Professor helps students find resilience

Professor helps students find resilience

Martin's research used nationwide for refugee counseling

As Dr. Martin ministers to the Rwandans, he finds that they are teaching their fellow OC students about resilience, hope and focus. And teaching them more about the world.

His corner office in the Williams-Branch Biblical Studies Center is typical of a university professor. The shelves are maxed out with books. The desk is organized. The calendar is full. There are numerous framed diplomas on the wall.

But there also are two carved wooden elephants on a shelf, a colorful giraffe in another corner and a safari-themed pillow on a guest chair. There’s a large framed picture of Cape Town, South Africa. It’s a decidedly African theme … and when you hear him speak, you know that Dr. Alan Martin is not “from” here.

Dr. Martin, an associate professor of marriage and family ministry, is from South Africa. But it’s not just the décor and cool accent that connects him with home. His educational and professional journey has led him to help fellow Africans from Sudan and Rwanda who now live in the United States.

At Michigan State University, God brought Dr. Martin together with Sudanese refugees who had immigrated from their war-torn country. Dr. Martin was in a doctorate program and he became mentor, counselor and friend to these young men.

The Sudanese refugees had witnessed and survived such terror as witnessing one or both of their parents being murdered, having their own lives threatened and running to escape the killers.

He expected to find the students suffering from post-traumatic stress. But what he found was resilience … and eventually, a new topic for his dissertation.

That dissertation is now a groundbreaking document used throughout the United States. His research is used by organizations that provide counseling and services to refugees.

As providence would have it, Dr. Martin came to Oklahoma Christian in 2006, at the same time the university welcomed its first group of presidential scholars from Rwanda.

These students are all survivors of the 1994 genocide and the years of ensuing violence. Most of them were young children when the genocide occurred. They all lost someone.

Again, he has found resilience. And hope.

As Dr. Martin ministers to the Rwandans and monitors their progress, he finds that they are teaching their fellow OC students about that same resilience, hope and focus. And teaching them more about the world.

In the classroom, Dr. Martin teaches one of OC’s most popular classes, Christian Family. The course topics range from selecting a spouse to finances to raising kids. It also addresses divorce and remarriage.

“There’s no sugar coating,” he said.

Dr. Martin and his wife, Linda, have been married nearly 30 years and have three grown children. He has quickly become part of the OC family as he teaches students about relationships and about our world.

By Dawn Shelton