Intro to Watsonopolis

Watsonopolis is a place where the Watson family posts their writing, reflections, images and videos.

Most of the stuff we post are our own thoughts, wonderings, and stories that emerge from our lives, our living, the world around us and the world within us.

You'll find us reflecting on our travels, our faith, justice, and what it means for us to live well in 21st century America. 

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Working towards Dr. Watson

In January I began, what will undoubtedly be a long and difficult journey.  I started a doctoral program.  If I do this right and well, in 3, or 4 or 5 years, you will have to refer to me as Dr. Watson. 

I enrolled into Bakke Graduate University’s Doctorate in Ministry in Transformational Leadership for the Global City program.  The title is a mouthful.  But basically, it focuses on equipping Christian leaders to minister effectively in global urban environs.  I’ve been looking at this program for a few years but have not been in a steady enough situation to be able to begin.  But with the encouragement of my family, the counsel from a dear friend and mentor, Randy White and the blessing from my church, I took my first course; in Accra, Ghana.  It was amazing. 

As part of the course, I was required to journal 2-3 pages a day over the course of the 12 days I was there.  Below, are excerpts from the first few days of my journals:


First day of class and I’m surrounded by 13 other students; 5 Americans, 4 African, 3 Chinese and 1 Canadian.  We begin with a series of introductory remarks and orientations.  Then we go around the room and introduce one another.  Although many of us have been interacting online a good bit prior to the course, it is good to put live faces and real voices to Facebook pictures and posted online comments.  Joel in person is like Joel online, but taller.  Dorrie and Melissa look different than their pictures and sound different than they write.  I’m glad to be in the class with all of them.

Salomon is from Niger, in my opinion, by far the most difficult of all the places represented.  It took me 2 days by plane to get here.  It took him 3 days by bus.  He’s wise I can tell.  I can’t imagine the difficulties he’ll face as he goes through the program.  When I begin to complain about how hard this gets or how much I have to do, I’m going to think about him sweating like a madman for 3 days on raggedy piece of shit bus, having to pay bribes at every boarder crossing all because he has a call from God on his life to be an agent of transformation in a place that is hotter than hot and that most people don’t even know exists, and the ones that do know can’t pronounce his city correctly. 

Phoebe is a pastor in China and frankly I have no category for her.  I’ve never met a Chinese pastor that pastors in China.  All the Chinese pastors I know pastor churches in San Francisco.  And all of them are men.  And secondly, I can’t say that I know a single female senior pastor.  In a country where I’ve heard they abort female fetuses, to have in front of me a female Chinese pastor, living in communist China and who leads a congregation twice as large as my own; well, I’m impressed.  Awed really.  Even though she didn’t come by bus.


I’ve never met Stefan, but I have been in the same room with him.  And when you’re around someone as great as Stefan that’s got to count for something.  He’s the founder and Executive Director of the Tswane Leadership Foundation.  I first came to know of Stefan and his work when I was in Fresno working for a sister organization to his, the One by One Leadership Foundation.  That would have been 8 years ago now.  Though we share many common friends this is actually the first time we’ve met face to face.  And quickly I came to realize that he’s one of those people that has a great deal of wisdom, strength and tenderness.  All of which lay just below the surface enough, that you could pass him in the airport and not notice at all.  But if you talk with him, and listen, it bubbles up, catching you almost unaware but not off guard; you’re able to glimpse the depth of his soul as well as his intellect - both of which come from a deeper story and a richer life that he gives you peeks at because to give the whole story in one sitting would overwhelm.

 Then there are the stories that I tell myself.  I was reminded of those stories while riding around Ghana.  There is a grand narrative of West Africa that I have bought into and experienced.  My very last experience with West Africa was not good.  I was a wounded by the uglier side of the culture and it has served to confirm the African Grand Narrative that is dictated and propagated by a source other than Shalom.  If I’m not careful I’ll let that narrative be the only narrative I hear and that I tell, even if I only tell myself.  The tour did not speak to the things that still anger me about my previous experiences; about corruption, about lies, about shifting responsibility that leads to no one taking ownership, about the ways that I, as a white person, am viewed only as a container of money and thereby dehumanized in the same way that Africans have been viewed only as a receptacle of pity and aid and likewise dehumanized.


[As Christian leaders] our blind spots will not be identified by others with the same blind spot but by those who see and hear differently.  Thus, we listen to the artist, the engineer, the welder, the banker, the rich and poor, the city and the history of our faith.  So much of the work of reflection for the urban Christian leader will take place in the between places of the City and the Church, the Genders, the Races, etc. 


We finished up our tour of churches at Christ Apostolic Church.  This fellowship began several decades ago and is firmly trenched in the faith-healing and Pentecostal expressions of Christianity.  They proclaim themselves as the ‘Mother of Pentecostal Churches in West Africa’.  This church I did not observe as with the others.  This church I experienced.  And the experience caught me completely off guard.  When I walked in the congregation was fully engaged in worship; and by fully I mean fully in the most Pentecostal and charismatic senses of the word. 

The situation surrounding our leaving Nigeria and our denial of return is a painful one.  There remains a lot about Nigeria that hurts me and angers me.  But, on that Sunday at the Christ Apostolic Church, I found a great measure of healing.  Healing to things that I didn’t know were still wounded.  In that service, though we were there only for a few moments, God brought to mind areas of my heart that needed soothing with the balm of the Holy Spirit.  I find it completely just and merciful, that God used the mouths of West Africans to sing to me a song that I had forgotten.  I find it appropriate that I was healed in a church that was founded on a belief that God, by faith, heals the broken.Dancing, kneeling, twirling, toungue-speaking, weeping.  And they were singing a song I knew. It was a song that I had heard literally 100 times.  It was sung nearly every other day in Nigeria and upon hearing it, in this place, a flood of emotions and memories came over me and I was overwhelmed. 



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