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Volume 100, Number 2

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"When it's time to change"

At age 21, equipped with a fresh college degree and an abundance of good intentions, I set out to change the world one urban block at a time. I spent my twenties in inner-city neighborhoods of Minneapolis, Buffalo, and Washington, D.C., living in Christian community, building relationships with neighbors, and working toward my doctorate. I came to appreciate what so many people say when they try to change the world: Some of the most significant changes turned out to be in my own life.

Now a thirty-something professor, wife, and mother of three preschool boys, I find daily life more ordinary than when I lived crossculturally, but change is still an integral part of my life.


laughs at the time to come” (Proverbs 31:25, NRSV). She knows change will come her way, and she’s unafraid. If that verse were written about me, it might read, “Sweat pants and graham cracker crumbs are her clothing, and she worries about the time to come.” Sometimes the Proverbs 31 woman just seems so enviably perfect with her esteemed husband, her bargain shopping, her lovely children, and her seemingly effortless ability to get up early and get breakfast on the table. But we know that Proverbs 31 is written as a tribute and highlights the woman’s accomplishments more than the hard work that happened behind the scenes. Even when change is positive, like kids growing up or the arrival of a new school year, it almost always coincides with uncertainty, risk, and hard work.

To make change is to be changed

I could take a lesson from my academic discipline, cultural anthropology. Anthropologists study the way people share language, values, and ways of life in cultures, and applied anthropologists use their insights to help groups

“While I was at Messiah I was very much focused on academic success. Since graduating, I have been learning more about the importance of investing in relationships. Through the changes in my life, relationships may not provide answers, but healthy relationships are a source of peace and comfort.”

— Ray Chung ’04, human resource professional
at Tyco Electronics in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Just as urban ministry did, marriage and family constantly challenge me to change—to become more loving, joyful, and generous. And professionally, each school year brings many changes: new faces, fond farewells, and an overwhelming stack of books to read.Each year I set out to change students’ lives with good books and hospitable conversation, but along the way I find myself changed by those very things, too.

There’s a link between making change and being changed, and while it often isn’t smooth or easy, experiencing change is always meaningful. The woman described in Proverbs 31 is admirable for many reasons, one being the way she anticipates change. She enriches her family’s life with her industriousness and care, and most striking to me is this phrase: “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she


of people achieve change that they define as beneficial. The Society for Applied Anthropology’s ethical code states: “To the communities ultimately affected by our activities we owe respect for their dignity, integrity, and worth.” Applied anthropologists don’t offer slick slogans like “Five Steps for Successfully Changing Your Life” or “How to Handle Change with Ease.” We use the methods and theory of anthropology to immerse ourselves in other people’s tough situations, allowing answers (and change) to emerge from each unique context.

I recently worked on an applied anthropology project that involved researching the lives of people living with schizophrenia. Along with anthropologists in several other U.S. cities, I spent up to six hours with each participant,

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Read the Q & A with President Kim Phipps on Messiah College's strategic plan


Read more on community members' perspectives on change


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