February 8-10, Dr. Mask led a group of eight Covenant students from the Community Development, Economics, and Biblical Studies departments to attend Calvin College’s thirteenth annual Faith and International Development Conference. This was the college’s twelfth time sending students to the conference.
The conference exists to provide teaching and discussion on international development strategies. This year’s theme was “Home; restoring our dwelling place.” It focused on cultivating a new sense of home, which is welcoming those who are different than us.
“I think it's very helpful for students to see how other Christians approach poverty and development issues since we will be working together with each other in many different areas of life, especially after graduation.” said Dr. Mask.
After a twelve-hour van ride full of fun, life stories, and mild trolling, students arrived at the snow-covered Michigan campus where they heard speakers from all around the world. The diverse speakers gave many differing viewpoints which challenged the variety of worldviews students held.
On the opening night, plenary speaker, Mark Charles, author of the popular blog, “Reflections from the Hogan,” gave a history of the colonization of Native American lands that may have differed from what you heard in history class. “Sometimes building a home requires deconstruction of our previous views on what makes a home,” Charles said.
Charles told stories from many occurrences of Native Americans being gruesomely murdered or forced out of their lands. He went on and criticized many great American leaders, such as Abraham Lincoln, calling them “racist” for their lack of action to end slavery.
Covenant’s own adjunct professor of Community Development, Debbie Dortzbach, told stories of being a nurse in community-based healthcare in third world countries. She called for the need to reflect God’s healing grace into the darkness in the world. She said, “We can make a community livable again by reflecting the glow of Christ in dark places.”
The following day, Carlos Hernandez, co-founder and Executive Secretary of the Association for a More Just Society in Honduras, spoke on his work over the past eight years to reform police work in Honduras. When speaking on the need to welcome those who are different than us into our home, Hernandez said, “Love overpowers fear and that is what sustains us.”
Peter Codington, one of the students who attended the conference, said, “I think it is important to have many different perspectives and opinions present and contributing to the conversation, even though it can feel more disjointed. I learned more to listen and question my own biases and values and to ask myself where I am and how I need to change.”
Similarly, Novella Long said the trip was “a weekend that taught me that I need more diverse voices speaking into my life, as well as ears and a heart more equipped to hear.”
The college plans to send students to the conference in subsequent years, and students from all departments are welcome to join. Contact Dr. Mask for more information.