality of coffee beans, or dream about slow food. And there are plenty more challenges, not the least of them financial after combining relocation to another country with study.
My degree will allow me to research Australian Indigenous culture in an ethical manner, with the help of experienced academics here. My hope is to facilitate sharing the depth of our beautiful nation’s culture and wisdom with the non-Indigenous people of Australia, and to help Indigenous Australians form a platform to share their music. How I do this can be formulated in a million ways –it all starts with identifying a researchable problem.
My quest has always been and will continue to be to make music of my own that enriches, encourages and uplifts. I will just, as always also be doing academics. And yes, there is a DVD of my songs that is available in this upcoming week online, and an even more exciting CD will be available by the end of the year. My prayer is that it will be a great resource for churches internationally and many will sing these songs. We love them, and are so excited about the upcoming CD project… and maybe soon I will be recording with Indigenous artists and helping them voice their culture and understanding of life and the world… among other things. who knows.
For now, I’m turning to the 5th page of my research design manual, after procrastinating long enough to write this…. and I promise a less boring next post.