Meet the Graduates:
More than 700 students complete their degrees at Fuller this year, with plans that will take them into a range of ministries and vocations. This series highlights just a few of these graduates.
Ruth Cassidy’s dissertation for Fuller’s Doctor of Missiology program involved the collection of the life stories of seven Christian refugees living in the Toronto/Hamilton area of Canada in order to understand the influence of homeland, migration, and acculturation on their Christian witness. “My goal was to discover ways to encourage refugees who were suffering from the debilitating effects of migration and reinvigorate their witness for the sake of the gospel,” she explains.
Cassidy belonged to the first DMiss cohort—a small learning community completing the four-year program together—which met once a year for two-week intensive courses. The program structure allowed her to remain involved in Toronto’s refugee community and complete major assignments and research from home. Her cohort connections to other students investigating refugee-related topics also enhanced her experience. “Dan Shaw, our faculty mentor, continually encouraged us to learn from one another’s research and quote one another,” she says. “In the end, I have a fuller understanding of the context, issues, and challenges facing refugees by the give and take that took place in our cohort.”
First becoming aware of the difficulties facing refugees through volunteering with the International Justice Mission in Washington DC, Cassidy serves as a volunteer and member of the board of directors for Matthew House Refugee Reception Services in Toronto. Through her personal experiences with refugees and her academic work at Fuller, Cassidy has developed a passion for increasing the cross-cultural awareness of fellow longtime-Canadian Christians, in order to better include refugees in the local body of believers.
“In my studies, I have found that Christian refugees naturally expect to worship, serve, and find community in the church,” Cassidy says. “They expect the church to be their new family, embracing and loving, but more often than not, their experience is disappointing and even disheartening.” According to the refugees she interviewed, many Christian refugees decide to stop attending church altogether rather than face ongoing ignorance, fear, racism, or even outright rejection.
As she graduates this spring, Cassidy wants to put her dissertation findings to use by helping churches develop cross-cultural training programs that will improve understanding between refugees and the congregations that welcome them. “I have a vision to see an arm of the church raised up to recognize and strengthen them,” she shares, “embracing Christian refugees as brothers and sisters in the Lord.”
Learn more about Fuller’s DMiss program.
Read more stories about Fuller’s 2009 graduates.