Bakke Graduate University hosted leaders from many different parts of the world for a city immersion in Dallas, Texas from October 4-13, 2019. The group included 18 students in masters and doctoral level studies at BGU, plus many staff members, alumni, and stakeholders who joined the group at various points throughout the adventure. Each city immersion that BGU offers has a unique theme depending on the location, and the Dallas course focused on community development since part of the experience included participation in the Christian Community Development Association national conference that was hosted in Dallas this year. The leaders had the opportunity to hear from a wide variety of guest lecturers who facilitated dynamic discussions about Christian community development while also visiting many different sites and neighborhoods around Dallas to consider practical approaches to transformational leadership.
The immersion started on October 4 with a welcome dinner at the home of BGU President, Dr. Brad Smith, a Dallas resident. Dr. Smith was instrumental in setting up most of the site visits so that students viewed a cross section of contextualized ministry approaches in Dallas. Site
Coordinator, Jennifer Johnson, also a long-time resident of Dallas, did an amazing job with all of the logistics in Dallas. I (Bryan) served as a professor of record along with Dr. Wayne Weathers, the DMin Director at BGU. The students spent the first Saturday learning about local and global community development initiatives through local leaders including Dr. Kathy Dudley and Dr. Froswa Booker Drew. We learned about Texas culture by dining for lunch in the Deep Ellum neighborhood, by exploring the largest state fair in the United States that was going on in Dallas, and by sharing dinner in the Trinity Groves neighborhood. We worshipped at a large church on Sunday before gathering again for a community dinner at the BGU campus on Sunday evening where students discussed transformational leadership perspectives with local leaders.
The highlights of the first part of the week included site visits to Serve West Dallas, Advocates for Community Transformation, Chase Oaks Church, Cornerstone Church, and Northwest Community Center. These organizations are making a profound difference in the neighborhoods where they are located, and our group of BGU leaders asked great questions about their unique approaches. During the later half of the week, the group was challenged and motivated by the speakers and workshops at the CCDA conference. The content sparked many intriguing discussions over lunch and late into the evenings. Many of the leaders shared that they received fresh vision and passion for their cities, while other leaders wrestled with and even pushed back on some of the strong perspectives that they heard from CCDA practitioners. Spiritual formation was a main component to the week thanks to the presence of BGU’s Director of Spiritual Formation, Dr. Nita Kotigua, who intentionally created space for the leaders to process what God was showing them throughout the city immersion.
Finally, on October 13, the group gathered together for one final time of connection and reflection before heading back to their own cities to implement what they learned from leaders in Dallas. The students had fun with a hands-on community development activity where they
collaborated with each other to design their own cities out of craft supplies. A special time of prayer and reflection closed things out as each leader had the opportunity to share about howthey were feeling after such an intense week. The leaders experienced a lot over the course of ten days. They now have the opportunity to process what they experienced in online connections, book reviews, journals, and individual projects. It was a joy to have so many inspiring students and BGU friends together in Dallas to learn about transformational leadership together. Much thanks to everyone who helped to make this such an amazing city immersion!