Monday, April 27, 2015

Awkward moments

I was walking through Hiemenga Hall at Calvin College the other day when a student invited me to consider signing a petition that was up on an easel as a way to show my support for standing against racism. Okay let me just pause right there and process that information. Racism is bad. I am against racism with every fibre of my body. But I also am sceptic about signing petitions and then not seeing much action that would really change things. I have been a critic of the way I think anti-racism and diversity work is done in my circles and even at Calvin College. There are just too many workshops and posters and slogans that I sometimes can't see the real policies and practices that go to change the situation. I did not feel compelled to sign a petition but was curious as to what end goal would be for the campaign. 
So I decided to walk towards the poster, which was co-sponsored by the YMCA. I saw a number of students signing the petition. Of course they will sign it. Who would say no to an invitation to sign something that says one stands against racism? Especially when the student inviting you says it so loud as to attract attention in a very public place with a lot of human traffic? Would refusing to sign insinuate that you are racist? I am sure those that signed the poster are truly against racism but I still was curious who would publicly say "no I do not wish to sign a petition that says I stand against racism."
But I did and with some reason. I walked to the student and asked what would be the end result of the petition. He tried to explain and I pushed him and he basically agreed with me that it would probably be put up on a wall somewhere. But to his defense he added that it would show that we stand with the YMCA against racism. Satisfied with his answer I politely told him I would not sign it. I think he was a little surprised and so was another person keenly paying attention to our conversation from a distance. 
My worry is that sometimes we get too caught up in petitions and workshops that we lose the real change making processes. It is one thing to say you are against racism and another to take specific actions in changing policies and enacting specific practices that help move the process forward to minimize racism. Okay I just had to write this piece. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

College Visits and Clarity of Mission

Since the summer of 2014 our family has been intimately connected to the world of searching for that right college for our oldest daughter. I have spent my entire career in or around higher education (precisely since 1989 when I first taught a university course as a teaching assistant at Kenyatta university). But visiting colleges and universities as a parent has been a very different experience for me. I have been keen to look closely at how well the prospective colleges and universities align with our daughter's stated interests-expected area of study, study abroad opportunities, academic rigor and research opportunities, and a supportive community. In general most colleges and universities can claim to offer some model of all these interests but it has been interesting to gauge the different colleges we have visited through the filters of our daughters (yes we brought along the youngest on the visits). So our choices of colleges and universities to visit were not random but they did give us a variety from which to compare. We visited Augustana College, Calvin College, College of Wooster, Denison University, Michigan State, Northwestern, Saint Lawrence University, University of Chicago, University of Michigan, and Wheaton College. By the time of deciding which ones to apply to the list changed, including adding some schools that we did not visit and eliminating some we visited. So the final list was Calvin College, College of Wooster, Denison University, Kalamazoo College, Kenyon College, Saint Lawrence University, University of Michigan, and Yale. By December 2014 she had heard some positive feedback from Calvin, College of Wooster, Kalamazoo College, and University of Michigan. They all also offered her some financial aid and she has been weighing her options with the financial aid package as an important part of it since she feels she can succeed in most of those to which she applied. We have tried to ask her about the "top" choice but she has held her cards very close to her chest and does not want to pick any but we think College of Wooster is up there on that list. Given that hunch let me use College of Wooster as an example of what I think might be the draw for the decision she would make to attend any of the fine institutions she applied to besides affordability. It comes down to one key thing-mission! Of course the college does have the major she is interested in but I believe she is convinced that while her study focus is important (and understands it could change once in college), she primarily is looking at the college's ability to develop her well for the next level (work and/or graduate school). I am sold to the mission of the liberal arts and its ability to provide graduates the requisite skills that are necessary in our complex and ever changing world. I am pretty sure I have not been too quiet about it so it has rubbed off on our daughters who prefer to have their undergraduate studies in a liberal arts college then go to a big school for graduate work.
But let's go back to mission. I focus on mission here because I want to emphasize what I see as the College of Wooster's ability to convey what it is about with clarity not only in all publicity materials sent out to prospective students as well as the signs around campus but also in the various ways it is articulated and embodied by real human beings intimately connected to the institution--faculty, students, and staff (and I am sure alumni). But I think the most convincing part for me, as an anthropologist interested in not just rhetoric but praxis, is how the college's mission gets played out in the life of the college. This is where I think the College of Wooster stands out. In focusing on its mission of "independent minds working together" the operating belief is that the college offers one unique experience for all students no matter their academic ability or major--mentored research. A recent Gallup study on how the college experience shapes one's career and well-being, mentoring stood out as an important predictor of success and well-being for alumni. (See study here http://www.gallup.com/services/176768/2014-gallup-purdue-index-report.aspx.). To do this well the College of Wooster seems to have understood that students often encounter and interact with all aspects and structures of the college as whole individuals and not as separate pieces that seem to be reflected in how we divide up our institutions into student services, academic services, housing, etc. we cannot divide the college experience into multiple disconnected parts and then tell the students "here are your options, put them together so that you can graduate and be successful." Students need guidance, mentoring, aside, and modeling. That is exactly what the Gallup study reveals. To its credit, the college of Wooster has set out to challenge the usual academic silos, creating intentional collaborative working opportunities to, for instance, have student life to be intimately connected to academic life. They want students to be regarded as whole beings served in a wholistic way. That is the gist of a liberal arts education. Indeed, when I visited the college in 2012 (full disclosure here: I happen to know Dr. Grant Cornwell, current president, from my time at Saint Lawrence University and have maintained our friendship), I learned that the president had asked both the office of international students and the office of multicultural programs to work together and have ongoing conversations that could lead to not only learning from each other but also sharing those valuable points of intersections that could lead to more student success. To facilitate this conversation both offices were even provided shared space (in Babcock Hall) where they have close physical proximity. Three years ago (in 2012) the registrar's office, career planning, Off-Campus Studies, Entrepreneurship, Learning Center, Academic Advising, and Experiential Learning all came together in one shared space in the library where personnel involved in leading them hold joint meetings and seek multiple ways of communicating with each other. 
And for students who have just been admitted to join the college, there is the ARCH (academic registration creative horizons), a program that takes place the summer before the student's first fall semester at the college. It is designed in a way that the new student has a team of three people (faculty, administrator, and a student), who work closely with him/her to make an educational plan (based on the students passions and interests), select courses for the fall, and learn about all the support resources available to the student to make him/her successful. This program includes parents as well who get a sense of what the students will be going through and also know the resources available that they can later point to their students should they need them. There is something else that is attractive about this college--when we visited in the summer of 2014on our stop from vising about four other institutions, I was quite impressed with the presentation made by the vp for enrollment. He made it clear that the College of Wooster was not for everyone, which is basically true for all institutions but in a climate where many institutions want to be as "inclusive" as they can be and careful not to "turn away" anyone, this seemed quite bold. He also talked about the institution not being perfect but rather that it does have its highs and lows (most institutions don't tell prospective students about their lows). I left that meeting convinced that the institution was telling it's everyday story and not the sanitized brochure story that I had gotten used to at the other institutions. It is also interesting to see that students on campus do talk about the value of the mentored research. And I am talking about random students, not the ones picked by admissions staff to make formal presentations to visitors to the college. The brevity and clarity of the mission and the attendant practices make it possible for the students, staff, and faculty to share it in their conversations and in their everyday practices. That is what made the college attractive to me. I am sure there are many challenges that I am not aware of from my lack on an "insider" view but compared to all the ten or so I have visited as prospective places our daughter could end up, this one was impressive.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Dispatches from Gouda

I cannot believe that it is over already. It is Saturday and I am on my way back to Grand Rapids, Michigan after a week (or so) of travel in the Netherlands. I have truly enjoyed Dutch hospitality, met great people and learned a lot about Christian higher education in this secular nation. I have visited Christian university of applied sciences in Ede (CHE), Driestar Educatief in Gouda,VIAA (formerly Reformed University) in Zwolle, and Protestant Theological University in Groningen with a presence also in Amsterdam. Two things stood out for me from these visits: first, the unique role played by the state whereby every institution is fully supported by the government in terms of finances. This means that the Christian university gets 100% funding from the government in the same way a public university does. And yet these Christian universities are able to hire only Christian teachers and staff. They are, however open to students from all faith backgrounds. Second, is the new practice of applied research in these Christian universities where there are paid research positions (lectorates) charged with conducting research that is directly tied to the teaching and curriculum of the institution. The research results are then brought back into the classroom, office and curriculum of the institution in order to improve their offerings. Unlike research in research universities, these institutions carry out research that is directly tied to what and how they teach so that it can improve their work. Of course research universities do some of this research but there is also research to enhance one's standing among peers or research to advance certain theories. The kind of research I have found at the Christian universities is applied. Indeed, it is expected that the research carried out is applied back to the work of the teachers, students, and administrators at the institution. I find this very useful for advancing the work that IAPCHE institutions are involved in. Coffee seems to be like the air we breath--it is the one constant in all offices and homes (along with tea) so I am guessing I might want to see how coffee and tea growers from Kenya contribute to this national addiction😃. That is a project for another time. 
Oh and I must say I enjoyed the food as well especially this brown piece here
called Kroket which I know is not very good for my health but tastes great. 
And of course some asparagus (white), vegetables, potatoes, and meat as seen here:
But above all is the cheese. I think I might become a little picky about my cheese when I next visit our local grocery store. And I guess I will not mind bread with butter and a slice of cheese on top for breakfast. I love learning from other cultures and grateful for these opportunities. It's time for breakfast. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Dispatches from the Netherlands

April 21 2014

I arrived here at 11:25AM local time from Detroit for a week’s visit of our IAPCHE member institutions. I have always travelled through Amsterdam but never quite visited the Netherlands so this is a good trip for me. My colleagues in the Netherlands have put together a good plan for my visit. After clearing with immigration I went downstairs in the Schiphol Airport baggage claim area to pick up my suitcase and then went through the green line for nothing to declare customs check. I walked into the hall way where I saw a few people with names of passengers they were waiting for but not the kind of numbers one would see in, say, an East African airport. I had been given good instructions on how to navigate my way around so I went to look for a train ticket to Utrecht where I am spending my first night. I found a train ticket machine and followed the steps but it turned out my transaction did not go through.
I reverted to the more trusted method, a real person behind a counter. That too did not work as the teller told me she could only take cash or use a bankcard with a chip. I did not have cash or a card with a chip. I asked her where I could find an ATM and she directed me. I withdrew some cash and went back to her since she had already printed my train ticket to Utrecht. I paid for it and went to the train platform to wait for my train. Boarded train along with other people many of who had landed at Schiphol as well. I found a seat and made myself comfortable.
I even realized I had access to Internet on the train so I read some email messages since I had half an hour of travel time from Schiphol to Utrecht. 20 minutes into the ride the train conductor walks in and checks all passenger tickets. He gets to me and checks my ticket then pauses a little and says to me, “you are seating in first class and you have a second class ticket.” Ooops! I told him I did not know which was which since I have never rode a train in the Netherlands before. He waves me to stay after asking if I am going to Utrecht. As you can see on the right I have been traveling a little while but cannot complain having my first class experience. Next time I have to find out what train car I belong to before boarding because I don’t think I can get that lucky again. Alighted at Utrecht Centraal station and followed the instructions given to me to get to the NH Hotel in Utrecht. I already like the hotel (see my room on the right) and will enjoy my time here for the day. Tomorrow I head out to Ede, the following day to Zwolle, then Groningen, and end up in Gouda. I guess that is a good sense of parts of the Netherlands. First thing I did when I got into my room was to get set up to use the Free Wi-FI on the hotel which is quite good. It seems like this connectivity is the most important way of life for those of us with the abilities to travel and have access to computer, smart phones, and tablets that can use the Internet. It is quite interesting how these places all seem to be so much the same despite being so far apart. I do not speak Dutch but I seem to get around pretty well in English, including asking for directions from a person working at a food kiosk in the train station. English has truly become the international lingua franca. I remember being able to navigate my short visit to Hungary in English as well. And then the rooms all seem to use plastic entry keys. Is this what globalization looks like? Let's wait and see what the other days bring.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

When is Prayer Misused?

When is Prayer Misplaced?
I recently picked up fellow anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann’s much regarded book titled When God talks Back (2012) in which she seeks to establish how Americans at Vineyard Church, which she has studied for a number of years, “can hear the voice of God replying to their questions, even the most mundane and everyday.” Tanya is not alone in the quest to understand Christianity from an anthropological perspective. Christianity, a subject left out of anthropology’s study of societies and cultures for a long time, has recently become an important topic that has even led to the emergence of an area referred to as the “anthropology of Christianity,” complete with specialists (think here of Joel Robbins) and a very active bibliography blog (www.anthrocybib.net) that posts entries almost every week. So I got wondering about what it takes to study Christianity as a Christian and found myself going back to some of my own qualms with the way sometimes the faith is operationalized in our daily lives or the ways in which people may attribute Christianity to certain cultural practices that (in my humble opinion) seem quite unrelated to the faith itself. I want to explore one such practice here—the ways sometimes prayer or what some call “giving things to God” can be misplaced. I ask that as you read this bear with me here before you start thinking that I am bashing my own faith. While we may agree with some observers that prayer is central to the every day life of Christians, we might want to critically look at how some of the things we want to “put to prayer” say a lot about our willingness to allow reason and common sense to fly away than really about matters of faith. Let me share some examples. 
I am aware of two cases in 2014 and 2012 where Pentecostal pastors in the US southern States (Kentucky and West Virginia) where snake-handling pastors have died of snake bites after believing that they will be healed of those bites through prayer.

In June 2003 members of staff from Ghana’s national airline, Ghana Airways, held a “prayer vigil” as their desperate response to the ailing corporation that had continually been facing many financial and management challenges. They brought in a prominent Pentecostal preacher to spiritually “heal” and “deliver” the public corporation from the evils besetting it. As Ghanaian scholar J Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu has shown in his paper titled,“"’Christ Is the Answer": What Is the Question?’ A Ghana Airways Prayer Vigil and Its Implications for Religion, Evil and Public Space,” there were many indications that the airline was run poorly. It was leasing old jets that were not fuel efficient, could not keep regular schedules, had rude counter clerks, and over-issuance of complimentary tickets. The airline management had also been politicized and there were claims of corruption in its operations. How then was prayer going to respond to these matters?

Further south in Tanzania there was a parliamentary debate focused on the country’s 2012 national budget. Honorable Rev. Peter Msigwa who represents Iringa (Central Tanzania, Southwest of Dar es Salaam) was contributing to the government’s proposed budget for the fiscal year 2012/2013 when one of his colleagues mentioned the need for prayer as a way of responding to the socioeconomic challenges facing the nation. In response, Hon Msigwa (right) said,

“I see no economic theory that states, if you want to solve economic problems you pray. Even Paul says whoever does not work should not eat [He was referring to 2 Thessalonians 3:10], not that he/she be prayed for, he/she is denied food, but the contributor says we should pray for him. As a reverend we pray for fornicators, those caught with other people’s wives. As a reverend we pray for those who are possessed by evil spirits. What we are doing here is apply an economic principle: there are more consumers than there are producers so we have to produce more. We should find ways of producing more. You don’t have to pray about this.”[1]

Does this worldview of spiritual causality pervade many societies or is it an isolated case? Why are people resigning to prayer instead of seeking practical ways of solving their problems that they can see the real causes? Why can't prayer be accompanied by other actions that help lead the person to the desired goal? Is prayer supposed to be the ONLY solution? Kenya’s award-winning photographer and activist Boniface Mwangi (right), has sought to provide an answer to this question. He says that he got involved in activism because he learned from his own experiences the need to be proactive in making the changes he wants in society. He gives an example of how he often observed his mother disappear every few weeks into Karura forest (near Nairobi) and return tired and famished. When he would ask her where she had been she would respond that she had been in the forest praying for Moi (then president) to die. Mwangi notes that his mother died in 2000 and Moi is still alive. His mother’s response to the hard days of Moi’s rule, he adds, was prayer because she was afraid of being arrested, being detained or tortured so all she did was pray. She died a poor woman who was upset with the system. So he thought instead of just going to pray, which he does, he decided he has to do something more because his mother prayed but there was no action and so she did not get the response she wanted. He decided if he is going to pray about something he also is going to act.[2] He has since been involved in many forms of civil protest against members of parliament’s greed that led to their exorbitant salaries when poverty continues to grip many Kenyans, against corruption, and against electoral malpractices among other social challenges of the day.

I do not know what to make of these stories other than wonder when does one decide that prayer allows one to use interventions available or as I would see it, made available to one for use, instead of making what is clearly a dangerous and many times irrational decisions. Why would someone want to assume that God does not work through biomedicine that one gets at a hospital for snake bites, or through economic theory that shows the specific gaps created by specific social and cultural practices that hinder a company’s profitability? How do I emphasize the value of prayer and yet look at the reality of what we have been given to work with?




[1] video of his presentation (mostly in Kiswahili) can be watched here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3wgDb2PRAI
[2] Video interview with Larry Madowo of Nation Television’s #Trend found here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXb8-k2ppJ8 posted online Mar 3, 2013 and accessed December 3, 2013.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

What Makes a Christian University Christian?


Between August 12 and 16, 2013 the International Association for the Promotion of Christian Higher Education. (IAPCHE)-the association I work for-held a seminar for professors/lecturers and administrators from six Christian universities in the Eastern African region. There were representatives from Africa Nazarene University, Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Daystar University (Kenya), Bilingual Christian University of the Congo, Uganda Christian University, and St John University of Tanzania. Along with me were a colleague from Calvin College and another from Azusa Pacific University. We spent the week responding to the question of what makes our institutions Christian. We started by looking at what universities are and what they have stood for over the years; noting that there are many shared traits between universities shaped by our faith in Christ and those that are not. For both the goal is the pursuit of knowledge that informs and is informed by the social realities of the places and times they inhabit. Such knowledge is pursued without fear and favor and when done well it should be unsettling to the status quo. For Christian universities there is the dimension of forming students by inhabiting the Biblical drama that culminates in glorifying God and deeply loving His creation. They are places where we live God with our hearts, hands, and minds. 
We talked about the importance of avoiding a common practice of Bible "verse hunting" where we look for specific verses to attach to our practices and instead asked that we consider the entire story of the Bible and align our work with it. The danger with verse hunting is that we often do not articulate the contexts within which those verses emanate and can often limit their meaning or even provide opportunities for others that contradict them. Similarly, it is not enough to start class with prayer if we do not use a Biblical perspective to look at and even critique our disciplines or course content. We do not want to treat faith like a neighbor to our disciplines in which case as one participant asked "if we removed those neighbors (the prayer before class or verses at the beginning of the syllabus) how would the rest of the course and its content be different from a similar availed in a non-Christian institution?" In response to this very important question we discussed the need to have a "sociology of our disciplines"-the critical analyses of the history and assumptions of the disciplines since they are culturally constructed. Disciplines are ways of seeing and analyzing the world (they do not create it) and are shaped by certain questions that were and have been asked by specific people located in specific places at specific time periods.
For instance, within the social sciences there are theoretical frames that locate human "problems" in structural or systemic struggles between those that have and the have-nots. As much as we appreciate this reality we do know that humans are fallen and we might change the structures/system and still not get rid of the problems (apartheid ended but many in South Africa are not better off neither are many other Africans in their post-independence nations after the end of colonial occupation). By understanding the history and assumptions of our disciplines we are able to utilize them as tools of looking at God's created world in ways that honor our faith commitments. This approach is critical especially given that the kind of education system that operates in this region, as it is in many other parts of the world, is derived from the German university model which was brought by the British and Belgians to Eastern Africa during the colonial period. After independence, our institutions were not able to fully take ownership of these education systems in ways that responded to local realities but instead became places that produce graduates with some of the similar qualifications that were meant to serve narrow colonial goals. While this is a challenge even today (for many universities around the  world) it is an opportunity for Christian universities: they can take this old colonial model of education and reshape it to faithfully inhabit the biblical worldview that reflects the local realities and aspirations of the people. The Bilingual Christian University of the Congo has started to do this because it is starting from the ground up. The reality of what we do is in knowing that there is no intellectually neutral ground, that knowledge is produced from a specific location/standpoint. Quite often many of us have taken our disciplines, our subjects, to be neutral as if they came from heaven and can only be given out as they are. 
This angle on universities led us to another issue. We focused on two questions: first, do we have universities in Africa or African universities? Second, are our institutions Christian universities or universities where Christians are employed? As we listened to accounts of our colleagues from the different institutions represented it was clear that some of the work of reshaping them to respond to local realities (especially through service as well as graduating individuals prepared to make a difference) is already happening and/or that many acknowledge the challenge and are addressing it. We also discussed leadership strategies and practices that advance the missions of our institutions and how we can learn from the work carried out by scholars not necessarily aligned with our faith. From this discussion came a number of specific tasks to be undertaken on different campuses to better serve students and colleagues. 
So what makes a university Christian? It is its ability to faithfully address these issues along with its hiring and training practices, focus on faith formation inside and outside of the classroom, the continuous focus on disciplines as tools that are shaped for the specific purposes of revealing/analyzing/affirming the created world, and offering leadership that seeks to glorify God by deeply loving His created world. In a phrase it is "faith-shaped learning and service."  
As all 27 of us shook hands and hugged on the last day, we went back to our institutions refreshed and with some suggestions to share with our leaders and colleagues as well as our own individual action plans that we will "test out" in the coming semester(s) and report back to the same team when we meet again in early May 2014.
For me it was such a privilege to spend such focused time with colleagues interested in similar issues in higher education and to learn of all the great work they are undertaking despite the challenges. I am looking forward to staying in touch and then regathering in May 2014.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Parenting blues

Yesterday (August 4, 2013) my colleague Susan Felch and I attended a church service at the Nairobi Baptist Church in Nairobi. My cousin Stephen Kinoti is a youth pastor at the church (a Methodist minister seconded to a Baptist church) and so it was not a chance attendance. We had thought of trying to walk to church but it would have taken us probably over an hour and we did not have that much time so we chose to take a matatu and were able to make the 10:00 o'clock "family service" (kids stay in the main sanctuary but leave just before offertory and sermon). The preacher was Dr. Timothy Wachira VC (president) of Daystar University which is the immediate neighbor of the church. I must note that while the church is strongly rooted in the Baptist tradition it draws from other denominations and has mostly an interdenominational identity even though the name remains distinct. I learned that in the current search for a senior pastor the church council can get someone from other closely linked denominations. During the service, there was an announcement by one of the pastors about the challenges facing Kenyan youth and even mentioned that majority of them leave their faith by first year of college (familiar note for many in the US) which made me wonder where his statistics were coming from but didn't get a chance to ask. I am not totally convinced of that claim but do not have any data to support my claim either. The theme for the month of August (a month when school children are on break) is "family." Dr. Wachira preached on how to make sure parents are able to raise their children grounded in their faith. He was able to connect Psalm 8 (children able to know an otherwise majestic and almost unknowable God) and Mark 10 (let the children come to me) showing that knowing God is a gift (not dependent on our human attributes but by God's grace) and that no one should hinder children from approaching Christ (that we too ought to come to Christ like children). Yet the role of parents, Dr. Wachira noted, is critical in three way: not to hinder them but instead point them to Christ; prioritize their lives so that their commitment to Christ comes first; and modeling Christ-like living. He then asked the congregation to consider if taking their children to boarding school (a very common practice in Kenya) was hurting the chances of cultivating the right relationship with their children as they nurture them in the faith; or would taking another job be dependent on how a parent's relationship with children will pan out?; and if they make decisions as a family. These are very important questions to ask and especially for this context where there is a high level of children's socialization being handled by house helps (locally termed "house girls"-a relic from the colonial times probably). Moreover there are few, if any, families known to me where decisions are made in consultation with the children especially younger children. This is not the norm-children are told what to do after their parents (mostly the fathers) have made the decisions. So Dr. Wachira was touching on a critical sociocultural reality that is best understood by someone who knows the culture as he does. Every time we visit out friends in Kenya we quickly notice how many of them have little time spent with their children and how the children spend more time (and at times confide more) with their house helps. Having experienced raising our daughters in both Kenya and now in the US I clearly recognize this reality. I am definitely much more closer to our daughters than I was when we lived in Kenya (part of it is the reality of having to give up the luxury of house help we had in Kenya when we moved to the US and also the reality of living in a new place where your most stable and important social links are your family). In that sense I empathize with the message Dr. Wachira shared but I am also cognizant of how this is not just a Kenyan challenge only because I know of many families in the US that struggle and which in the absence of house helps have peers and technology socializing their children. My hope is that places like the Baptist church in Kenya will be catalysts for a more concerted effort for steering parents towards a good relationship with their children. I am convinced that there are no short cuts to such social interactions.  Incidentally it seems like this patenting challenge seems to be a sermon focus every time we attend church in Kenya because, as Margaret reminded me when I shared this story with her, a few years back we heard a similar message at the Nairobi Pentecostal Church when a pastor talked about his experiences counseling youth who had no affirming relations with their parents.  These parenting blues seem to be growing. What has been your experience? Share your comments.