A History of Calvin Connections to China
By Phil Holtrop '55

Early in the 1980s China "opened up" to the outside world in dramatic ways. It did not allow any mission work, but its government invited native English-speaking professionals to teach English in Chinese colleges and universities. Some of these were teachers' colleges, and the Chinese students were future middle and senior high school English teachers. The result of that "opening" process on the American side was that several agencies sprang to life and provided teachers-including some Christian groups, like ELIC (English Language Institute / China), the largest and best known of them all. Calvin alumni and those from related Christian colleges were commonly the most numerous contingent in the ELIC summer, semester, and year-long programs. At times the Calvin community provided as many as twenty teachers a year for ELIC. By the late 1990s, Chinese elementary schools, middle and senior high schools, and even some private schools were looking for native English teachers. And so we witnessed the beginning of massive programs to build bridges between East and West, and especially China and the U.S.

English professor Henry Baron ('60) taught in the first ELIC summer group in 1985. Laura Buunk Jensen ('86) was also one of the first Calvin alumni to go to China in the ELIC program and remained working in the far northwest of China with people of the Uyger (Islamic) nationality. Over the past several years, German professor Barb Carvill, Helen Westera ('58), and Jan Ellens ('62) not only taught but also wrote important teaching materials for ELIC's Summer Program. Helen serves as a frequent site visitor. A number of other Calvin alumni (and spouses) have taught at least three summers, and some as many as ten or eleven, with the ELIC program. Among these teachers or leaders are Si and Jan Ellens ('62), Ralph Haan ('59), Grace Huitsing ('46), Anne Kwantes ('59), Connie Scheurwater ('59), and Jay Van Bruggen ('53). Tim and Renee Aupperlee (both '96) and Dennis and Rosemari Kroll ('82) are career teachers in the ELIC program.

Another Christian organization formally began in 1986. Under the direction of Martha Chan, ERRC (Educational Resources and Referrals- China ) has had close relations with Calvin and its supporting community for almost twenty years. The ERRC program places English teachers and other professionals in over thirty of China 's top universities for full years or individual semesters. Its academic arm is the CAC (China Academic Consortium), which started in 1996. Again, Calvin alumni have been more active than any other group in these two organizations.

Larry and Harlean Stegink (both '57) taught in the ERRC program for close to ten years-first at Wuhan, then at Changping, a suburb of Beijing, and finally at Peking University (Beida-Bejing, north capital, plus big school, university). John Veltema ('55) also taught a number of years-at Hubei University in Wuhan, then at Beida, and more recently at Tai'an University in Shandong province. George ('50) and Nancy Jasperse ('65) were also at Hubei , Wuhan , in 1991-92, and visited 18 schools in five cities on an ERRC tour in 1993. Jana Brasser ('71) has had a long relation with ERRC as a teacher of English at Shandong University . Wanda Van Klompenberg ('63) was with ERRC for five years in the 1990s-at Tai'an-and then again last year at Jinan . Jay Van Bruggen taught a couple years for ERRC at Wuhan , starting in 1995, and was later at Peking University .

Clif ('48) and Barbara Orlebeke taught English in 1987-88. After retiring at Calvin, Clif was a guest professor at Hong Kong Baptist University (1991-93) while Barb taught English in a Hong Kong Christian high school. In 1995 Clif attended conferences leading to new Christian engagements in China , the emerging academic interests in Christian ideas, and the Study of Religion programs, begun in 1996. During the fall of 1995 he taught Philosophy of Religion and Ethics (under CAC) at Fudan University , Shanghai , and participated in the East-West Philosophy Symposium at Peking University , a meeting of the Society of Christian Philosophers (also under CAC). In 1998 he lectured in the new Philosophy of Religion program at Beida. More recently, Henry Zwaanstra ('58) has taught history-tying it into church history-at Central China Normal University at Wuhan, under the aegis of the CAC. Orlebeke and Seminary professor Cal Van Reken ('71) have also served on the CAC board. Meanwhile, Rich Gaffin ('85) began his career in China as an ERRC alum and stayed on with the State Department at the U.S. consulates in Beijing and Shanghai . He and his wife Yvonne ('83) taught English in China in the late 1980s.

ERRC and CAC sponsored two symposiums on Chinese and Western Philosophy and Religious Studies at Beida in October of 1995 and 1996. They also spearheaded the inauguration symposium of Beida's Religious Studies department in September, 1996. The first two conferences were in conjunction with the Association of Christian Philosophers, in which Calvin alumni have always played a leading role. The participants from Calvin were Orlebeke and Nick Wolterstorff ('53). Four of the nine American philosophers and theologians who participated in the September '96 symposium were Calvin alumni- Clif Orlebeke , Cal Van Reken, Kurt Selles ('82), and Phil Holtrop. Selles also taught in Religious Studies at Beida in 1995-96 under the ERRC umbrella. In addition, from 1995 to 2000 Christian Reformed World Missions (CRWM) and ERRC co-sponsored a China summer language and cultural exchange program. Most participants were from CRC churches and Calvin College and Seminary students. A Calvin/ERRC culture and language exchange program has been started again this year for mainly Calvin College students.

Meanwhile, a Calvin College graduate has been doing very extensive research and publishing on the history of Chinese religious Taoism. After graduating from Harvard University with a PhD in ancient Chinese literature, John Lagerwey ('66) studied Taoist religion in Paris from 1977 to 2000 under some of the top experts in that field. He was a member of the French research institute Ecole Francaise d'Extrème Orient and in the year 2000 became full professor at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (Sorbonnes) in Paris . At the Sorbonne he has published on the history of early Taoism, from the second to sixth centuries, and has also done field studies of Taoist ritual, living and working in remote places of China . He is the editor of a massive twenty-volume series of ethnographic reports, "Traditional Hakka Society Series," and he recently edited a two-volume set entitled "Religion and Chinese Society."

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