Providing Quality Education on the Open Seas

Posted April 7, 2017 by
Tags: Graduate School Spiritual Life

I first heard of Wheaton College when I was in high school and read The Journals of Jim Elliot by Elisabeth Elliot ’48. Later in life, when I was working with Mercy Ships, a fellow missionary mentioned that he had just completed a master’s program at Wheaton College Graduate School through a Billy Graham Center International Christian Leader Scholarship. I immediately looked into the various programs offered by the College’s Graduate School, and found that the educational ministries program would be of great assistance to me as I was working with missionary children on Mercy Ships’ ship school. After I completed my program at Wheaton, I returned to teaching with Mercy Ships, and in 2007 I became director of Mercy Ships Academy, a K-12 international Christian school located on Mercy Ships’ hospital ship, Africa Mercy–a position I still hold today. 

Most families leave the mission field due to a lack of quality education, and it’s my goal to provide the best schooling possible for our ship teachers, students, and parents. My current role is very administrative as I recruit teachers, oversee school finances, guide our school board, and provide overall leadership to our staff of 13 teachers on the Africa Mercy. I attend many meetings and have lots of opportunities for communication with our ship team via phone calls, video conferencing, and ship visits. This summer, I will venture back to life on a ship in Africa. 

I had two professors at Wheaton that had a profound impact on my work today. Dr. Scottie May M.A. ’87 was my adviser and teacher for many graduate classes. She never let me settle for second-best in my studies and pushed me both academically and professionally. I am a better educator/missionary as a result of her pursuit of excellence for her students. (Also, being the mother of the man who created VeggieTales was pretty impressive to me as an educator!) 

Dr. Lyle Dorsett also influenced the way that I currently do my job with Mercy Ships. I took his class at Wheaton called The History of the Care of Souls. At first, I thought that this class was a waste of my time and that it had nothing to do with running a school for missionary kids. However, in the last class session of the semester, as Dr. Dorsett called on me to share what I had learned in the course, I found myself sharing with the entire class how this topic had entirely changed the way that I viewed my role in education: “If I do not take care of my own soul, I cannot take care of those that God has allowed me to be responsible for. If my teachers are not spiritually healthy, how can they impact their students?” Soul care is a huge part of my role as a school director, and Dr. Dorsett was able to share that with me in a very unique way at Wheaton. 

The professors, school staff, and fellow students at Wheaton College Graduate School made my time there precious to me. I am so thankful for the people that I was able to spend a few years with during graduate school at Wheaton. The rich source of contacts it provided me to network with in my current role is invaluable. I am part of a group of people who want to change the world for Christ, and that I will always remember. 

Brian Blackburn M.A. ’06 completed a master’s in at Wheaton College Graduate School. Photo captions (top to bottom): Brian with the Africa Mercy ship in Madagascar; Brian sharing with third graders about donations of books to the Academy. 

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