At a banquet attended by 90 friends and supporters on October 24, Christian Studies International (CSI) celebrated its 20th anniversary and officially launched its new identity as Global Scholars Canada (GSC). According to GSC’s Executive Director, Dr. Harry Fernhout, the new name more clearly communicates the organization’s primary mission: to recruit and support Christian professors to teach in universities overseas – global scholars who provide students with an education rooted in a biblical worldview, preparing them to be godly leaders in their home country. The name change also reflects GSC’s affiliation with its partner organization in the USA, which changed its name from the International Institute for Christian Studies (IICS) to Global Scholars in 2013.
Dr. Danny McCain, who founded IICS in 1986 and who has served with the organization in Nigeria for 27 years, told the banquet audience that his original vision was to establish departments of Christian studies, staffed primarily by theologians, in public universities in predominantly non-Christian countries. But when the former Soviet Union crumbled, IICS found exciting opportunities to place Christian professors with expertise in a broad variety of disciplines in former Soviet and other countries. This resulted in a shift in strategy from developing departments of Christian Studies to placing individual Christian professors wherever they were welcome. As McCain put it, “our theology caught up with our practice”; IICS’s leaders realized that since “all truth is God’s truth,” professors in all disciplines could bear witness to Christ as the Lord of learning in university contexts. Today Global Scholars (USA) and GSC have over 75 professors working in universities overseas, many in countries that are closed to conventional Christian missions.
The event on October 24 also provided an occasion to recognize the long-term dedication of two CSI/GSC couples, Drs Adrian and Wendy Helleman, and Rudy and Marlene Wiebe. The Hellemans were instrumental in creating CSI/GSC as the Canadian affiliate of IICS/Global Scholars. They served with CSI in Moscow from 1995 to 2002, and in Jos, Nigeria from 2002 to 2008. Between 2010 and 2012 they served for shorter periods in universities in Tanzania and The Gambia. The Hellemans continue to be involved with GSC, supervising doctoral students in Nigeria, helping launch a program of Christian Studies at the University of The Gambia, and providing support for the Comenius Institute in Prague, Czech Republic.
Rudy and Marlene Wiebe began serving with CSI/GSC in Nigeria since 2004. Rudy taught Greek, Hebrew and biblical studies at the Federal College of Education in Pankshin. Since 2007 he served as senior editor of a three volume Essentials of Christian Religious Studies in Colleges of Education textbook series. Marlene was a driving force behind the development of the recently published Phonics Reading Adventure curriculum, designed to greatly improve literacy among elementary school children. The Wiebes have also been actively involved in a wheelchair ministry primarily for polio victims and a successful program to combat HIV/AIDS. John Franklin, chair of the GSC Board, presented distinguished service awards to the Hellemans and the Wiebes.
Two of GSC’s five new appointees were present at the banquet. Dr. Dia Mbangwi Diafwila shared his passion to return to Africa, his continent of origin, to share the gifts and skills God has entrusted to him in Canada. He plans to work in Cameroon to develop a program of pastoral and personal counselling. He will be GSC’s first professor serving in a francophone country. Dr. Ian Ritchie spoke of his interest in African theology as well as Christian-Muslim dialogue. Other GSC appointees, with expertise in communications, political philosophy, and computer systems management, hope to serve in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and possibly other parts of Africa.
Fred Reinders, who served as CSI/GSC’s Board chair for many years, closed the evening with a benediction from Jeremiah 29, challenging GSC to continue to seek the shalom of the places where its people are called to serve.
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