Models of Ministry
The following are stories of faculty around the country who have found interesting and effective ways to be “salt and light” on their campuses. Each of the stories comes from the Faculty Newsletter, which we have published since 1990. Most of those recorded here I have witnessed personally, and I am impressed with the vision, organization, and prayerful execution of the idea behind each story. In many cases the name of the person is sufficient for you to contact them if you want to get further information — or please feel free to contact us at email@example.com.
If you have found some ways, different from those here, to carry out acts of ministry in the name of Christ on your campus, we would very much like to hear about them. Otherwise, feel free to adapt any of these to your own circumstances, and we would be pleased to hear how that turns out for you.
Co-workers in Christ for the university world,
Terry Morrison, Ph.D.
Director Emeritus, Faculty Ministry
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship
1 School Newspaper Ads with Faculty Names
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
2 Faculty Fund Raising for Student Projects
Cal State, Fresno
Randy White, Tom Boyle, Pat Kissel, and Richard Arndt
3 Weekly Brown-Bag Studies
University of Texas, Austin, Faculty & Staff Christian Fellowship
4 Annual Professional Group Meeting with Christian Sub-Group
5 Journal Club
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
6 Public Lectures
The Illini Christian Faculty
7 Brown-Bag Lunches at the University of Wisconsin, Madison
8 Use of Biblical Allusions in Lecture
Normandale Community College, Bloomington, MN
9 Nursing Faculty Engaging Nursing Education With the Gospel
10 Placing Christian Books in the Campus Bookstore
11 Acting as Mentor and Advisor for Minority Students
The Ohio State University
12 The Good News Newsletter for the University of Akron Christian Community
13 Teaching Overseas I
14 Introduction of Professor to the Class
Otto Helweg and Mike Romanowski
15 Faculty Advisor Model
16 The Discussion Group as a Model of Ministry
Henry A. (Chip) Kobulnicky
17 Teaching Overseas as a Fulbright Scholar
18 Starting a “Grad IV”
19 Teaching Overseas II
20 Faculty Bible Discussions
Angus and Ruth Gunn, University of British Columbia, Canada
21 Using Every Opportunity
22 Four Modes of Ministry
23 Of Bombs and Butterflies
24 Vertical Integration
1. School Newspaper Ads with Faculty Names
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Dr. Vern Terpstra of the International Business Department at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, has published ads twice a year in the Michigan Daily. Here is a sample called “Faculty Friends.” The introductory paragraph reads: “Faculty friends are faculty, researchers, and staff who are united by their common experience that Jesus Christ provides intellectually and spiritually satisfying answers to life’s most important questions. We are willing to meet at appropriate times with students who might like to discuss such questions.”
Then there follows a list of faculty names, their departments, and phone numbers. Shortly before Easter, one was titled, “THE TOMB IS EMPTY: CHRIST IS RISEN!” The Easter ad also had a note indicating that it was sponsored by the LIM Christian Faculty & Staff Fellowship.
Several newspapers on campus and in Ann Arbor published articles showing that these ads set off a lively debate. Some were critical for the inclusion of phone numbers which were university numbers; others criticized it as proseletyzing. There were letters in defense and letters in opposition so it was definitely noticed and became a topic of discussion.
Under the leadership of the InterVarsity sponsor and students at the University of Wichita back in the early 1970s, a similar project was done. Letters with all the Christian faculty names known were inserted into faculty mailboxes requesting others of like mind to call or write to any of those listed faculty to express their interest in being part of their group. This also created a stir but caused some Christian faculty to identify themselves.
2. Faculty Fund Raising for Student Projects
Cal State, Fresno
For many years the faculty advisors have sent a letter to about eighty of their colleagues on behalf of students in the local chapter. This was to raise funds for students to attend the Urbana Mission Convention. The letter is a signed memorandum sent in October with the names of three faculty — Tom Boyle, Pat Kissel, and Richard Arndt — as the faculty sponsors for CSUF chapter, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Subject: Urbana Scholarship Need.
The first paragraph is written to make faculty aware of the need for $2,500 to provide scholarships and gives information about the convention. It also says that the chapter has raised over $900 toward the $2,500 as of this date. Then there is more information about the impact Urbana has had in the past and the final paragraph gives the details of how to send their gifts. It closes by indicating the gift is tax-deductible and guaranteeing their names will not be placed on an InterVarsity mailing list.
3. Weekly Brown-Bag Studies
University of Texas, Austin, Faculty & Staff Christian Fellowship
Early in the semester, all the faculty and staff members on the Fellowship Master List were invited to attend a brown-bag lunch and meeting one Tuesday during the noon hour. Nearly twenty people showed up including several new assistant professors. The group agreed to continue meeting on Tuesday at noon to study the challenges, threats, and opportunities of multiculturalism to the Christian faith on the university campus. Multiculturalism was understood to incorporate both the traditional racial-ethnic emphases and the newer ideological oppression-oriented political expressions. One of the faculty took responsibility to line up a varied program of readings and speakers.
In subsequent weeks, the group read and discussed several articles and chapters of books dealing with the topic and heard insights from several colleagues outside the group. An African-American professor discussed the history of African-American acceptance on university campuses. Two professors of English spoke about their experiences in the department when they were discussing curriculum revision. One mentioned it as the “new intolerance,” the other shared enthusiasm for the new course being taught titled “Multicultural Approaches to Literary Studies.” Two faculty members took the responsibility to distribute announcements about the topics and events in campus mailboxes through the semester.
In addition, the group agreed that the first Tuesday meeting of each month be devoted to sharing and prayer. As many as possible met for breakfast in one of the faculty homes each month as well. During the course of the semester the group signed a letter to the university president informing him of their existence and assuring him of their prayers. They received, some time later, a courteous reply.
There were some other social gatherings also. In addition, there was a noon faculty luncheon at which Walter Bradley, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Department Head at Texas A & M University, spoke on the subject “Conversations with Russian Faculty on Atheism and Christianity.” About sixty faculty and guests attended. On the last day of classes, the group sponsored a Christmas carol sing on the steps of the Administration Building, which featured a brass ensemble consisting of eight faculty and grad students from the Department of Music. About 150 gathered to sing carols.
There is a Steering Committee consisting of four faculty who meet together regularly to keep this group going. They all are delighted with the progress the group has made in the year.
4. Christian Witness in Professional Organizations
Most faculty attend meetings of various professional organizations of their discipline. At a number of these, there are breakfasts or other meetings held by concerned Christians in the same discipline. Here’s a story of one professor of Library and Information Science.
Don Davis served as an exchange lecturer in the UK and found himself privileged to attend a service of thanksgiving and re-dedication sponsored by the Librarians Christian Fellowship of Great Britain. He was impressed with the dignified worship, professional sensitivity, and evangelical preaching. The boldness and public witness of these Christians within their profession was remarkable to him. A similar organization had begun a few years before in the US, and in 1984 the Fellowship of Christians in Library and Information Science become officially organized. In 1987, the British LCF and the American FOCUS took a step of faith and sponsored a service of thanksgiving and re-dedication during the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions Professional conference. They met at a church near the conference site. The service which took the form of hymns, prayers, scripture reading, and a sermon, was attended by about ninety persons. Every year since then, a worship service has been on the program of the international gathering.
5. Journal Club
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
This is an activity designed to bring Christians together and to give them an opportunity to include non-Christian friends. The Journal Club encourages interaction and personal sharing built around a discussion time on a given topic.
Each month a leader is chosen to facilitate the Journal Club’s meeting. This person chooses a journal article covering a subject relating religion and an academic subject. The leader is also in charge of all the meeting logistics. After a short summary of the article, the moderator begins the discussion by raising issues or questions which have been brought to mind. The leader both leads the discussion and brings it to a close at the promised time. Usually, the discussion takes place around a brown- bag lunch.
This Journal Club procedure takes very little time to prepare and execute. It brings people together sharing personal views and insights and builds bridges among people who acknowledge themselves as Christians. It also serves as a way for others to see Christians in action, frankly discussing and living their faith.
6. Public Lectures
Illini Christian Faculty
The Illini Christian Faculty organized themselves to present a series of public lectures. An attractive poster with the pictures of the five speakers was prepared. The topic was “Five Christian Professors Speak Out on the Christian Worldview: A Radical Alternative.”
A dean and four professors gave the addresses over a six week period. The meetings were held in a major room on campus and one of the faculty led an informal discussion after each lecture. The invitation was for “faculty, students, and staff who are interested in pursuing the possibilities of a coherent worldview, Christian or not.”
7. Evangelistic Brown-Bag Lunches
University of Wisconsin, Madison
The brown-bag lunches were started as a result of two faculty who met to pray each Tuesday morning for their colleagues. After four months of prayer, the men began reaching out to contact their peers and invite them to a Friday brown-bag lunch Bible Study.
The first one was held in December 1959. The plan was simple. People arrived at noon, sat at a large table, ate, and conversed. At 12:20 the leader for the day called for quiet, asked one of the group to lead in prayer, and then asked another to read the next paragraph in the New Testament. Then the leader asked for questions and comments. There was never an organized study plan in order to allow the session to be a seminar in which peers could bring questions and responses to what the Bible said. Invariably, there was someone with questions ready for the asking. The session closed with prayer by a volunteer. Attendance grew slowly but steadily from three at the first meeting to forty regulars five years later.
8. Use of Biblical Allusions in Lectures
Normandale Community College, Bloomington, Minnesota
Dr. Magnuson-Martinson of the Sociology Department at Normandale Community College found it difficult to provide much in the way of witness in the classroom without offending some student’s sensibilities and being accused of violating the separation of church and state. He says, “However, I’ve been able to integrate some religious material into my normal presentations in such a manner as to make it seem relatively innocuous to even the most adamant opponents of Christian thought and practice. Indeed, these ideas and examples have been sufficient to precipitate personal dialogue with some sympathetic students. I suspect that it may also have served to give pause to some of my other students to contemplate, at least in passing, truths not commonly held in our materialistic, hedonistic society. Furthermore, some minor publicity regarding the initial publication of these ideas precipitated some collegial contact both within my own department as well as others nationwide that revealed not only fellow travelers, but additional ideas!”
9. Nursing Faculty Engaging Nursing Education with the Gospel
Nursing education has been discussing direction, outcomes, and philosophical foundations for the profession. What is needed for that is a worldview or source of values — a paradigm by which to organize resources toward some desired end. New Age thought has become a part of nursing theory and practice in many schools. Christians have been challenged by this to do their own creative work in building a philosophy and practice of nursing that can become part of the larger nursing curriculum.
In November 1990, following a national nurses meeting, a think tank of Christian nursing educators was held. Those assembled considered the different worldview used in nurse education and divided into five working groups to develop ideas and materials for specific subject matter in their field. The participants felt personally helped and professionally advanced by this time together. Plans were laid for the development of ideas and materials to re-introduce a Christian voice and biblical thought into nursing education — a voice and thought that once formed the base for values in nursing education and care.
Largely as a result of this kind of working together, faculty are finding they are more effectively and boldly speaking out in their own faculties as well as making points that arise out of their Christian background and thinking. Indeed, they are being well received by colleagues, especially in the areas of spirituality and spiritual assessment and care in nursing.
One side benefit to these recent efforts is that the conferences and working groups can be co-sponsored by a faculty at a Christian college of nursing and at a secular institution. A basic goal of the Christian nursing faculty is to “engage their field with the Gospel.” Categories such as the meaning of persons, health, environment, etc. are looked at biblically and theologically. Already a few have published their work in professional journals. They critique each other’s writing and provide encouragement and insight to make the writing as helpful as possible.
Nursing faculty and NCF staff worship and study the Bible together in preparation for their work and undergird their discussions and writing with prayer — individually and in groups. During these sessions, they will often stop and pray for what they are thinking about, for the field of nursing in general, and for key people in the field. This appears to be a true integration of faith and academic work.
10. Placing Christian Books in the Campus Bookstore
The general book manager at our campus bookstore regularly sent out requests to the faculty for titles to be put on shelves. I visited him several years ago and introduced myself as a professor who thinks that historical Christianity is hardly represented at all in the “Religion” section, only the usual comparative-religion literature. He agreed. I gave him a list of titles of evangelical literature from which to choose. I told him that my model had been the excellent bookstore at Stanford University which had a large selection of evangelical titles. I emphasized that I am acting as an individual faculty member, not someone sent by an organization or church.
I saw two major areas of need: (1) books that relate Christianity to various disciplines on the campus and (2) books that are helpful to the many international students (Christian or not) who deserve an accurate presentation of Christianity in order to understand some of the major roots of the U.S.
Meanwhile, I have continued to suggest additional titles to the manager which often were purchased. He seems to have become convinced that there is a market for evangelical literature. Other literature, e.g. on other religions, various cults, etc., is also finding its way to the book shelves in increasing numbers. It is important to say that from the beginning I did not manipulate, push, or talk the manager into anything. I simply followed a natural avenue that was open to any faculty member and occasionally supplied a few additional titles. It is good to see the Lord working in this endeavor.
A partial list of the books Dr. Schaible has had placed in the bookstore: Bibles, a concordance and Bible dictionary, Illustrated History of Christianity, Dictionary of Christianity, some Bible commentaries, a work on Bible archaeology, books on miracles, Bonhoffer’s The Cost of Discipleship, books by C.S. Lewis, Martin Luther, John Stott, and A.W. Tozer.
11. Acting as Mentor and Advisor for Minority Students
A few years ago, I was asked to serve on the Minority Engineering Program Advisory Board, a committee of faculty, administrators and some community people that gives advice on activities for minority students in the College of Engineering of The Ohio State University. God has raised our consciousness in several ways over the last twenty-five years to the issues of race in America, so I began to note the inequities in my own department. We had graduated only a handful of African-American and Hispanic students over the more than forty years of the department’s existence. We always had many African-American and Hispanic freshmen designate our department as a major, but few made it through. Why? There were, of course, many reasons. We believed that some of these reasons could be dealt with internally in the department, which is what we set out to do.
I undertook, with the support and help of my wife, to be advisor and advocate for the minority students of my department. The specific things that we did and continue to do, are quite simple really, and I list them below for the sake of others who might like to attempt similar activities on their campuses.
1. An evening study table happens every Tuesday night of the academic year from 6-9 pm in a classroom of the department’s building on campus.
2. Careful academic advising of all minority students is given. I asked the department chairman to appoint me as faculty advisor for all the minority students in my department, now around twenty-five students. I try to be available to these students very frequently during the week; I encourage them to call me at home or office about any matter at all.
3. Social events are hosted by my wife and me in our home once every quarter with good food and conversation.
The goals of these activities are twofold: first, to give the students every opportunity for academic success by providing good advising us well as tutoring-type help. Peer learning at the study table happens now as much or more often than “tutoring” of students by me. Specifically, since there are students present at the table from all years, often older students, who have successfully completed a particular course, can provide helpful insights to the younger students. Second, and actually more important than the specific activities, we hope that the students will realize that there is someone in the university who cares whether or not they succeed — we want the students to know they have a share in the department; it is their department, not “ours.” I believe this has begun to happen.
My wife and I do not see this effort as a specifically evangelistic enterprise, though we freely discuss our faith with students when appropriate. Many of the students are Christians. I have sometimes prayed with a student after an especially disappointing grade report. God has called us to minister to these students and to show Christ’s love in any way we have opportunity.
Last spring three African Americans graduated as aeronautical and astronautical engineers; one is in law school, one in graduate school in engineering, and one is still job seeking. My wife and I are also most grateful to God that he has allowed us to get to know some minority students and to be blessed by their friendship.
12. The Good News Newsletter for the University of Akron Christian Community
This newsletter has a computer-generated format and looks inexpensive to produce. An example of the contents would be: Faculty Reflections, The Living Word, You Shall Be My Witnesses, Alive in Us, Brothers and Sisters in Jesus. Within the body of the newsletter is an introduction to the Faculty Christian Fellowship with a listing of the faculty who are actively involved, the meeting time, and an invitation for other faculty to join. In one issue under Faculty Reflections, an article entitled A Chemistry Professor Looks at His Discipline Through the Eyes of Faith concludes with an invitation to other faculty members to submit articles on how they combine their Christian faith with their academic discipline.
Another article looks at how a faculty member is doing evangelism during the course of the day on campus. The concluding article is a dialogue between students and faculty on a problem area they are confronting on their campus. The back cover lists the Student Christian groups and their meeting times with an invitation to subscribe to their newsletters.
The articles were submitted by students and faculty. There was a review process, and the finished letters were distributed by students and faculty in the Student Center several times during the year.
13. Teaching Overseas I
This is part of a conversation with a former InterVarsity campus staff member who is now a missionary in Asia teaching university-level English. It gives some idea of how an American faculty person can serve in another country, both helping educationally and with the Gospel. [No personal or place names are used to protect the ongoing ministry of this faculty member.]
1. What kind of ministry ability is most needed for a faculty member to bring to the country you work in?
A deep knowledge of scripture and relational skills are essential for effective ministry. In predominantly non-Christian areas, a faculty member needs skills in friendship evangelism and one-to-one discipleship. Outreach and witness are almost exclusively through personal relationships.
2. What would such a person say to his fellow faculty who said, “Why did you come over here?”
Our country is in a unique situation right now because there is still a high degree of religious tolerance. Our official government papers say that we are here under a Christian organization. So if asked why I have come, I reply, “I work for an organization that is interested in assisting educational development in developing nations. They have placed me here as part of a partnership with this university.”
3. Can one make a real contribution, help raise educational levels, make the universities more effective?
Definitely! There are a vast number of ways to contribute to making universities here more effective. The important thing is that you are willing to operate at the level of your institution and make your contributions slowly and humbly.
I remember one high level Swiss physicist from our team. When he was looking for physics books in the library, he discovered that the entire library collection was organized alphabetically according to title. There was no subject or author catalogue — in fact, no catalogue at all. The only way to find a book was to read the stacks. He and his wife quietly got next to the librarian. They were able, very gently and over a period of time, to suggest ways to reorganize the library which made the books more accessible, without embarrassing the librarian by emphasizing her lack of knowledge or skills.
Other faculty members on our team have designed job manuals, written textbooks, designed curriculum, trained junior lecturers, advised thesis students, and have made many other contributions. In my own department, I was able to initiate a theater program, help in library acquisition, write syllabi for several courses, and contribute to faculty development projects. Once you’re accepted, there is much you can do, but initially you have to earn the right to be heard and not to come in as a pompous know-it-all, which would put people off.
4. How about academic support? Do you find, for instance, in English teaching that you and your students have adequate library resources etc.?
Resources will vary from university to university, but in my country they are generally way behind American universities. Our English department library, for instance, may have about ten-thousand volumes. The important government universities acquire equipment and books from a variety of inter-governmental programs. Small private universities, like the one where I teach, have higher fees and, therefore, have some funds for equipping libraries and laboratories. In the universities in the provinces, you may find little in the way of any resources to support academic programs.
5. How about spiritual support for a person who goes out? Is it adequate?
That would depend on where you are. I think the InterVarsity-like movement in our country has a fairly good network within the major state universities plus some private universities. So you might find someone trained through InterVarsity in the university community or you might find a small Christian fellowship group. There are usually Christians in any university, but they may be merely nominal Christians with little understanding of the Christian life or desire to witness. Our missionary faculty try to identify the Christians looking for the potential to be trained in Christian discipleship. At the same time, they are careful not to make their activities with Christians too visible because they want to build bridges of friendship to non-Christians. Most communities have a church, and, if the faculty member confesses to being a Christian, it would be acceptable — in fact, expected — for him to attend church. By going out under the umbrella of a Christian organization, the faculty member has the support of that organization within his country of service plus the support of the Christian community at home. This kind of support from like-minded people is essential for faculty members who are working overseas with the goal of witnessing for Christ.
6. If an American professor would like to do this on a short term basis, can they be of any use without learning the local language.?
You could be of use academically, but I doubt if you would be of use spiritually. What you want is relationships and most of these people are not terribly fluent in English, particularly if you go to some of the less prestigious schools. The faculty at the main government universities almost all have PhDs from overseas so you wouldn’t have trouble there with English only. However, you would if you went to some of the second-level type of universities.
7. Would you say there is still a strong need for Christian faculty in Asia?
Absolutely! Universities in several countries have requested faculty from a variety of academic disciplines. It is difficult to say how long these openings will exist. We are eager to see a number of Christian faculty join our team in the near future.
14. Introducing Yourself to the Class
Otto Helweg and Michael Romanowski
Have students introduce themselves giving name, major, year, and goal upon graduation. Professor introduces him/herself giving education and experience.
Witness. Dr. Helweg begins by mentioning that, when he was a graduate student, a professor told him that “an engineer’s job was to design for a client and the social or ecological consequences were a problem of ethics and the responsibility of the client.” He was not comfortable with this, but as a beginning graduate student, it was difficult to dispute this with the professor. He goes on to tell the students that since that time he has discovered that “learned professors may be wrong but this one was completely out of it.” Dr. Helweg believes that shifting one’s ethical responsibility is a grand cop-out; every decision they make is the result of their ethical presuppositions.
Dr. Helweg then goes on to say that you can’t go very far in establishing an ethical system without getting into theology. Of course, the mention of theology leads one to be open to the accusation of being biased. And, of course, the norm in the academic professions is for professors to claim they are not biased, but in fact, everyone, even professors, are biased. In technical fields, the bias may not be as significant as it is in the humanities, but when it comes to ethics, biases are crucial. He argues that professors should be impartial, objective, and fair but that in honesty they should reveal their biases to the student because these biases will creep into the lectures.
So, in honesty, Dr. Helweg tells them his main bias. He identifies himself as a Christian by re-birth and according to experience. He tells them he’s excited about the course content but when that is compared to the questions of “What is the meaning of life?”, “Who am l?”, and “Where am I going?”, the excitement of the subject matter pales into insignificance.
While people claim that discussing religion has no place in the university, Dr. Helweg disagrees and tells the students the university is a marketplace of ideas; and it is a subversion of academic freedom to eliminate one of the most influential ideas in human history, that of one’s faith. He concludes by saying he won’t use the class as a platform to express his theological opinions but will be quite happy to discuss it outside of class with anyone either pro or con, and in fact, says he would enjoy that. His final comment to them is, “If you go through your university career without wrestling with these important questions, you may receive a degree and you may receive technical knowledge, but you will not have received an education.”
Dr. Michael Romanowski, having worked with Dr. Otto Helweg, developed that same approach for his Education classes at Ohio Northern University. He distributes a four-page handout to his classes in his opening lectures, titled, “So You’re Studying to Be a Teacher — What Do You Believe?” This is given to the students at their option. Mike tells me that 75% of the students choose to take the survey.
His first two lectures focus on worldviews and how these play out in the lives of teachers. “The lectures attempt to demonstrate the significance of answering the important questions in life and how these important questions affect ones’ teaching.” Various examples are used, communication versus indoctrination is addressed, separation of church and state is discussed, and four questions delineating the basis of a worldview are addressed. He uses these worldview questions to investigate the dominant American educational practices and challenges the students to investigate their own worldviews.
The handout is quite provocative and centers around his own journey of faith with several columns of biographical testimony material. It has a number of references to education literature. It also quite adroitly quotes from the Ohio Northern University Faculty Handbook where it encourages faculty to work for the values contributing to the maintenance of the university community, which supports and encourages students in their moral and spiritual development. This is all brought home to the students under the title of “What Shapes Your View of Students and Schooling?” He assures the students that he will not utilize his class as a platform to indoctrinate them but faces the issue of bias openly and encourages them to investigate their own biases and to use the worldview questions to evaluate the biases of other presenters.
15. Faculty Advisor for Christian Student Group
Dr. Yamauchi was recently fêted by students, staff, and peers at Miami University of Ohio on retiring from twenty-five years of serving as faculty advisor to the InterVarsity chapter. From an interview with Ed and from letters written by former InterVarsity students, we have compiled a Model of Ministry for Faculty Advisors.
Dr. Y, as students have called him, has been in Miami’s history department for many years. A Professor of Botany, Dr. Wilson, had helped bring about the first InterVarsity group and was the first faculty advisor whom Ed succeeded. When asked what training he had received to be a faculty advisor, Ed replied, “None,” although John Alexander, then president of InterVarsity and an ex-academic himself, often gave encouragement and supplied helpful insights.
Ed’s first step was to offer his services to the student group wherever needed, and he began what became regular attendance at the InterVarsity chapter’s weekly large-group meetings. He also tried to go to student conferences so that he had a clear idea of what was going on in the students’ lives. Of course, at Miami it was expected of faculty advisors that they be the administration’s link to the student group. In fact, the university held a yearly reception for the faculty advisors to all student groups. (What a great idea! Why not suggest this to one of your deans?)
One of Dr. Y’s chief delights, and one many students were so thankful for, was his regular prayer partnering with a student — a different one each year. He was so well known and appreciated by the students that he was regularly invited to speak on many different subjects over the years. In addition, he kept up a weekly Bible Study for faculty and grad students over many of those years. Many students testified to his accessibility and value to them as an advisor and listener. A special ministry Ed has carried out was also mentioned with deep thanks by graduates writing back: he kept up with many of them after graduation, writing notes of encouragement, and even visiting some on his own travels. He says one of his great pleasures was to connect people who were then able to help each other in various ways.
The correspondence for his celebration referred to him as a great model since he was a zealous Christian and a committed and productive scholar at the same time. They described him as faithful, wise, patient, sincere, humble, and an initiative-taker for their good. That’s what I (and they) call a model Faculty Advisor.
16. The Discussion Group as a Model of Ministry
Henry A. (Chip) Kobulnicky
How often do your colleagues ask you to sit down and have a serious talk about the meaning of life? Or about how to live a good life? Or about whether God exists? If you’re like me, finding the appropriate venue for deep, meaningful conversations about life’s big issues is one of the most difficult things about sharing faith issues with colleagues.
One remarkably successful approach that I have experienced at two major universities is the concept of the “Science and Faith Discussion Group.” Unlike a lecture, a Bible study, or a church event, the discussion group is an informal, non-threatening forum for people from all backgrounds and perspectives to dialogue about life’s big issues. The first Science and Faith group grew out of a recognized need for regular opportunities to grapple with intellectual issues (loosely) related to science and religious faith. We wanted to have deep, protracted discussions with people from diverse backgrounds, both theist and non-theist, in order to better understand the viewpoints of others and to better articulate our own faith-informed beliefs. The group began meeting for an hour over lunch in an unused university classroom. We later found that meeting in homes during the evening was much more conducive to a relaxed atmosphere that promotes openness and trust among the participants.
Each week, a designated facilitator chooses for discussion a short media-piece involving science, philosophy, and religious faith. At first, only the group founders served as facilitators, but eventually we began to rotate leadership to ensure that everyone had a sense of ownership and a chance to direct the conversation toward an area of interest. Most commonly, the focus of the discussion is a newspaper or magazine article from the popular press. Videos, audio takes, and even cartoon strips are fair game for discussion. During summer months when students and faculty have more free reading time, we sometimes select a lengthier piece, such as a book or collection of essays. Generally, the reading material is drawn from a combination of secular writers and authors from within particular faith communities. The exact balance depends on the interests and faith backgrounds of the group participants.
The goals of the group are twofold: to help people “stay current” on reading scholarly events, especially outside of one’s own discipline, and to provide a forum for people to share and explore their understanding of “the way the world is” in a non-threatening environment.
The first goal is, ostensibly, the main purpose of the group. The second is far more important. From an evangelism standpoint, it does not matter what you read. The important things are the friendships that are made, the barriers that are broken, and the lives that are changed as the result of genuine relationships between followers of Jesus and their university colleagues. In the best cases, the Discussion Group also becomes a group of people who like each other and want to do social things together too. We try to have a social event, sometimes in place of the regular discussion, perhaps every one to two months. The reactions of group participants testify to the impact such a forum can have on a campus or a department. Recent ones from non-theist participants include: “I’m surprised how much I like these people!” “This is the first time I’ve known people I respect who are serious about their faith.” “It has begun the many changes and positive outcomes I see in my life today, both scholastically and spiritually.”
We have found two simple rules very helpful in governing the conduct of the group:
1. No topic, no question, no opinion shall be considered heretical or off-limits.
2. Participants must come with the desire to listen and ask questions in a spirit of honest, thoughtful dialogue and genuine concern for each other. Disagreement and debate is encouraged, but our goal is that people will leave with a better understanding of each other and as closer friends than when they came.
17. Teaching Overseas as a Fulbright Scholar
An Interview with Dr. Lytton Musselman
An interview with Dr. Lytton Musselman, the Mary Payne Hogan Professor of Botany, Manager of the Blackwater Ecologic preserve, and director of the Wetlands MS program at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. He is also on the faculty of Au Sable Institute, where he teaches woody plants during exceptionally cold May terms. Lytton is faculty advisor for the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship group at Old Dominion.
1. You have recently returned from your third Fulbright adventure. What have you done on these, and how did you get into the Fulbright program?
The Fulbright program offers a variety of overseas experiences for US citizens (there is also a large program to bring foreign scholars here). Best known and largest is the Visiting Scholars Program, which is administered by the Council for the International Exchange of Scholars (CIES). CIES has officers for the different regional programs. For example, I have always gone under the Middle East and North Africa Program and have served on the committee that reviews applications for this region. These are competitive awards, and the application and selection process takes about twelve months. First review is by a committee in the discipline, i.e., biology and music. If you make it through this committee, the next is the area committee. In the case of the Middle East, this is composed of people who have worked there and have expertise in that area.
Two kinds of awards are generally available — teaching and research. For my first award, I had a research appointment. I soon learned that his could result in isolation from students so I volunteered to teach. For future awards, I requested teaching and research. This gave the greatest flexibility.
Teaching is THE way to get into the culture. I love the interaction with students. My first Fulbright was in 1982, and the personal contacts of that time are still bearing fruit both professionally and spiritually. In the Middle East, a teacher is a very respected person, especially at the university, so many doors are opened.
2. In what way have these experiences benefited your own work and that of your department and university? How do you think they have benefited your host institution and countries?
My time has been professionally and personally worthwhile. I have garnered a lot of data and had the opportunity to write up much of it. One spin-off of this is the preparation of an account of the ferns as well as a project on wildflowers. In short, I learned a great deal about the plants of the Middle East. Collaboration with the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature will continue. We hope to have a joint project training one of their staff at my university as well as having me visit as a consultant.
3. Have they been good times for you and your family?
On a personal note, I have appreciated the interaction with students and professionals, especially in agriculture and conservation. But I have also been saddened to see darker aspects of this society, different from other Arab countries in which I have worked or lived. This includes the treatment of women, “honor” killings, the general angst of this society, and the persistence of tribalism.
My wife loved her job teaching English and became the most popular teacher even though she has a reputation for being demanding! As a result, she was asked to teach numerous additional courses.
For my children, one college age and one in high school, this was a difficult country. Our daughter was constantly harassed when in public. Like most other foreigners in their schools, our son was always an outsider and constantly ignored and mistreated.
4. How do you think your Fulbright years have served Christ’s Kingdom?
My wife loves these young people, and I have seen her in tears for them many times. At Christmas, she gave each of her students a “Jesus” film in Arabic. Despite the way she has been treated, she wants to return with the Good News! It is so good for them to see people from a “Christian” country who take Christianity seriously. Like most of the world, they believe that a religious belief is part of every human’s makeup.
5. Do Christians face any discrimination in the Fulbright application and granting process?
I have not seen any discrimination in the process. In fact, I told the Fulbright Commission executive about my faith. Because he knows the Arab culture so well, he knew that Arabs would accept the fact that I would speak up for my faith.
6. Is the motive to “do Gospel work” appropriate or sufficient for one to try to get such a grant?
It is rare that people behave differently overseas than they do at home. If you are active in student outreach at home, it will be the same overseas. Like any position, we answer to the Lord and have to be honest about the time we spend on our job. Be successful at that, and use it as a springboard for contacts and interaction. Use your time as a Fulbright scholar working for the Kingdom the same way you use your faculty position at home.
7. Any suggestions for those thinking about doing as you have done?
Go for it! Now is the time! There is a needy world out there. People are broken, their life is full of broken dreams, and, like the song says, “at the end of broken dreams, he’s the Open Door.”
18. Starting a “Grad IV”
An interview with Dr. Brent Seales, Assistant Professor in Computer Science at the University of Kentucky. Brent was in a “grad IV” at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has been at Kentucky for eight years.
1. Why would a prof consider that starting a grad IV group was important enough to justify the time and resource investment?
Time management is essential in order to wear all the hats owned by a faculty member. It would be easy to fill a schedule with only research or just teaching alone. But almost everyone in the university community agrees that “service” is part of our charter. Professors as teachers also agree that mentoring students, which usually goes beyond what is taught in the classroom, is also part of our mission. And most importantly, we as believers agree that our core faith principles should be integrated into all aspects of our lives, including the university duties of research, teaching, mentoring, and service. Involvement with graduate student ministries is a serious time and resource investment that is absolutely in line with our mission as university faculty and believers.
2. How does one get ideas and information about what a grad student fellowship might look like? Is there any help available to get one going? How, who, and what gets it going?
There are more and more grad student fellowship alumni who have moved into faculty and staff positions. They represent a valuable resource because of their direct experience. I have found the conferences hosted by InterVarsity to be very valuable for exchanging ideas, finding resource material, and locating people who are experienced with grad-student ministries.
InterVarsity staff who work with undergraduates often have contact with graduate students. This can form into a core of graduate students who are interested in exploring the issues and concerns of being in the university for post-graduate work. This is how the group at the University of Kentucky was formed. Every student group needs a faculty sponsor, and the resources and knowledge that a committed professor can bring to a new group is enormous. Students key in on this kind of initiative and implicitly understand that important things are involved. My experience is that students will more readily follow the example set by faculty when they see them continue to commit time and resources to ministry even when other responsibilities are substantial.
3. What does it do for you once it’s there? What does it do for the students, for the church? Does it help or hinder their performance as grad students?
Graduate-student fellowships provide a powerful mechanism for mentoring students in faith and profession and forces faculty who are involved to articulate their own mission more clearly. In particular, it is all too easy to get lost in the details of professional duties, forgetting or intentionally boxing out our faith principles. Graduate-student ministries present us with the challenge of making our faith real and integrating it with our respective work.
The local church is enriched when graduate students bring to it the diversity and intensity of the university. Many church members have no contact with the university other than through its students, and it is important for them to see the trends and struggles that students face.
Performance as graduate students, professors, or anything else is absolutely dependent upon the grace of God. He expects us, as believers, to make him Lord of every aspect of our lives. God is the ultimate performance enhancer. Our individual faith journeys will entail different commitments and directions, but the elements of personal devotion to God and regular worship within a body of believers are essential. They do not hinder any aspect of what God has called us to do.
19. Teaching Overseas II
Here’s a model of stewardship (being salt and light) from a professor of English as a Second Language. Note the motivation to serve the country and church where he went. (Identifying details have been removed from his story because of the sensitive nature of his work.)
My faculty position allows me considerable flexibility in the months of May and June after the end of the winter semester. During three of the past four years I have volunteered about five weeks to situations in Central Asia, giving professional assistance in English-language teaching and joining in Christian witness with resident believers. This, in a sense, is an expression of my own long-term commitment to Central Asia and the Middle East where I have spent earlier periods of my professional career. In the spring of 1998, through a lead from an IFES contact, I learned of an American couple who had taken early retirement in 1991 and moved to a city in Central Asia. Over the years this pioneering couple, a nurse and a geologist, have established wide-ranging contacts and good will through their own professional services. I first met them by telephone and email and learned that the timing of my arrival would allow me to have a lead role in the local university’s annual week of emphasis for English-language teachers. So for one week I gave daily workshops to both university faculty and upper-level students. During a subsequent week I gave similar workshops to the often neglected teachers of English in the public schools. Along the way, I took part in several activities of a newly formed church with many university-age believers. I found I had an open door of opportunity to extend encouragement to young western families who had come under various sponsorships for long-term residence and outreach. Probably the foremost contribution I made to extending the Kingdom was to further good-will between nationals within the university and schools and the longer-term people who are preparing to assume positions in some of these institutions.
As my academic expertise in an American university focuses on language and cross-cultural education, the opportunity to observe language teaching in a remote region, experience anew personally the struggles of learning survival expressions in a foreign language, and gather notes on a distinct foreign culture are all valued in my year-round work situation in the U.S. Further, it gives insight into the challenging issue of nation-building in the aftermath of the collapse of the USSR, and ideas for ministry in a situation previously closed to Christian witness from the West. The experience gives one a new sense of profound personal privilege knowing that colleagues in the local high schools live on a mere $15 per month and less.
My one regret is that other like-minded professionals, for lack of common scheduling or personal finances, were not able to accompany me on any of these recent visits. Particularly for one’s first venture to a new situation, there would be additional benefits in partnering from start to finish — fellowship, complementation, and more networking. Sites for such venturing are limitless when one seeks out less privileged universities that are in session during one’s time of availability with the assumption that the financial costs are to be born by the ones who serve.
20. Faculty Bible Discussions
Angus and Ruth Gunn, University of British Columbia, Canada
How can I cope with teaching, conducting research, studying, publishing, drafting proposals for funding, spending time with students, carrying a variety of responsibilities in the university community, and — at the same time — retain faithfulness to family and Christian service? As a professor trying to maintain a position of respect and security in my department, I find this question daunting.
If, however, I change the question and ask, “How might some aspects of family life as well as support from fellow Christian professors increase my day-to-day efficiency and competence?” then I am encouraged. Think of a Bible study on campus, one that is open to all faculty, including spouses, designed for the university community. It would be different from many church Bible studies; the common denominator is an interest in becoming better acquainted with the context of Scripture regardless of the weight one might put on its authority.
For the Christian professor there is very real value in such an activity. Spouses can be involved in the work of reaching out to university colleagues, and one’s personal life can be strengthened through team work with one or two fellow Christian professors in the Bible study. Instead of being a drain on one’s energies, this kind of study group contributes to professional life and “Christian Service” — rather than being an extra — becomes an integral part of campus life. Even an occasional evening spent in this kind of activity can be supportive amidst the challenges of academic life. Several of us found this to be true at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.
In the early 1990s a few of us met for Bible study twice a month during the academic year at the home of an engineering professor on campus. It came about almost by accident. An interest group of the Faculty Women’s Club had been involved for some time in a Bible study, and one day someone suggested that a parallel activity for men and women would be a good idea. So we began. Colleagues, some with their spouses, joined us. For many of them this was their first Bible study.
We took a familiar route initially. An expert theologian was brought in to lead a study of Mark’s Gospel. We were sure that such an approach would be the right one in a university setting. How wrong we were! Our expert was sharply focused on his subject, but our participants were more interested in interacting freely on particular passages. We had overlooked the old pedagogical adage of beginning where the learner is.
Fortunately, interest levels were high enough to bring us back for a second year. As we assessed the events of the previous year, we soon discovered that everyone wanted a thoroughly collegial structure in which we shared all aspects of planning and conducting our discussions. Our second year, therefore, began with a sequential study of John’s Gospel in which group members volunteered to lead, a responsibility that often took the form of simply asking a few starter questions. Interest grew and some new faces appeared. One person said, “Can you believe this is the same group as last year?” The new format gave freedom for open discussion and sharing.
When we chose one of Paul’s letters for study, things did not go well. There was resentment, even hostility, toward Paul’s strong assertions. This convinced us that, given the range of backgrounds, we should stick to the gospels for the foreseeable future. There was common interest there in the person of Jesus. At the conclusion of one series, a particular person who had been highly critical of Biblical miracles expressed his thinking in this way: “I am completely fascinated with this person, Jesus.”
Over time, mutual trust and genuine enjoyment of one another’s company has developed. We find ways for meeting socially between terms. Different views are expressed quite frankly. The variety of fields represented by the participants both enrich and challenge us all. We have faculty from Geophysics, Astronomy, English, Architecture, Computer Science, Education, Medicine, Engineering and Commerce. Those loyal to the authority of the Bible — purposely kept to a minority — often encounter totally unexpected comments. For instance, when we studied the incident in Luke chapter eight, concerning the demon-possessed man, one member, noting the way in which Jesus allowed the evil spirits to enter the swine, remarked: “This event is a good example of the law of conservation of evil spirits.”
To date, in spite of having met for several years, we do not have stories of conversions, but we do have two significant outcomes: (a) a heightened interest in the Bible; (b) new bonds of friendship across a broad spectrum of belief. We are convinced that we have found an appropriate model to help us share our confidence in Christ with colleagues on campus. I should add that we are fortunate in being able to meet at the center of the campus in the home of a Christian faculty couple well accustomed to hosting visiting scholars.
21. Using Every Opportunity
Dr. Erin Schonblom, Professor of Engineering at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, says, “A colleague of mine posted Why God Never Received Tenure at Any University on his door with the attached reasons. I walked by it several times and then attached a hand-written rebuttal. This summer while I was away, someone typed up the whole thing and placed them in the faculty mailboxes.” Dr. Schonblom gave thought to something all of us have seen in many different places but instead of saying, “Oh cute!” he responded with some thought, put it out for public interaction, and got response. He says, “Feel free to use my work as you choose.” I might add parenthetically that Dr. Schonblom has used his summers and now all his days in retirement to run a computer camp for young people in Appalachia. How’s that for Carpe Diem!
Why God Never Received Tenure at Any University
||On the Other Hand
|He only had one major publication.
||He is credited with sixty-six books, which have a wider circulation than any other publication. It was in Hebrew. Other portions were in Aramaic and Greek. Translations into more than a hundred other languages took place under his supervision.
|It had no references.
||Original papers don’t need references; however, there are thousands of internal references and a number of external references to sources that have not survived.
|It wasn’t published in a refereed journal.
||Books aren’t published in journals. Since the original publication, it has been quoted and cited in hundreds of journals.
|Some doubt that he wrote it himself.
||No other author has complained of plagiarism.
|He may have created the world, but what has he done since?
||Acts 17:28 In him we live and move and have our being. (one of the references that is quoted, cf. 3). Should he cease, so would all creation.
|The scientific community can’t duplicate his results.
||The scientific community has a problem, don’t they?
|He never got permission from the ethics board to use human subjects.
||It has been difficult to find enough board members with adequate experience and seniority to request a review.
|When one experiment went awry, he tried to cover it up by drowning the subjects.
||On the contrary, the experiment was published in his first book, but never replicated.
|He rarely came to class and just told his students to “Read the Book.”
||No one has spoken directly to more students than he has. He prefers tutorial sessions to lectures, in accord with the best educational principals.
|Some say he had his Son teach the class.
||Yes, but he went with his Son.
|He expelled his first two students.
||The students were expelled for obtaining information in an illegal manner and from unauthorized sources, for failing to appear when first charged, and for lack of responsibility for their actions; however, after their expulsion, he found them jobs and took personal interest in their families and children.
|His office hours were irregular and sometimes held on a mountain top.
||His best students found him whenever they looked for him.
|Although there were only ten requirements, most students failed.
||If they didn’t quit school, they graduated.
22. Four Modes of Ministry
Dr. Mark Foster is a man with a heart and mind to minister God’s grace to whomever he can, wherever he can. Here is “the latest” in his ministry in and around academia.
There are four ways in which I have been able to exercise my call as a Christian who is a researcher and teacher in the academic milieu. The first is in leveraging my research expertise to reach intellectuals outside the US. My wife and I decided before we got married to be watchful for opportunities for me to be an academician and speak to people overseas. We intentionally sought a post-doctoral position in Germany, where I could pursue research in an environrnent that would provide the proper training for a faculty position in the U.S., but where we could also be active in a “tentmaker” mode in some ministry. We assisted as lay people with the planting of a church with Greater Europe Mission (GEM). We committed to speaking German with Germans, and I worked in the German language to make it possible to build relationships. I had opportunities to preach and teach Bible Studies in German as well as exercise friendship evangelism. This cross-cultural experience was very valuable.
I desired to have opportunities to minister in the former Soviet states, and in 1996, with an invitation from the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, I traveled to Ukraine to speak in the capital city and another smaller city at several colleges and universities. I also visited the National Academy of Sciences. Each place I went, I presented at least one lecture in my area of scientific expertise. At colleges with an emphasis on teacher training, I presented a second lecture describing the US and German systems of training scientists and engineers. I also had a third talk with me, “Science and Religion: Are They Compatible?” I had the opportunity to give this talk in each school I visited. These talks initiated contacts with students and faculty not only for me, but more importantly, for staff of the Ukranian student movement “on the ground” in Ukraine. It was a great experience.
A second mode of ministry has been to use my teaching expertise in teaching Christians overseas. My wife and I have learned that there is a great need for mature Christians with teaching abilities to minister in fledgling seminaries and Bible schools in the former Soviet states. Seventy years of official atheism has led to the loss of more than a generation of teachers. Through our contacts with GEM, we learned of an opportunity to teach two week modular courses at a Bible school in Zaporozhyde, Ukraine. We were seeking a way to minister together overseas and were excited that each of us was accepted to teach a course at the end of May 2001. This allowed me to travel just after I finished my classroom teaching responsibilities for the spring semester. Preparing the forty hours of lecture needed for each of our courses while keeping up with five children and my teaching and research responsibilities was very hard. Nonetheless, I believe this is a ministry option others should consider. The need is very great.
The third type of ministry is speaking on my home campus. I have spoken on campus three times in open forums. First, I spoke on the role of my faith in exercising my discipline. More recently, I spoke apologetically twice at a “Skeptics Forum” modeled after the Veritas Forum. These have provided primarily an opportunity to state openly my commitment to God’s existence and his call on my life in academics.
The fourth and most personal ministry has been in mentoring. In discussions with faculty from other campuses, which have taken place at InterVarsity-sponsored conferences and workshops, I’ve become convinced that mentoring of Christian graduate students and post-doctoral researchers considering the academic life is a desperate need in the US and Europe. In particular, we need to talk more about what are the right questions to ask as Christian researchers. On a campus currently without either an undergraduate or graduate InterVarsity chapter, the difficulties in connecting faculty and students in mentoring relationships are amplified, perhaps. I have met individually for some time with a talented graduate student who is committed to integration of his faith and intellectual pursuits. Recently, the opportunity presented itself to meet individually with a second student. In the candid conversation that has developed in just a few meetings, I shared with this student that I often doubt my own impact on campus. I asked him if it was generally known among the graduate students that I am a Christian. He discounted the question as of secondary importance and said, “The important thing is that I know you are a Christian. And that makes the whole idea of being a Christian and being a professor plausible. Before, I couldn’t imagine it was possible.” I was struck with this insight. I knew that in Ukraine seeing a Christian professor for the first time presents a powerful argument for the plausibility of science being compatible with faith. But on our own campuses we now face the same challenge of living out the “plausibility” of Christian scholarship.
Mark Foster, Ph.D., Chemical Engineering, University of Minnesota, is professor in the Department of Polymer Science at The University of Akron and has done postdoctoral research at both the Max-Plank Institute for Polymer Research and the University of Minnesota. His honors include the Whitaker Foundation Biomedical Engineering grant. His research interests include the study of the microstructure of polymer thin films and surfaces and protein adsorption at interfaces.
23. Of Bombs and Butterflies
How does God touch an ordinary day at the office with mystery and healing?
When Nom, a Laotian student, dropped in to see me about an English paper she had written, little did I know that it would open for me the half-remembered world of war memories that defined my childhood. As I read her recollections of the war in Laos and Cambodia that forced her family to leave their Asian homeland for Boston, a strange destination halfway across the world, I could feel the old pain of my own early years return. The distance in time of thirty years between World War II in the Philippines and the Indochinese War of the 1970s disappeared as Nom and I began to talk about our common experience.
“Were you carried as a child when the family ran for their lives?” “Were you hungry too?” “Do you remember your grandmother?”
As we shared our stories, I was transported back to the mountains of the island in the Philippines where members of my extended family barely survived five years of malnutrition, malaria, and fear. At the age of three, I too was a refugee, like Nom. I remembered the dampness of the earth in the places where we sought refuge from the bombs. And because memory is sharpest when a child hungers for safety in the midst of danger, I also remembered the fragrance of coffee trees in bloom in the dark tropical night, as my family prayed to God for protection. The scent of flowers made the sound of bombs less frightening.
“And what is your deepest memory of Laos?” I asked Nom.
“Butterflies. Hundreds, maybe thousands of them, flying close to our house near the Mekong River.” Nom proceeded to tell of the day when her mother, brothers, and sisters had to leave because it was the only way to escape from sure death. In tears, they walked away from the only home they knew, not knowing where the journey would take them. When they looked back for the last time, they were stunned by the sight of butterflies — waves and waves of color and motion filling the sky. They seemed to come out of nowhere, as if their arrival was timed to coincide with the leave-taking of a family that needed comfort and courage. “It made me feel safe and loved,” Nom added.
In the mystery of time and space, two children, both survivors of two different wars, were held in the palm of God’s gentle hand by the imprinting of two indelible moments — the fragrance of flowering trees in the dark night as bombs fell and the dance of butterflies in a war-ravaged landscape.
In the years that I have worked with international students across the United States in several university campuses, this decade has been particularly poignant. Increasingly, I have known more and more Indochinese students who came to America as little children during the years of refugee resettlement and are now in their early to mid-twenties. Well-educated and mostly acculturated, they are curious and often longing for the homeland they barely know. My pesonal connection to their story started twenty tears ago when my family along with other church volunteers, welcomed arrivals from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia into our community in Massachusetts. Several children lived in our home — scared, undernourished, confused. In their faces, I saw mine, as a child of war a generation earlier. That was the beginning of my healing journey.
Nom’s story was a gift. In an unscheduled visit, which I originally construed as an interruption to my busy day at the office, she brought back to me what I thought I had forgotten, and I helped her remember what she must not forget. Together we understood the price that war exacts from the innocent, the grace and grit of survival, and the resilience of spirit that can rebuild from rubble.
“I would like to be a diplomat,” she told me as she left my office.
“I would like to write a book,” I said to her, almost like a promise.
Two Asian women, children of two wars, recalling the power of butterflies and coffee trees in bloom against the terror of the night. On that providential day when reading an English paper led to a moment of healing, I felt God touching us and blessing our stories. Truly, it was a sacred time.
Professor Priscilla Lasmarias Kelso, born in the Philippines, did her graduate work in English and American Literature at Stanford University. Her essays have been published in Not Born in the U.S.A., a college reader on the immigrant experience. Currently directing an international program at Northeastern University in Boston, she has also served on the board of trustees of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.
24. Vertical Integration
Even on campuses where a good-sized group of graduate students meets regularly and a group of Christian faculty exists, seldom do they strongly interact. At the University of Kansas — where faculty and grads, singles and families, meet together with mutual benefit and much fruitfulness — we find a great exception to that general truth.
Former InterVarsity/USA Graduate & Faculty Ministries staff Bob and Debbie Clark and their son Peter moved to the University of Kansas with the desire to see both grad and faculty ministry flourish. Here are several perspectives on what God has done there.
The grads and faculty: The basics of who we are and what we do
We are an interdenominational group of graduate students and faculty at the University of Kansas connected by our common relationship to Jesus Christ and our desire to bring his life and words to bear on our lives and studies.
We gather for studies and discussions appropriate for Christians who are academics and provide and participate in conferences, seminars, service projects, and social events. We meet monthly for fellowship, encouragement, singing and learning.
The groups we have formed include: Law School Group, two grad Bible Studies, C.S. Lewis Reading Group, and discussion groups related to Christianity and Culture, Higher Education, Science and Religion, and Faith and Film.
Our experience has been that these activities and groups serve to bring together students, faculty, administrators, and their families, encouraging all who are involved. Grad students enjoy exposure to mentors and families. Faculty and administrators enjoy the enthusiasm and curiosity of those who are younger.
A graduate student in American Studies
InterVarsity has given me an instant community, a group of like-minded people who are different enough to challenge my beliefs and thinking even as they offer me stability in a non-Christian — and, at times, even anti-Christian — environment. I have the opportunity to learn from, share with, and serve intellectuals who know that academic life is part of the Kingdom of God and who seek to better incorporate a Christian perspective in their work. As iron sharpens iron, we help each other revise, refine, and live out this Christian vision in our lives.
At KU, graduate students have a unique opportunity to fellowship with faculty. Their wisdom, faith, and generosity bless the graduate students. They provide strong role models of Christians who successfully negotiate the tension between faith and education.
A physics grad student and his wife
The InterVarsity Grad & Faculty group here at KU has been a tremendous source of help, fellowship, and enlightenment to us. We have been encouraged and aided in connecting with others, learning new things, and stepping out in leadership and service. We have become part of a community that deeply cares about its members, providing help in countless ways, from meals to transportation. In addition, we have been a part of reaching out to the broader community around us, by helping sponsor lectures and other events and by having a huge variety of gatherings to invite others to.
A faculty person
Most faculty at research institutions don’t get out much these days. When they do, they’re not likely to place ads in the campus paper saying, “I’m a Christian faculty-member, looking for other, like-minded faculty and graduate students.” Graduate students, seldom short of things to do, are even less likely to do so. Neither kind of university resident is likely to find time to initiate book-reading groups with other Christian faculty or graduate students, nor to start up grad-faculty fellowship meetings, nor to plunge into opportunities for Christian faculty to mentor Christian graduate students or for students to evangelize curious seekers. And that’s too bad, because all of these activities are important. In fact, more than most of us realize, they are important to the life of the mind and the life of the spirit for Christian scholars, scientists, and graduate students, and they often don’t happen on a large, secular campus like this one.
The Clarks’ work has made it possible to spend time in fellowship, study, and prayer with other Christians in a university setting. Some have been brought to Christ, and many of us have been brought closer to Christ. Graduate students will move on from this place, strengthened and confirmed in their faith, while faculty stay behind, also built up through the ministries that the Clarks have established.
A faculty and administrator
I particularly appreciate how much InterVarsity means to me when I realize how many people I know across campus whose lives would never have touched mine were it not for the book discussions, monthly gatherings, and small groups that InterVarsity has offered me. Almost every day, it seems that I meet or share email with people whom I first met through InterVarsity.
Writings from a discussion group
After one of the faculty and grad discussion groups had finished reading Jim Sire’s Habits of the Mind, they felt the need for more to be said on the Christian virtues. They brainstormed a list of fourteen virtues, and several of them volunteered to write a paper on a virtue, which would be circulated, critiqued, re-written, and possibly published in a book. Here are very brief excerpts from first drafts of two papers.
“Living Honestly in the Academy” by a science grad student
If it is our goal to live honestly in the academy, we must first live honestly within ourselves. As academics, we spend much of our time thinking. This is the first and most important area of our lives where we must be honest, for if our thinking is dishonest then what we do and say will have little hope of reflecting Truth. How do we think honestly? We must start by recognizing and understanding our presuppositions, assumptions, preferences, and biases. We must then honestly assess what we know and how we know it, and even more importantly where our knowledge is lacking. We must also carefully and honestly assess the views of those who oppose us. We must recognize the merits and truths as well as the weak spots in their positions. Someone who ignores the good points that his critics make is being dishonest with himself. In fact, in order to be truly honest in our thinking, we must seek out critics and opposing views and diligently determine their merits as well as their faults.
“Hope” by a professor in the humanities
What is true of money or influence is just as true of academic or scholarly achievements. We can care deeply about becoming great teachers, about making major break-throughs, or writing important works. By themselves, these achievements cannot comfort us. A friend once told me about a well-known professor under whom he worked in graduate school. Years after graduate school, the great professor in retirment confided to my friend his bitterness that his accomplishments had not given him more friends, a better family life, and more sense of real worth. In his pursuit of success, he had never developed his private life, nor, more importantly, a reason to live beyond his accomplishments. Shrouds not only have no pockets for money or power, but none for academic honors, published volumes, or prestigious degrees. It is whom we love and how we live, not what we have or what we accomplished, that can give us hope.
Terry Morrison, Director Emeritus of Faculty Ministries
My assessment of this model, after seeing many others over the last twelve years of faculty ministry, is very positive. This vertical integration naturally provides both wisdom and stimulation to all ages involved. Because parts are very family-friendly, it solves an enormously significant problem of Christian activity being seen as taking away from family time. It also creates a larger body of clued-in and concerned believers on campus to take action for truth and justice and care. I highly recommend it for your imitation or modification.
Image credit: Salt and Spoon by Grant Cochrane, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net