Summer 2017 saw us split between Decatur, GA, my family in Birmingham, AL, and Emily’s family in Cincinnati, OH. The time in Decatur was good. I liked Decatur as a place to live. We stayed in “Mission Haven,” which houses church workers from around the world who are home on leave. (I wrote a bit about it for them here.)
Decatur has several benefits over past places we’ve stayed. There’s a good sense of community. Because Columbia Seminary is next door, and the community has Presbyterian ties, we found that there were a lot of people to connect to. I saw several classmates at Columbia and Candler, we visited the local Taiwanese-American church (see newsletter here), and kids could do a lot of local activities. Sam, Eli and I went to cub scout camp. Sam did an art camp and then at Agnes Scott College did a sports camp. Because Birmingham is only a few hours away, the kids were also able to do stretches there.
I am always grateful for the chance to see how different churches do things. Besides the four Taiwanese-American churches, we visited congregations in Samford and Matthews, NC and in Princeton, NJ.
My conference of the summer was the Yale-Edinburgh Group on World Christianity. It was a nice chance to see what others in the field are doing, and I was able to catch a ride down to Princeton with my advisor. The conference this year was the 25th anniversary and marked the retirement of Martha Smalley, who has been a force for organization, sharing, and coherence in the field. I was grateful also to meet new grad students who are doing this.
We would like to go back to Decatur in the future. One of our dilemmas as a family living cross-culturally has been to find spaces that can house us. We could return to the US for a large chunk of the 2018-2019 school year, or we could wait a year and go back again next summer. This was a good a summer and it helped us to think about how we might put down roots and develop our work. One advantage of being in teaching is that it’s not a huge sacrifice if we return to the US during a semester-sized chunk of time, but on the other hand we don’t want to just churn through places. There’s also some human cost to all the travel, so it is hard to figure out how to do this in a sustainable way.