Last spring three enterprising Wheaton upperclassmen decided they wanted to travel to China and learn more about international business.
They shared their plans with a Wheaton alumnus and venture capitalist who generously offered to provide half of the funds for their trip. But the alumnus also had a condition: in addition to touring factories and talking to business leaders, the travelers had to learn what God was doing in China by visiting several house churches.
Connecting with Chinese churches was surprisingly simple. All the travelers needed to do was talk with a classmate from Beijing—a Chinese national one of them had met in calculus, whose father is one of the most influential church leaders in China. Soon everything was arranged: the student from China would travel home for spring break and help introduce his American friends to evangelical Christians in China.
This true story of kingdom connections illustrates some of the present realities and future possibilities for globalizing a Wheaton education. Our students are interested in what is happening around the world and want to experience it. They benefit equally from the spiritual wisdom and financial support of our alumni. And when multicultural relationships are formed on campus, our students end up going to places they could never reach without having friendships that broaden their horizons.
In the Strategic Priorities adopted last spring, the Trustees made a commitment to Globalize a Wheaton Education “through expanding scholarships, revising the curriculum, and doubling the number of students who receive academic credit through off-campus cross-cultural experiences.”
Few institutions have sent as many people to as many places to do as many kinds of gospel work as Wheaton College. But this legacy goes far beyond the Missionary Wall that inspires students as they walk the corridors of Blanchard Hall. It includes hundreds of alumni who have served as salt and light in secular businesses overseas, as well as thousands who have taken short-term mission trips or supported gospel work around the world in other ways.
Yet there is still much room for improvement. During a standard four-year course at Wheaton, two out of every five students receive academic credit for studies that took place in a cross-cultural context. We have set a goal of seeing this number double.
Just as importantly, we want to improve the quality of cross-cultural experiences that our students have both on and off campus. We want to see Wheaton becoming the college of choice for international students called to leadership in the worldwide church. And we want to build growing partnerships with a select number of Christian colleges and universities overseas.
We hope to produce graduates who understand the global church, who have learned from the perspectives of other cultures, who celebrate ethnic diversity as a gift from God, and who graciously communicate the gospel in a wide variety of cultural contexts.
The Wheaton students who traveled to China last spring were inspired by the faith of their Chinese brothers and sisters, like the economist who came to Christ through seeing the influence of Christianity on capitalism when he studied in the United States, or the six women they met at a Bible study for the blind, studying the Scriptures in Braille. They will carry these experiences with them wherever they go. As a result, they will be better equipped to do their part—in cooperation and collaboration with believers from other cultures—to build the church and improve society worldwide.