Modeling Hospitality
Student Missy Smith with professor Barbara Carvill
Student Missy Smith with professor Barbara Carvill

"Not only did I learn to read and interpret German literature, but I also learned to perceive the literature through the eyes of faith."

A former student of Barbara Carvill

For Barbara Carvill, Calvin professor of German, teaching a language is about a lot more than subjects and verbs. Teaching a language—and learning a language—she believes, is a spiritual discipline.

That discipline is evident in her teaching—teaching that in 2004 earned her accolades as winner of the Presidential Award for Exemplary Teaching. It also is evident in the book she co-authored with David Smith called The Gift of the Stranger: Faith, Hospitality, and Foreign Language Learning.

The book proposes a Christian rationale for foreign language study and looks at how this plays out practically, while also covering textbook content analysis and teaching methods.

Smith and Carvill note that the Old Testament is filled with examples of God mandating that the people of Israel treat with kindness those in their land who are foreigners. And, they say, God makes it clear to Israel that he has a special tenderness for the foreigners—as well as for the widows and orphans.

Carvill, throughout her life, has been both a foreigner (born and raised in Germany, she immigrated to the U.S., then to Canada, and then back to the U.S.), and she has had the opportunity to be a gracious guest among foreigners.

Former colleague Jim Lamse recalls a time when Carvill had been asked to speak at the closing banquet in Chengdu, China, as part of a summer workshop for Chinese English teachers. She first wrote out her speech in English, but with great deference to the Chinese style of speech-making, which she had taken the time to study. But when it was her turn to speak, the audience was astounded to hear her present her thoughts in their language. Carvill had the speech translated and recorded for her in Mandarin Chinese so that she could memorize it with the correct pronunciation.

Said Lamse: "It was a speech and an evening those in attendance would never forget. She honored their traditions and took the trouble to learn their language. But that's Barbara, at home or abroad, living out lovingly and with delight the hospitable message of Scripture and the loving ethos of our department."

Establishing Values

Carol and Paul Buiten
Carol and Paul Buiten
The William Spoelhof Society recognizes alumni and friends who have notified the college that Calvin is included in their estate plans. Over 500 households are represented in the membership of the William Spoelhof Society.

Carolyn Buiten has a firm conviction that "sometimes God leads you in a certain direction, and the reason isn't clear until many years later."

Paul and Carolyn Buiten both had the same reaction in 1986, when they were approached about helping the college complete the purchase of 134 acres of mostly wetlands stretching from the East Beltline to East Paris Avenue. Donations toward the purchase price of $750,000 had been barely dribbling in. People then couldn't imagine the school using all of its land on the west side of the Beltline, much less needing more land east of it.

The Buitens could see otherwise. Not that they envisioned the DeVos Communication Center or the Prince Conference Center or the Gainey Athletic Fields or the Bunker Interpretive Center in the Ecosystem Preserve. "We didn't know and didn't care how the college would use that land," Paul said. "We just knew they were going to need it, and we were going to be sure they got it." Carolyn added, "And now they're already using it far more than we imagined they would ever use it in our lifetimes."

To ensure that Calvin has the land and other resources it will need to continue offering the best educational opportunities grounded in a Reformed worldview, the Buitens have designated Calvin as the recipient of a large portion of their estate. It was not always so. Some twenty years ago, when both their assets and their children had grown, Paul and Carolyn made a decision to reconfigure their will. Paul tells the story:

The Dutch traditional way is that you live modestly, you spend what you need, and whatever is left you give equally to your kids. Well, we had a big struggle with that. Nine times out of ten, kids end up a whole lot worse off with inherited money, because then they really don't have to work. Our kids have worked from the age of 14. We didn't want to reverse the work ethic—the message that we'd given them from the start.

Essentially, Paul and Carolyn inverted the proportions of their original will. Their children will now inherit a small percentage of their estate, while the major portion will go to charitable and educational organizations, Calvin among them. For the Buitens, that's the best guarantee that the values they've invested their lives in will be perpetuated, not only in their own children but also in the children and grandchildren of people they will never meet.

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