Write an essay where you tell us about what drives you in your pursuit of your graduate degree.

“How do we reconcile the warring tribal God of the Old Testament with the good and peaceful God we say we know today? And how do we reconcile the good and loving God we say we know with the injustices we see evidenced in our work everyday?” As a youth worker in one of Canada’s poorest urban postal codes, these are questions that regularly bounce around the office I work in. And while the process of wrestling with difficult questions can be a rewarding one, I’ve noticed that the volume with which these questions taunt my coworkers becomes louder and louder the more tired and discouraged they become. When Christian outreach workers, social workers, and youth workers burn out from the stresses of the job and the waning hope of their faith, it is not only these individuals who suffer, but the whole community. Children lose their advocate, youth lose their mentors and adults lose staff who know their stories and their struggles. A new staff is hired to fill their position, and the cycle begins again while establishing a narrative of transience in the field of social services.

Having completed my undergraduate degree in Biblical Studies, I have only partial answers and incomplete thoughts in response to the questions that haunt us. I know from my own reading and research that these questions are studied in academic settings, and they are even being written about for public audiences. However, it is difficult to find scholars and writers addressing frontline staff who walk with people trapped in cycles of injustice. Even more difficult is finding such academic work that specifically takes into account the injustices First Nations people have faced and continue to face at the hands of settlers, Christians no less. I am pursuing a graduate degree at Duke University to do just that: to study questions of faith and justice with hopes that I can use what I learn to strengthen and encourage frontline staff and the folks trapped in injustice themselves.

Jasmine from North Carolina
Duke University