Friday, October 23, 2015

The Difference Between Pizza and Psychology

An interview with Kevin Dekam

In this interview Kevin Dekam, our new Regional Director for the greater Michigan Area, talks about the difference between his Psych degree and a large pizza, his ministry to those in emotional trauma, his family's time in Africa, and why he's excited to now be serving with Christian Service Brigade.

BC: What was life at home like growing up?

Kevin: Pleasantly unremarkable, safe and stable. Free from the crises and brokenness that seem to define the lives of many men.  I was raised in a Christian home by loving parents in a safe community.

BC: What vision did you have for your life starting out and when/how did that change?

Kevin: A missionary racecar driver! At least that’s what I declared as a kindergartener. Though I wasn’t aware of it then, I can see now that I was trying to reconcile what I was actually passionate for with what I assumed others thought I should do. I was good at science so started pursuing a degree in biology and chemistry, but I wasn’t passionate about it. This changed dramatically when I took my first Psychology course where I was awakened to the joy of studying something I was passionate about not simply what I was good at. I realized I loved helping people’s souls as well as their bodies. So I made the switch and ended up with a degree in Psychology.

BC: What was your early career, and what drove you and motivated you during that time?

Kevin: You know the difference between a large pizza and a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology?  A pizza can feed a family!  I left college and entered the workplace armed with a huge student loan, a tiny salary, and a dream of changing the world!

Right away I began working at a children’s home in an emergency shelter for abused and neglected children.  For the next 8 years I worked my way through several programs, ending as the executive over all of the child welfare programs.  Along the way I was trained extensively in trauma and attachment theory and also earned my Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology with an emphasis in Family Systems.  I began seeing clients in a counseling practice and eventually left non-profit leadership to build a full-time private practice.

BC: You talk quite a bit about how God consistently put you in positions that kept you out of your ideological comfort zones. What are some examples of that and what advice would you have to other Christians in this regard?

Kevin: That’s quite true.  Although I didn’t always appreciate it at the time, I am grateful that throughout my life God has led me to environments and situations that have challenged my beliefs.  I believe that my stable beginnings were given to me not as a template for my whole life, but as a foundation from which I’d be equipped to face brokenness head on.  I was forced me to clarify my beliefs and strengthen my convictions.

BC: Your family reached a point that you described as “comfortable” and how this vision for your life actually concerned you. What do you think was going on at that point in your life?

Kevin: We had worked hard and built a life that was somewhat comfortable.  Safe. Insulated. Had God blessed us just so we could sit back and enjoy life?  How were we to raise our children to know their role in the kingdom, when they were so insulated from its needs?   How would we learn to grow closer to God and trust Him more when American life allows us to live so easily without Him?

Dangerously, we prayed these questions as prayers. Had we known God’s answer would be to call us to Africa we might not have prayed such risky prayers! But over and over God has showed us that if we are willing to let go of our plans and trust Him to lead us He offers a plan so much greater and more interesting than we could possibly imagine.

BC: What are some things you are passionate about and why?

Kevin: We have hearts for adoption. My sister and all of my aunts and uncles were adopted or fostered. Before Tina and I were married we knew we would adopt. Being adoptive parents ourselves now, we experience firsthand the challenges and joys of this blessed calling.

I also have a heart for working with men.  We all pass through the journey of masculinity, but we don’t all do it with our eyes open!  I was very intentional about my own journey to manhood: reading, praying, watching, listening, talking with other men.  My desire was to “do it right”, which may have been slightly misguided at times, but led me to a serious and mindful approach to manhood.

Then God blessed us with 3 boys and I was now not only responsible for becoming a Godly man myself I now had to shepherd 3 young men at the same time.  Now that we have a daughter as well, I have to make sure that the rest of the world is filled with Godly men in case one of them tries to date her some day!  Good luck buddy!

I am also very passionate about the outdoors.  I enjoy camping, mountain biking, hiking, kayaking and any other activity that involves water.  As I write this, I am sitting in a small cabin in the woods in Northern Michigan with my family.  We snuck up here on a short fall break in my Jeep with a trailer full of bikes, gear, good books and ambition!

BC: Describe your wife and how she compliments you in ministry.

Kevin: Tina and I share a huge heart for the Kingdom but our approaches to life are very different. I am a passionate, intense, big picture guy; romantic in the classical sense.  Tina is quiet, reserved, thoughtful and kind. She provides grounding for my big ideas.

That must be why God spoke to Tina first and most clearly about our call to foreign missions.  Had I come home one day and said that God told us to move to Africa we would have collectively rolled our eyes and put the idea on the same shelf as quitting our jobs and becoming vegetable farmers.  I truly admire how God designed my wife, and how he so wisely brought us together as perfect compliments to one another.

BC: What were the pivotal moments in your life?

Kevin: In my younger days I sought out profound “mountaintop experiences”  (and still do if I’m honest) but I have also learned to appreciate the steady journey, the quiet moments, and the fact that we often grow more through painful experiences that exciting ones.

BC: What books have impacted you?

Kevin: This is yet another passion of mine. I am learning to truly cherish reading Scripture, instead of reading out of a sense of duty.  I especially love reading with a fresh perspective the stories of the great men of the Bible.

I’ve read everything that John Eldredge writes and find in his writings a way of articulating much of what is on my mind. This was especially important early in my journey to manhood.  My favorite book is actually A Pillar of Iron by Taylor Caldwell, which tells the story of Marcus Tullius Cicero, a contemporary of Caesar and possibly the last man of principle as the Roman Empire fell under the weight of its own immorality.

These days I can be found reading about a half dozen books at any given time.  Currently that list includes Thomas a Kempis, Martin Buber, Frederick Buechner and a few modern authors.

BC: Talk about masculinity.

Kevin: First a word of caution. To the extent that men have sinfully misused their strength and skewed our perception of masculinity our tendency will be to correct this mistake by swinging to the other end of the spectrum. Put simply, the answer to men misusing their masculinity is not to make them into women, it is for men to live out what it truly means to be men as God intended.

The answer is not a caricature of one extreme or another. The answer is Christ, who offers a beautiful example of true masculinity in perfect balance (read Eldredge’s Beautiful Outlaw).  The same Christ that tenderly invited children on to his lap also violently drove the merchants from the temple with a whip that he first went off and fashioned himself!  The same Jesus that gently confronted the woman at the well also harshly condemned the Pharisees in the temple.  These weren’t mood swings or personality changes.  This is an image of a fully integrated man balanced as God created him to be.  We should take note.

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