On Sunday, July 25, 1976, I was 5,016 miles from home and felt free as a bird even though I was in Moscow, then capital of the Evil Empire—the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. After a budget breakfast at our campground outside the city, my fellow Americans and I decided to go to church. This was not risk-free. By the 1970s, the Soviets had terrorized millions of Christians and murdered priests and leaders by the thousands.
When we arrived at Moscow's Central Baptist Church, the pastor welcomed us warmly and, more importantly, dislodged about 25 worshipers so we could sit in the balcony. The service was traditionally Protestant, but the setting was extraordinary. Babushkas, Russian grandmothers with colorful headscarves, made up the entire congregation. The church was full beyond capacity, and every few minutes worshipers would yield seats to those standing. This was an unforgettably rich moment because nearly all of the Americans in attendance (including me) were undergraduates at a Christian college. For most of us, it was our first exposure to non-Western, global Christianity. What I learned that day has lasted me a lifetime.
The trip was possible because in 1958, a history professor at Gordon College near Boston had a vision that international education for undergraduates could be done in the field and on a budget. This program, now in its 54th year, is one of many jewels in the crown of Christian higher education.
Today, Christian colleges and universities have rarely been stronger or healthier. But the daunting challenges facing all of higher education—rising costs, distance learning, a changing workforce—pose just as grave a threat to the traditional Christian college as to any other college or university.
In this month's cover article ("The Missing Factor in Higher Education,") Perry L. Glanzer, associate professor of education at Baylor University, exposes how the modern research university has abandoned any pretense to make its students wiser or instill character in them.
Further, Glanzer cites research showing that evangelical colleges and universities that affirm wisdom as a goal of education are fulfilling the promise of a college education better than their secular counterparts.
Beyond mastery of an academic subject, living with integrity is the higher goal. In 1976, what I learned from Baptist babushkas about Christian community in a hostile climate could never have happened in a classroom. My professor knew some things could not be taught, only witnessed. That made all the difference to me.
Next month: Amy Julia Becker reports on Christians in Richmond, Virginia, investing in their public schools, Elissa Cooper profiles a youth gospel choir from Norway, and Sunday Agang reveals the roots of religious violence in Nigeria.
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Christianity Today's March issue looks at the challenges facing Christian higher education:
The Missing Factor in Higher Education | How Christian universities are unique, and how they can stay that way.
Sailing into the Storm | College presidents Philip Ryken and D. Michael Lindsay discuss the challenges in Christian higher education today.
Little Colleges That Could | How five small Christian schools are adapting to the new environment.
Check back for more from our March issue.
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