All in the Family:
Father and Daughter Find the Same Path Through Fuller
Sarita & Robert Gallagher
While some daughters may inherit their father’s feet or love of football, Sarita Gallagher (PhD ’11) seems to have inherited her father Robert Gallagher’s (PhD ’98) passion for researching and teaching in biblical theology of mission. The pair even shared the same doctoral mentor, Charles Van Engen, though almost 15 years apart.
Robert Gallagher, now associate professor of intercultural studies at Wheaton College Graduate School in Illinois, was serving as a full-time pastor in his native Australia when he felt an increasing desire to learn and grow in his knowledge of Scripture and leadership abilities. As he made many trips to Papua New Guinea to teach in his church movement’s Bible schools, Robert says, “I experienced a convergence of my role and gifts from the beginning.” He had been a church leader in Australia for over two decades, he explained, “but in the 1970s and ’80s there were few opportunities to develop spiritually and academically from your ministry base.” After looking at his options overseas and having a “series of divine contacts,” Robert felt God leading his family to Fuller, and more specifically, the School of Intercultural Studies.
Sarita Gallagher, on the other hand, “grew up in the shadow of McAlister Library,” says Robert, living in seminary housing with her family for eight years as Robert worked on his degrees. She never thought about attending Fuller, however, and went on to serve a church in Australia. Then one day, “out of the blue,” her sister asked if she’d ever considered going to Fuller herself—and after that, Sarita says, “I couldn’t get the idea out of my head.” After much prayer, she applied and moved from Australia to Pasadena “in faith”—before she’d even been accepted into the program.
While teaching in Australia and Papua New Guinea for a few years—just like her father—Sarita had thought about the possibility of teaching missiology full-time, but “it wasn’t until I applied to Fuller myself that I realized I was indeed following in my dad’s footsteps,” she shares. Once she decided on that path, Sarita notes, “Dad was an incredible source of wisdom and resources as I delved into my doctoral studies.”
At Fuller, both Gallaghers found an inspiring doctoral mentor in Chuck Van Engen, Arthur F. Glasser Professor of Biblical Theology of Mission. “Chuck’s passion for global mission is contagious,” remarks Robert. “He opened a whole new panorama to me regarding the Bible, the Holy Spirit’s role in mission, and my own calling in God.” Sarita emphatically agrees, saying that being mentored by Dr. Van Engen was one of the highlights of her time at Fuller. “His enthusiastic passion for Scripture and God’s mission has in many ways confirmed my own calling in theological education,” she says.
Now Sarita teaches in the religion department at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon, and finds her “greatest joy” in mentoring her own students as they seek God’s will for their lives. Similarly, Robert, who took over current Fuller provost Doug McConnell’s position teaching biblical theology and history of mission at Wheaton, says, “It is an honor and a privilege to help train missionaries who are impacting the world for Christ’s Kingdom.”
With Robert focusing his research on Luke-Acts and the mission of the Holy Spirit in the early church and Sarita concentrating on the Abrahamic blessing in Genesis, the pair could make a good team for joint research and publication. “My Dad and I both love researching in the field of biblical theology of mission,” says Sarita, “so I could definitely see us working together in the future.” Perhaps they can dedicate their first coauthored book to their mentor, Chuck Van Engen.