The immersion experience, as we’ve come to know it at BGU, captures the very essence of how we learn together in this institution, applying the learning to our cities, and eventually transferring these learning practices to our own ministries and places of influence. Because of this, we take our reflections of “how it went” in the Phoenix Immersion seriously. This was holy ground, in many respects.
Ten BGU pilgrims and quite a few members from the host team in Phoenix spent almost ten days together. We intentionally looked at this Southwestern U.S. city through the lens from the margins, a very particular way we learn at BGU. The books we read were stimulating and sometimes agitational. The topics we covered were diverse, leaning hard into the diversity that makes Phoenix important and unique. But what makes all immersions work, what makes all immersions life-changing are the places you go and the people you meet. These stories and histories will be remembered, in some cases, for a life-time. A few examples: We visited a nationally recognized desert botanical garden and were reminded of the resiliency and glorious beauty of hard places, a metaphor we would draw from for days to come. We experienced, through a day-long tour, a 41-year-old comprehensive Christian community development campus, through multiple testimonies and face to face encounters of ministry practice and holistic programming. The highlight was meeting leaders who have grown up in this work and now are important voices both for the work and for their city. This campus would become our home for over a week.
For the fun of it and for the challenge, we took public transportation to this campus daily. We visited a Native American boarding school, now a museum, which captures the horrific story of how American institutions, including the church, participated in the destruction of Indigenous cultures and families. We heard from Native leaders who have labored at decolonizing the church, ministry models and the Bible. We visited the U.S./Mexico border and on the way took a pilgrimage into the Arizona desert, honoring the migrants who have lost their lives on their journey toward hope. We talked about the church a lot, did trauma informed trainings, heard from church leaders in Phoenix and visited the Arizona legislature as we thought about a public theology, public voice and intentional action. There is more to say on all we experienced, and so let’s hear from one of our team members.
JOSUE ALANIS ANAYA, is one of the BGU Masters students who came from Mexico City with his wife, Deborah (a co-learner) and their 4 month old baby Nathan. A typical BGU student, wouldn’t you say? I like to think so, eager, courageous, tenacious and full of optimism, traveling to an unknown city in the U.S. together their first child. All three became team members, each with their own contribution. This is how Josue describes the Phoenix Immersion:
“As mentioned, a couple of times during the week and in the course, immersion marks life, no doubt this week will accompany me throughout my life; what I have learned in these days has remained in my memory, not only because we learned theory but because we got to experience, walk, taste, and smell the city of Phoenix. I thank the entire team that allowed this immersion to take place, I know it required a lot of work from each one, but I want to tell you that it has been worth it; through this week you have left a legacy in the 10 participants that were there. What we have learned and heard we will do. I ask God to help me to put into practice everything I have learned.”
Immersions are cornerstones to the way we learn at BGU. It was our extraordinary privilege to host one in our city. Thank you for considering us worthy.
To God be the glory.
Dr. Kit Danley
Professor of Record for the Phoenix Immersion