Insights and Inspirations from the DTC Conference

I recently attended the Desmond Tutu Center’s Bi-Annual Conference, Sustaining Global Change: Healing and Liberation, and I would like to share some of my inspiring experiences with you.

One session I attended was “We don’t need saving: advocating for women’s empowerment” featuring two amazing speakers, Rabbi Sandy Sasso and Cynthia Prime. There were two quotes that really struck a chord with me during the presentation of the struggle for and the purpose of women’s empowerment.

“Women who embrace their empowerment still stub their toes.” – Cynthia Prime

“Sometimes our shouting does not change the world, but we shout so the world does not change us.” – Rabbi Sandy Sasso

dtc-women3Both women were inspiring to me. they gave a narrative of how to embrace your power as a woman as the basic human right that it really is. Cynthia Prime’s narrative taught me to choose to live my life willing to stub my toes and Rabbi Sandy Sasso taught me to be more willing to shout without holding back or waiting for someone else to stand up for me or speak on my behalf.  Sasso stressed to remember that in shouting, we may not see change actually take place, but we shout so that we can remain true to ourselves, our values, and our honor.

As I find my voice as a woman, as a mother, as a student, and as an active member in my community, these women were wonderful examples of continuing to be hopeful in my personal journey of remaining a loud voice. With these reminders I am determined to stub my toes and keep shouting even when disappointments or failures arise in my life.

Another session I attended entitled “Money Can’t Buy Humanity: Resisting the Capitalist Destruction of the Human Family” was led by Eugen Drewermann. This session was very poignant to me because I had recently read Dr. Matthias Beier’s book based upon Drewermann’s theological work. This book was part of a class focused upon spirituality and God images.

Though Drewermann’s talk included numerous technical economical aspects, there was an element of the interconnectivity of humanity within his presentation of his economic theory which reflected his theology as I personally interpreted it. Drewermann referred to the global effect thatdtc-eugene3 capitalism has upon individuals without individualizing the effects or localizing the blame. Drewermann’s message addresses the need to take “global responsibility” for the effects that capitalism has on all individuals instead of engaging in a blame game.

Drewermann emphasizes that we should not allow capitalism to become the method that we utilize to help us identify our value. Through the philosophy of finding our own value through our own existence rather than utilizing capitalism, Drewermann helped me find hope within the message of why “money can’t buy humanity”. Previously, I had believed my own life philosophy to be void of placing a monetary value instead of spiritual value on humans, but Drewermann’s session made me realize that living in a world dependent upon capitalism makes it easier to identify value in ways that are more materialistic and not focused on one’s existence and interconnectivity.

The last session I attended that I would like to share with you is “The Awakened Soul: Having the Spirit of a Change Agent,” lead by Philip Gulley. It was a reflective guided experience and helped me to reflect on my own narrative. I thought about how I could utilize my own story to guide others within their narrative to promote change.

dtc-gulley2During reflection, I revisited my “peak experiences” that have created moments of change in my life, and I realized how before having those peak experiences the idea of change in my life appeared to be an impossibility. As an individual in a field of social justice focused ministry, I found it helpful to think of ways to organize individuals for change with the reminder to be patient so as not to grow discouraged or bitter when those “Aha moments” do not come as quickly as I would have hoped for or desired.

Much of what Philip Gulley spoke to was reaffirmed in my reflection of my own personal experience in ministry or narratives from colleagues. For example, I have personally experienced the phenomena of how a counter narrative can be preached and accepted by some but often not accepted by the individuals one hopes to accept it. I have also found it to be true how a counter narrative is, “likely to be taken hold in the human heart when it is lived.” My own moments of a change of heart came from emotionally relating to lived experiences or listening to another’s lived experience/narrative.

I plan to continue to take the lessons and insight that I gained from my reflection on the sessions that I attended at Desmond Tutu Center’s Biennial Conference, Sustaining Global Change: Healing and Liberation to promote change within the world even as I “stub my toes” along the way.



About the Blogger:



Michelle Stephens is a Christian Theological Seminary (CTS) student in the Master’s of Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program. She has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Care and Counseling from Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary and a Bachelor’s in Psychology with a Religious Studies minor from Purdue University. She has always had an interest and desire to be involved in social justice movements, which has increased as she has identified both the need and world perspective that includes a ministry that truly seeks inclusiveness of the lonely, lost, and least.

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