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~Monica Leak

M.Div Student
Leland has been and continues to be that once in a lifetime experience. It is community. It is family. It is home away from home.
What led me to Leland?
My pastor at the time, Dr. Kenneth Smith, now pastor emeritus, recommended that I resume my studies. I had initially begun my theological studies  years prior but had put them on hold to focus on my career as a speech language pathologist. He told me about several programs in the area  but highlighted Leland as he thought that it would be the best fit.  I attended  an open house session and now here I am.
 
What degree are you pursuing?
Master of Divinity

What in your experience as a student has been most beneficial to your current ministry responsibilities?
The covenant groups have been the most beneficial. It has given me the opportunity to walk out my faith in community rather than in isolation. The covenant groups have provided a sense of support, encouragement, a fellowship and a means of feeling connected to the larger community of faith. I have met and engaged with so many wonderful people that I consider not just friends but family. The bonds established and the disciplined developed through the covenant group process has provided a model that I was able to implement in my home church during my pastoral care rotation.

How do you understand your ministry as transformational?
I believe understanding my ministry as transformational begins with my own transformation. The process and rigor of study and balancing that with work, family and church responsibilities could only be accomplished through the transformation of mind. There had to be a shift in focus from just being called to ministry but being prepared and equipped to do ministry with excellence. That preparation and equipping not only occurs within your personal relationship with Christ but also in the academy where you raise questions, you debate and sometimes you find a conclusion. At other times those questions may be unresolved but what remains is your sharpened skill, your discernment, and your ability to work with persons of backgrounds, traditions and opinions differing from your own. With a renewed mind and focus you become that transformational model and can be a guide, facilitator with others in their own transformation.
 
Are there any particular Leland courses that have been impactful?
Taking both the Old and New Testament courses have been impactful in that they helped me read and see what I had been reading differently and now currently taking Greek I am reading with fresh eyes of understanding. The Historical Theology courses were helpful in providing answers to a lot of the questions of tradition and history that are so important to understand the church as we know it today as well as how those concepts and ideas till influence our modern thought. I was able to see pastoral leadership differently than the original concept held after a project involving interviews in the pastoral care course. I interviewed three pastors but the most significant interview was that of my father. In that single interview, I realized there were so many things I did not not know and it provided that opportunity to see my father not just as pastor but as a person.
 
What are your plans for the future?
On a light note to graduate before retirement and finish strong. My first book, Faith of Our Founders 100 Daily Devotions to Inspire, Encourage and Propel the Finer Woman, for which I served as both editor and contributor was published in January 2016 and my second written effort was to a Lenten devotional, The Road to Calvary published 2017 so I plan to do more writing. I would like to serve in Campus Ministry or a Director of Christian Education at some point in time with pastoral leadership little further down the road. I also hope to continue to provide consultation and support to parents of children with special needs and launch my private practice for speech language pathology services as well.
 
Any other thoughts on Leland?
Leland has been and continues to be that once in a lifetime experience. It is community. It is family. It is home away from home. You have classmates who will, email, text, call, and message just to see how you are doing. You have amazing professors who are passionate about their subject matter and are such a wealth of information and inspiration. The faculty and staff want to see all students succeed. You do not find that level of relationship and commitment everywhere. I will treasure memories of study groups, late night paper revisions, having a full stock of index cards for study but I will mostly remember my village that caused me to grow, my Leland family.
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