By Maggie Gitau (Ignite Excellence Foundation Recipient)
I grew up on an idyllic hill that was nestled between two rapid streams, each river less than a five minute skip and hop from our house. During high rains the streams could get so treacherous we learnt to treat them, any body of water for that matter, with a healthy sense of respect. It shouldn’t surprise you then that I learnt to swim, taught myself I should say, barely a year ago. I would hold my breath under water and glide like fish in an aquarium from one end of a pool to another, then bob up gasping and grabbing the nearest rail for dear life. I kid you not. So you can imagine my exhilaration when about two months ago I floated and swam on my back, and in that position I could literary feel oxygen coursing through every blood vessel. Trust me, you do not know the sheer pleasure of being able to stay afloat until you have chocked on swimming pool water while your arms frantically flail about to grab something, anything to save your life (God is merciful, my 5’6 frame has felt more out of depth in other non-aquatic places than the deep end of pool I taught myself to swim in).
I have had a similar sense of exhilaration these last several weeks as pieces have fallen into place for my entry into the PhD program. I knew I would pursue further studies, I just had not foreseen 2011 as the year, or that opportune circumstances would converge to create this possibility. It began almost by chance when I ran into a former teacher, Dr. Mark Shaw. Almost as an afterthought we planned to meet some weeks later to talk things theological. We discussed his latest book, Global Awakening: how 20th Century Revivals Triggered a Christian Revolution. At the end of our talk he invited me to join the pioneer Intercultural Studies (ICS) cohort at Africa International University (AIU). It took me a month to decide this was the right step and another two to obtain an okay from my employer to study part time. But once these two pieces fell into place, I have never felt a stronger sense of rightness about anything. As I interviewed for funding with Suzanne F Stevens, the founder of Ignite Excellence Foundation, she asked questions that forced me to articulate a vision for my future. Once I was challenged to look down what had appeared to be a precarious cliff, I began to see not the scary ledge below but the sun rising up the horizon, lighting up a broad vista in front of me. I know this sounds idealistic, but it’s true, the Intercultural Studies (ICS) program is my new lease of life. It’s coordinated movement towards a definite direction. It’s the excitement of waking up to new discoveries. It’s the research tools to get to the bottom of issues. It’s the language to frame issues correctly and credits to get people to pay attention. Its’ the ability to float instead of flail!
Then again, you could ask if I don’t dread the work load? Yep, with a vibrant job as mine is, that will be the real test of what I’m made of. Two days ago I downloaded 76.8 MBs! worth of reading ahead of class on Sept 12. I believe I’ll take it in stride. I will sleep one hour less, watch even less TV, exercise more regularly. This kind of challenge is the stuff that calls the best out of me, out of any human being. In one scene of my all time favorite movie, Lord of the Rings, the army captains of Rohan are worried their soldiers are too few. “We cannot defeat the armies of Mordor,” says the lead captain. “No we cannot”, reiterates their king. For a moment relief floods the countenances of the captains, perchance the king will call off the battle. But no, there is no such thing as an exit clause. With a glint in his eye and an edge to his voice, King Theoden continues, “We cannot defeat them, but we will meet them in battle nonetheless”. The faces of the men light up with fresh determination to ride the aid of Gondor.
A really exciting part of the ICS program is the familiarity of my study territory. About two years ago I had an opportunity to read and reflect widely on issues in Africa. I hope to specialize on the meteoric growth of Christianity in Africa, more specifically, to understand how the critical masses that are Christians in Africa can become significant players in the development agenda. I believe there are endless possibilities to discover on that subject. This will definitely be the content of my posts in future blogs right here. So stay the journey with me, it promises to be as stimulating as it will be adventurous!
Ignite Excellence Scholarship recipient September 2011
Program: PHd in Intercultural Studies