Stories

Mar
1
2021
Dear America, stop erasing me
It didn’t take long for me to learn that what made me different was not always seen as beautiful by the world that existed outside the four walls that I was raised in.
My story is from a third generation Chinese American lens, who was raised in the Midwest and attended school in the south — please know this writing doesn’t encompass or represent all Asian American stories.
Feb
11
2021
Voices: Learning justice demands all of me
“The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed” (NIV, Psalm 103:6).

“God makes everything come out right; he puts victims back on their feet” (The Message, Psalm 103:6).

Christian Scriptures give great hope for the oppressed and victims of oppression. No matter which translation of the Bible we read, it is clear in Psalm 103:6 that God knows about the oppression and the resulting victimization.

The Bible is full of admonitions to followers of the way of Jesus about our actions toward the oppressed and victimized. We are to treat all people with love, dignity, honor and justice, because we all are made in the image of God.

Our actions should flow naturally from a heart filled with God’s love. Learning to see people as God would have us see them, with loving actions toward and on behalf of all people, comes with a commitment to do this hard work with the Lord. That commitment, I have discovered, is a life-long journey.
Feb
1
2021
Voices: Justice looks like antiracism
The white church in America is learning racism is not merely about our individual actions and decisions.

As a civil human being—more so as a child of God—we know better than to be racist, than to do racist things. In fact, in our effort not to be racists, we work hard to talk as though race doesn’t exist. Being colorblind was the way to be nonracist, we were taught. I suppose it meant if we didn’t see race, we couldn’t perpetuate it or contribute to racism.
Jan
6
2021
‘Cultural humility’ fosters a lifelong self-examination of racism
The work of identifying racist attitudes and behaviors is not only uncomfortable but also never-ending, said Kerri Fisher, a lecturer and diversity educator at Baylor University.

Recognizing white privilege and oppressive social systems isn’t enough to sustain “cultural humility,” said Fisher, co-chair of the Race Equity Work Team in Baylor’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work.

“There are always new ways to be unjust, so we have to always be learning,” she said.

“Cultural humility” describes an ability to critically self-reflect on the existence of cultural differences and impacts on marginalized groups with the goal being to build relationships with those groups, she explained.

Fisher outlined the process for achieving cultural humility, anti-racist and anti-oppressive attitudes during a recent interview with Baptist News Global.
Dec
9
2020
Baylor social work, physics profs recognized as Undergraduate Research Mentors of the year
One point that often gets lost in the academic debate of teaching versus research is that research, at its best, is teaching. Baylor’s Outstanding Undergraduate Research Mentor Award — presented each year by Baylor Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Achievement (URSA) — aims to recognize those who exemplify that by mentoring undergraduate students in a research setting.

This year’s honorees? Dr. Stephanie Boddie from the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, and Dr. Lorin S. Matthews (BS ’94, PhD ’98) from the Department of Physics.
Dec
5
2020
Falling Seed: Caring for others through trauma-sensitive language
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29).

I memorized this verse as a child and earnestly sought to live it out. For most of my adolescence, I thought it meant being nice and cordial to the people around me. After learning about trauma-sensitive language, the verse has taken on a whole new meaning for me.

I now am aware of the diversity of experiences I might encounter on a daily basis in my congregation members or clients. I must remember each individual has a different story and has experienced things that caused deep pain and harm in their lives. I must remember we all handle things differently.
Nov
12
2020
Exploring the Mental Health Impact of Aging Women
Through the expansion medical care and technological advances, the lifespan of older adult women has progressively increased. According to the National Vital Statistics Reports of the U.S., in the year 2017, the national average of female life expectancy is the age of 81. Compared to the 1920s, female life expectancy was the age of 54. Older adult women are living longer and are experiencing the world through many significant changes throughout the lifespan. They experience milestones of struggles, hardships, love, and laughter throughout their lifetime that is monumental to their well-being.
Nov
12
2020
The Gift of Self-Care to Yourself and Others
Amidst the busyness of life, it can be hard to take time for yourself, let alone get the care you need. In this interview, Holly Oxhandler provides insight on the importance of self-care and the best ways to cultivate it for yourself and others during any season.

Holly Oxhandler, Ph.D., LMSW is the Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development and an Associate Professor at Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work. Dr. Oxhandler has studied the intersection of faith and mental health over the last decade and is particularly interested in the degree to which mental health care providers discuss and integrate clients’ religion/spirituality in mental health treatment. She’s also the co-host of CXMH, a weekly podcast on the intersection of faith and mental health, and is currently writing her first book to translate her research on this intersection for everyday helpers.
Nov
11
2020
Voices: Justice looks like tearing down the wall between you and Christ
I was born, raised and now live in El Paso. El Paso is a great place to live if you like to run, and I do. My runs regularly take me up to a place where I can see all three cities and states that adjoin each other here.

A few weeks ago, while on a morning run on my usual route, I noticed two things at a distance I hadn’t realized could be seen from my vantage point.

To the left of my viewpoint was a thick black line in stark contrast to the natural colors of the desert landscape. This is a part of the border wall funded by private donations.

Directly across and above this wall is Mount Cristo Rey, which sits on both sides of the international border between the United States and Mexico. The mountain is named for the statue of Christ located at the top of the mountain.

The figure of Christ stands in front of a giant cross. His eyes gaze out over the borderland, and his arms are outstretched with his palms facing outward over three cities and two nations.
Nov
9
2020
Falling Seed: The pandemic calls for innovative responses
As we wait for healing and solutions to the distress of the coronavirus pandemic, we seek revival like the people of God sought during the time of the prophets.

We desperately search for stories of God working, despite the little we have or the sickness we are trying to understand.

How is the church responding? How should the church respond? Who are the prophets of our time, and how are they responding to the call of God?

Congregations around the country are seeking to answer these questions in new and unique ways. In Waco, as elsewhere, many institutions have responded to COVID-19, seeking fresh ways to love their neighbor like Christ would have us do.
Oct
30
2020
Baylor pilots new Guardianship educational program
Ruth was elderly, a widow, very hungry and giving $1,000 checks to anyone who came to her door if they would just bring her something to eat. Most took the money, but didn’t bring back any food. She gave her car away to someone who promised to bring her food. She was about to sign her house away when Adult Protective Services got involved. The court appointed a guardian for her who ensured she was never hungry again.

Stories like this can be heard time and time again, all across our country. The protection of vulnerable Americans has never been more important. In particular, persons with disabilities and advanced age live into devastating vulnerability, desperately in need of a trustworthy, well-informed and committed guardian. Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work (GSSW) and Friends for Life have partnered to offer an online educational opportunity for anyone wanting learn more about guardianship.
Oct
30
2020
Baylor Social Work professor shares tips and resources during stressful half-way mark of semester
With unique challenges in 2020 related to COVID-19, the University has acknowledged those hardships for all in the Baylor Family by taking the initiative to focus on mental health throughout October.

Baylor University’s Holly Oxhandler, Ph.D., LMSW, associate dean for research and faculty development and associate professor in the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, is an expert on mental health, primarily anxiety and depression, as well as religion and spirituality in clinical practice.

In this Q&A, she shares tips and resources to students, faculty and staff who are facing all of the typical challenges of another mid-term while also navigating a global health crisis.
Oct
30
2020
Falling Seed: How to walk alongside people recovering from addiction
Some see addiction as a disease that stems from biological factors. Others see it as a moral failing that stems from the choice to sin against God. Addiction, however, is formed through various influences in a person’s life, including biological, psychological, spiritual and social factors.

Addiction does not discriminate by color, background, status or gender.

Addiction to alcohol or drugs is characterized by the repeated use of the substance, despite consequences that include personal loss, harm to oneself or others, and damage to property.

The word “addiction” is derived from the Latin word addicere, which means to have no voice and to surrender oneself to a master.

Paul’s self-description in Romans 7 fits addiction very well. He did not understand what he did. He did what he did not want to do, even doing the very thing he hated.
Oct
30
2020
I follow Jesus and contribute to racism? Question mark?
Mark Wingfield makes a compelling case that “You cannot follow Jesus and endorse racism.” However, he may have placed the “Period” of his title a little too soon.

I do believe the biggest problem in perpetuating racism is the “virulent white supremacist views” of people of faith, but I believe that virus is far more widespread than most of us white progressive Christians care to admit.

Let me be clear in my agreement with Wingfield. As he says, “The Jesus of the Gospels allows no room for being a racist or enabling racism. White supremacy and racism are wholly incompatible with a Jesus way of life.” And, Donald Trump’s white supremacy does contribute significantly to empowering hate groups and sustaining our culture of racism.
Oct
30
2020
Social Worker of the Year Lt. Col. Liquori L. Etheridge
Lt. Col. Liquori L. Etheridge isn't a man of few words but, after winning the Army's Social Worker of the Year for 2020, he was left speechless. Etheridge, who works in the Department of Social Work at William Beaumont Army Medical Center, was named the Army's Social Worker of the Year for 2020.
Oct
29
2020
Humility: Cultural Virtue for Christian Journey of Antiracism – A three Part Journey
I was the pompous Christian college student who spent time with friends memorizing Scripture, even if I didn’t truly live them.

It was misplaced rigor, misguided piety and an out-of-focus faith. I could spit these passages out and talk about the virtue of humility, but practicing humility was not my strength.

My whole Christian fraternity and I memorized Philippians 2:3-8, but I missed the point. I had plenty of selfish ambition and was truly blind to what this passage meant.

Furthermore, my selfish ambition and vain conceit was tied up in my views of race.

Born in Vidor, Texas, a well-known sundown town, I was influenced by white supremacy in the earliest years of my life.

My white racial identity was a standard by which I compared myself to others and the norm against which others were seen as different or less than.

By white, I don’t simply mean skin color. White is not ethnicity or nationality. To be white is one thing, but the pride in whiteness is problematic given how whiteness was created to marginalize, oppress and enslave as part of our nation’s history.
Sep
1
2020
From Carver School to Baylor: A legacy of ‘doing the word’
Editor’s note: Laine Scales and Melody Maxwell have written a new book about the history of the Carver School of Church Social Work at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, its 1997 closing and its legacy carried forward at Baylor University. What follows is an excerpt of the Epilogue to their book.

In November 2017, Kristen Tekell Boyd stands in the pulpit of Truett Seminary’s chapel in Waco, Texas, and preaches, taking Ezekiel chapter 37 as her text. As she describes the valley with the prophet Ezekiel coming upon the dry bones, she reads a key question from the Scripture: “Can these bones live?”

This question might have been asked 20 years before when Carver School of Church Social Work closed in 1997, an event that seemed like a death to many of its alumni.

She continues, “God created (these bones) from the dust, and God is the only one who can breathe life into them once again.” After recalling several stories of loss and death, Boyd assures her listeners that God is with us. She closes her sermon with a hopeful directive: “Let us be a people that rise and bear witness; rise and remember!”
Jul
21
2020
GSSW Diversity and Inclusion Expert Shares 5 Tips to Cultivate Cultural Humility and Antiracism
WACO, Texas (July 20, 2020) – As individuals and institutions across the country consider necessary changes to effectively fight racism, two terms are gaining familiarity: cultural humility and antiracism.

Kerri Fisher, LCSW, an expert in cultural humility training and lecturer in Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, defines those terms and shares five tips to help people cultivate cultural humility and antiracism in their personal and corporate lives.

“We are all impacted by the supremacist cultures that socialize us,” Fisher said, “so while we are not responsible for our first thought, we are responsible for our second thought and our first action. This means we must be brave enough to admit when our brain, body and behaviors are exhibiting racist reactions.”
Jul
16
2020
School’s history reflects changing Southern Baptist attitudes
Laine Scales at Baylor University believes the history of a school that ceased to exist 23 years ago is worth telling because of what it reveals about changing Southern Baptist attitudes toward gender roles and social ministries.

Scales, a professor in Baylor’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, and co-author Melody Maxwell, associate professor of church history at Acadia Divinity College in Nova Scotia, Canada, wrote Doing the Word: Southern Baptists’ Carver School of Social Work and Its Predecessors, 1907-1997.

Scales and Maxwell trace the history of the school through its various iterations—the Woman’s Missionary Union Training School for Christian Workers, the Carver School of Missions and Social Work and finally the Carver School of Church Social Work at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

In spite of “twists and turns” along the way, Scales sees one constant: “It’s never a predictable or boring story.”
Jul
15
2020
Bigger: The sanctuary of nature and the presence of God
I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory (Psalm 63:2 NIV).

Nature calms me and reminds me in times of doubt and feeling disconnected from God that the Creator truly is. I find assurance in the creativity of each leaf, tumbling stream, dipping valley, rolling wave, bird song and even the blade of grass surviving against all odds in the crack of the sidewalk.

The minute details of nature act like a balm to my weary soul. They remind me with a fierceness something has been here creating and is still here creating. Remembering this brings me to God’s sanctuary. Sanctuary is a word too often equated with a building. It actually means “refuge” or safety.” It means God’s very presence.
Jul
15
2020
Meet Kevin Pranoto (MDiv/MSW '16) of Mission Oak Cliff
I grew up in Houston, Texas, in the most diverse county in America. Growing up, I was most fascinated by my Social Studies classes, especially when we discussed the sections on human and civil rights movements. For college, I attended Baylor University, where I received my Bachelor of Science in Nutritional Sciences and was pre-med. The sciences was not a fulfilling track for me, and I quickly found out that I was meant to do something different. Shortly after working at MD Anderson Cancer Center as a nutritionist, I switched tracks and went back to Baylor to attend graduate school, where I received a Master of Divinity (MDiv) and Master of Social Work (MSW). My first MSW internship was working with homeless and unaccompanied youth in the Waco Independent School District. I primarily worked with high school students, many of whom had been kicked out of the house and were living in foster care or in group homes.
Jun
16
2020
Faculty member reflects on antiracism listening sessions
Recently, I had the privilege of hearing from our Black social work students in a Listening Session hosted by our departmental administration. The students were vulnerable and raw and brave. They expressed exhaustion and hope and disappointment. They pointed out ways in which the Garland School of Social Work could be better, Baylor could be better, and our curriculum could be more inclusive and supportive. Many of our Black, Indigenous, and Students of Color have likely felt this for many years, but they finally had the collective voice and platform to express this hurt. I am thankful for them and to them.
Jun
8
2020
Professor awarded grant to support ethnographic research in today’s African American church
The Calvin Institute of Christian Worship has awarded Baylor University’s Dr. Stephanie Boddie a grant of nearly $18,000 to support ethnographic study of ways to create worship practices that integrate traditional theology, Negro Spirituals, storytelling and social history.

Amid increasing racial tensions and a decline in church attendance by millennials, Boddie’s research project focuses on establishing worship practices that help African American churches reconnect spirituality with the social justice legacy of the African American Church. The research will also examine how corporate worship practices, coupled with individual spirituality, creates transformative church experiences and communities.
May
29
2020
GSSW professor provides telepsychology program training in Haiti
Dr. Jocelyn McGee, Garland School of Social Work assistant professor, recently answered the call from Rev. Dr. Wismick Jean-Charles, Vicar General of Monfort Ministries for the World, to collaborate on a developing a telepsychology program and training in Haiti for the Center for Spirituality and Mental Health (CESSA) in response to the COVID-19 outbreak in the country.
May
14
2020
Voices: Congregations and social work into the unexpected
As states re-open and congregations create their plans in response to COVID-19 for returning to corporate gatherings, the questions at hand may look very similar for church leaders: “How do we move forward? What do we need to consider or listen to? Who needs our care? How will our worship, fellowship and service look different going forward? What resources already exist in our community?”
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