Wednesday, May 23, 2012


In addition to this new gig as the Mozambique Initiative Coordinator, I am still toiling away on the dissertation and hope (plan, pray, plead) to graduate in May 2013. Data collection has ramped up to full speed this week, while previously, I had just been working on the literature review and background information.  But now (on a much more exciting note!) I am conducting interviews with young, African American women with breast cancer throughout the city of St. Louis.  I am up to my ears in new data.  These interviews involve asking intimate questions about personal history, family life, and the growing up experience, in addition to asking about the current circumstances regarding their diagnosis and treatment.   

What has struck me the hardest is the fact that when you dig, you quickly uncover tragedy, heartache, and pain just lying beneath the surface of many of these women's lives.  Before breast cancer ever came into the picture, many of these women had long since been survivors.  I have been inspired by their resiliency,  their ability to forgive, their capacity to grow and blossom under the most extreme circumstances, the laughter that has been cultivated in the midst of heart ache, and the smiles that cover me like a warm blanket.  I have been humbled and inspired by their stories.  Whether or not anybody ever has reason to call me Dr. Bollinger, I know that these one-on-one exchanges with the women in my study have given me knowledge and insight beyond what I had ever imagined.  I am changed and I am grateful.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Spice of Life

The Mozambique Consultation is a gathering of Methodists from all over the world that takes place every 3 years to discuss the state of the work being done in Mozambique. I had the privilege of attending this meeting in Tampa, Florida earlier this week. As I sat and glanced around the conference table during these meetings, I was struck by the value of variety. Germany, Brazil, Mozambique, and then a number of States including Missouri, Virginia, New York, and Texas, all had people sitting at the table and contributing. The Bishop of Mozambique, cloaked in beautiful, traditional African garb, was the focal point of the consultation. She was flanked by a spunky little Brazilian Bishop who wore Elvis Costello glasses and bright red flats. One of our friends from Germany was quite "to the point" (in a stereotypical, make-you-giggle sort of way) and kept us all on task, but his seeming rigidity was flavored by wit, intellect, and an endearing smile.

Not only did we all come from very different locations, but we each had very different skills, talents, and training. Of course there were clergy and missionaries represented among us, but also nurses and public health professionals and treasurers and architects and teachers and professional translators. Each individual had their own, unique understanding of the issues at hand and their own, unique suggestions as to how to go about addressing each of these issues. There were many points on which we didn't agree and there were times when I thought I might go batty from that special kind of exhaustion that kicks in near the end of a 14 hour meeting.

But one of my colleagues exclaimed as we walked into the room that this was our own small, little glimpse of the Kingdom of God, and truly, this was the case. We were all together, listening to each other share about how to care for orphans, facilitate malaria prevention in local villages, and provide access to safe water. We worked under a common vision, while bathed in divine grace. And just for these two days, no oceans separated us and no borders divided us. Our diversity better equipped us for addressing the tasks at hand and our differences helped us to generate creative strategies.