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A "Child of Exile" Pursues Reconciliation

An interview with Abi Riak

help the Center?
Over time I’ve become increasingly interested in how organizations work, especially Christian organizations, which I think tend to focus a lot on relationships and not so much on the sound business processes, procedures, and policies that help an organization be effective independent of an individual or individuals. Don’t get me wrong, individuals are the key to any organization’s success. But without good systems and processes, those individuals find it increasingly more difficult to be effective.

Over the past seven years, the Center has been a dynamic entrepreneurial organization, and the Dean has made it clear that he wants to see the Center more integrated into the DNA of the Divinity School. To do that, the Center has to grow organizationally in terms of financial management, budgeting, fundraising, and communications. My role will include working with different entities within the Divinity School to integrate the Center more fully into the school. We will also work more closely with students and faculty.

How does the theology of reconciliation inspire your work here in a way that’s different from your work at World Vision?
When I first started working in international development, my focus was on working with individuals and communities to build peace. And it was very much a skills-based approach: Do this training, follow these steps, and you will have a better community. There was very little focus on the eternal aspect of a relationship with God. Reconciliation is a journey; it’s not a project. You can’t tick things off and say, “I’ve done this, and I’ve done that, and now I’m reconciled.”

Theology matters. It’s another thing that I really appreciate about the Center–the deeply theological approach to reconciliation. It’s not just this touchy-feely “Can’t we all just get along?” approach. It’s going back to the Bible and seeing what’s in Scripture that leads us toward reconciliation. Before, I looked at reconciliation as an end in itself. Now I’m thinking, “Reconciliation toward what?”