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"With the help of the Lord, you will be able to overcome any obstacle you face."
—Class of '52
 

Students

Acting Globally

Expanding one's boundaries is not a gentle endeavor. Half an hour on the east campus construction site is proof of that. It's messy, often noisy; it can seem chaotic; it's upheaval.

Senior Matteah Spencer knows that without having to see it in the bulldozed ground outside her classroom windows. She knows it from the inside out.

In the fall of 2000 Spencer and 18 other students traveled to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, for Calvin's Third World Development Studies Semester. The students lived with Honduran families and attended classes led by Kurt Ver Beek, the program's resident director. A class session might be a bus trip to a banana plantation or a maquila, a garment factory.

"We'd see the labels—Jockey, Tommy Hilfiger—all these clothes that end up in American stores," Spencer says. "We'd see the people that are making them; we'd see the hours they're working; we'd see the wages they're earning; we'd see the health problems caused by the working conditions, like a loss of hearing because the machines are so loud."

It was on the plane coming home, when Spencer and a friend were talking about government upheaval in another Latin country and the ramifications for ordinary people there, that Matteah realized what had happened to her: "All of a sudden I knew I had these new eyes to look at the world, that I could see in a completely different way than I had before."

It wasn't only the politics and socio-economics of developing countries that Spencer could see differently. It was her closet and her cupboards, the stores where she shopped, the churches where she and her friends worshipped. What Spencer saw with her new eyes of the American way of life and the American way of faith, including her own, threw her into turmoil.

"I was relearning what it meant to love your neighbor as yourself, and I felt we had to re-evaluate our daily lives. I had to look at how much money and time and energy I was spending on myself—on clothes and food and a car and education—when 1.5 billion people in the world live on an average of a dollar a day. I saw how much of our lifestyle is upheld by third world countries. And, honestly, I couldn't understand why there wasn't this global awareness in the church here."

Almost two years later Spencer hasn't answered her questions or stilled all of her unrest. She has begun to direct them, however. She makes an effort to learn what's happening around the world in any given week. She has refigured her budget and her spending around the questions, "What do I need, not want?" and "What can I give away?" After graduation Spencer will take a job in a child abuse prevention program for the Hispanic community. She and her fiancé are looking into ways to live in a developing country and bring what they learn back to the American church. And she's talking—to friends, classmates, family—about the excruciating, enlivening way of living with larger boundaries.

 

Matteah Spencer (center) and her Honduran family.
Matteah Spencer (center) and her Honduran family.
Laying the cornerstone of the Franklin Campus main building, 1916.
 
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