New partners and world-wide impact are within the reach of 85-year-old, rural Bible school Bethany College, Hepburn, Sask., building on its pedagogical strengths by engaging in partnership with international agencies Mennonite Central Committee and MB Mission for practical education.
This fall, the school launched a restorative justice concentration in partnership with MCC Saskatchewan. The concentration consists of three courses taught or resourced by MCC staff (Social Justice, Introduction to Restorative Justice, Conflict Transformation) and a practicum.
“There’s a great spirit of cooperation between these two organizations,” says academic dean Gil Dueck. The partner institutions began to develop a closer relationship as a result of Bethany students working with MCC Saskatchewan, either as interns or employees. Also, MCC restorative justice coordinator and Bethany alumnus Stephen Siemens frequently sought the aid of the college’s theologians to process questions that arose through his work.
Siemens and Dueck recognized “incredible possibilities of connection between Bethany’s theological vision and commitment to service learning and MCC’s excellent programming and track record in the area of restorative justice,” says Dueck.
“I’m passionate about the church and discipleship, and convinced that crime needs a relational solution,” says Siemens. The two institutions are a good fit to partner toward that goal: “Bethany’s motto (Nurturing disciples and training leaders to serve) complements MCC’s tagline (sharing God’s love and compassion for all in the name of Christ…),” he says.
Past collaborative projects include the 2010 Re:Connections tour (creative arts troupe Bethany Players and MCC speakers toured an interactive play about reconciliation around Saskatchewan churches), and an eight-month service and learning team
placement that involved weekly visits to the local correctional centre.
Bethany alumnus and Re:Connections participant Clark Holmes says MCC’s partnership with Bethany “expands the horizons of Bethany students beyond the borders of the classroom. Sitting in a room with convicted lifers listening to what they had to say about life and death stretched my mind, forever.”
MB Mission has become a key partner for Bethany’s experienced-based “service learning module 3” (previously “third-year missions trip,” now open to any student). Many students chose MB Mission’s six-week ACTION program for training, field experience, and debriefing; the course also requires pre-trip reading, post-trip journalling, and an essay with application for the student’s home context.
The course “forces students to be more intentional observers in the context of the trip, builds a solid bridge between what they learned in that context, and finds application points when they return home,” says Luke Heidebrecht, Bethany associate missions director. “I’ve enjoyed watching students re-engage their thinking process given some distance from their experiential trip.”
MB Mission Central Canada mobilizer Lloyd Letkeman says, “We’ve really appreciated the partnership with Bethany, as the students come well-prepared and eager to learn and serve in a cross-cultural context with our ICOMB family or MB Mission workers.”
Bethany students may also serve office internships (for Bethany credit) with MB Mission, or participate in the six- or nine-month TREK program to fulfill the fourth-year internship.
“I have very much valued Lloyd and Carol Letkeman’s contributions to our college life,” says Heidebrecht. “I’m enthusiastic about future possibilities for co-operating.”