God's World — Our Classroom (Continued)
Petra: Lost City of Stone came to Grand Rapids thanks to the work of many Calvin College faculty and staff. Though an atypical venue, Calvin was a logical stopping place for Petra because of the long years of archaeological work and study in the Middle East by the late Calvin professor and archaeologist Bastiaan Van Elderen (to whom the exhibition was dedicated), current professor and archaeologist Bert de Vries, and Calvin alumnus and archaeologist Neal Bierling.
"The rule of Jesus Christ covers the whole world. To follow this Lord is to serve him everywhere...." — "Our World," paragraph 45
For many years these Calvin educators have been traveling the world, uncovering the past and using that knowledge to plan for the future.
My wife, Susan, and I marked 10 years at Calvin this summer. We had the occasion to look back on the past decade and noted that "thinking globally"— a motto close to our hearts because we have lived in Lebanon and have visited many countries around the world — has been a common theme to changes in the college community over these years.
|"We use the Bunker Interpretive Center to introduce our Calvin students — as well as children and visitors from the local community — to the majesty of God's creation."|
For example, in 1995-1996 Calvin had four off-campus programs. We now have 10 — in countries such as China, England, Honduras, Ghana, Spain and Hungary.
During the 1996 January interim, 271 Calvin students participated in 16 off-campus study experiences. This past January the college saw 469 students go on 28 interims away from Calvin.
And in 1995 Calvin had 91 international students (not including Canadians), or 2.3 percent of its student body. This past year Calvin welcomed 213 students from other countries (not including Canada), or 5.1 percent of its student body.
Calvin's curriculum also increasingly incorporates the influence of other cultures. Students can now major in Asian Studies and minor in African and African Diaspora Studies. Chinese and Japanese join Dutch, French, German, Spanish, Latin and Greek as language options.
The college faculty has become international as well. We now have 43 full-time professors who are natives of 15 foreign countries — including Korea, Brazil, Egypt, Peru and China.
And faculty scholarship reflects an international emphasis. Psychology professor Allen Shoemaker has been working with the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, to analyze data on child growth rates. Philosophy professor Kelly Clark has been developing significant ties with Chinese universities and philosophy teachers, culminating in the translation of books on Christian philosophy into Chinese. In Ecuador, biology professor Kathryn Jacobsen is analyzing the causes of sickness in the Amazon River Basin.
We have also announced a new Institute for the Study of World Christianity that our current provost, Joel Carpenter, will assume leadership of next year.
Some student research also has an international flair. The annual senior engineering design presentations contain many projects intent on addressing real needs on other continents. For example, a team of four engineering majors spent the entire school year researching, planning, designing and building a small mill that farmers in Kenya, Uganda, Mexico and Belize will use to more efficiently harvest amaranth, a highly nutritious broad-leaf cash crop grown in these countries.
It is significant that the most well-attended student production in recent years has been Rangeela — a celebration of the many cultures in the Calvin community, conceived and directed entirely by Calvin's international student community. The Fine Arts Center auditorium is filled to capacity each February for the two Rangeela performances.
What effect does this global vision have for Calvin graduates? An immediate one, by accounts we hear from alumni.
This July, just one month after he received his Calvin diploma, Jason Fileta (Wheaton, Ill.), was selected by the ONE Campaign to be a member of a 100-person delegation to meetings surrounding the G8 Summit in Edinburgh, Scotland.
After he returned from Scotland, Fileta began working as a field organizer for the Christian Reformed Church's office of social justice and hunger action, establishing social justice coalitions at colleges all over the country.
|"We strive to embrace the best insights o Christian life and reflection, engage issues in the intellectual and public spheres, and enrich faith by the heritage of the past and the discoveries of today."
~ Calvin mission statement
Bimala Pokharel came to Calvin from Nepal on the recommendation of a Calvin alumnus and businessman. Through her interactions with the people and curriculum at the college, Bimala made a public profession for Christ during her junior year. Equipped with two Calvin degrees (B.A., 2000 and M.A., 2002), she now serves with her husband, Arbin, and daughter, Alyssa, in a Christian mission in Katmandu.
Chaplain Dale Cooper, one of the numerous Calvin mentors Bimala had while she was a student here, says that the life of this young alumna exemplifies the words of Philemon 1:7: "Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you have refreshed the hearts of the saints."
Jason and Bimala represent just two of the hundreds of alumni stories the college receives every year about graduates making an impact for the kingdom.
Our great God holds the whole world in his hands. That's why Calvin's mission to train agents of renewal in all areas of endeavor is so important in these challenging times.
I applaud the efforts of agencies, businesses and organizations that contribute to improving conditions and economies throughout the world. They deserve our prayers and financial support. At the same time, I am pleased that Calvin alumni and friends understand that these institutions cannot thrive without skilled and visionary leaders infused with a call to bring Christ in to their decision-making — the very mission of Calvin College.
Thank you for investing in this global adventure. May God continue to bless Calvin and its alumni so that — as we state in our college "Commitment" statement — "in all we say and do, wherever we may be, we hope to follow and further the ways of God on earth."
"The Spirit thrusts God's people into worldwide mission. He impels young and old, men and women, to go next door and far away into science and art, media and marketplace with the good news of God's grace." — "Our World," paragraph 32
Gaylen J. Byker
* "Our World Belongs to God," a contemporary testimony, from the Psalter Hymnal. Grand Rapids, Mich.: CRC Publications, Christian Reformed Church of North America, 1987, pp.1019-1038.