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Opportunities for academics to serve overseas

One of the key goals of the Cite conference is to encourage us to consider how we can serve God as academics all around the world, particularly in gospel poor countries. During Cite, we heard from two people who have taken the opportunity to do so. If you would like contact details for either of these people, please contact Sandy Clarke at the Simeon Network.

Yi Ting Tan, University of Melbourne
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Middle Eastern Country A

A mechanical engineer by training, Bruce (not his real name) and his family moved from the US to Country A in 2002. He belongs to a team of fifteen workers with a focus on campus student ministry. By partnering with Christian professors who have connections with the students, they are able to reach out to students and invite them to read the bible together. Through an ingenious method of offering free installation of supercomputer systems on the university campuses, they were able to gain regular access into the campuses to conduct their ministry (as well as securing a room for the bible study meetings and a free parking space). Bruce assured the audience that westerners are very welcome in Country A, as 90% of the population are expatriates. The language of instruction in the universities is also English, as they are mostly branch campuses of Western countries. The main disciplines taught in these campuses are business, accounting and the sciences, therefore academics of these disciplines are welcome to seek teaching opportunities in Country A, although these universities do not have a strong research focus. For parents who are concerned about the type of education available for their children in Country A, there are private secondary and primary schools that adopt the British or American curriculum. In addition, the expat churches in Country A are flourishing. Bruce thus encouraged the audience to consider the opportunities in Country A. 

East Asian Country B

Alex, a CSIRO scientist, first knew about short-term teaching opportunities in Country B during the Cite Conference in 2013, when someone who has taught English at a university there shared that there is a great need for Western academics to teach in the university. After much prayer and discussion with his wife, Alex sought to get in touch with the university staff in Country B to find out more. Although the email correspondence was often marked with delays, Alex finally managed to put his plan into action and taught agriculture at the university for a month last year.

The university he taught at was the first privately-funded university in Country B, officially beginning its operations in October 2010. It was founded by a Christian businessman, and the faculty staff are mostly Christian academics who work there on a voluntary basis. The all-male student population are handpicked by the central government, many of them sons of high-ranking officials in Country B. The faculty staff and students all have to live on campus. While the lodging conditions are satisfactory, the teaching infrastructure is less than ideal, and lessons are often disrupted due to power failures. The academic staff also have their movement restricted within the heavily guarded campus grounds most of the time, and are forbidden to go out into the city without supervision. Alex shared that idol worship in Country B is rife; Country B’s citizens are mandated to bow down to statues of some of the country’s leaders in the public square, and even foreigners have to lay flowers in front of the statues. Every room is also required by law to hang the portraits of the leaders of Country B on the wall. There are churches in Country B, however, the churches are likely to be closely-monitored and controlled by the government.

Alex assured the audience that despite the representation of Country B in the Western media, it is actually a very safe country. The worst thing that could happen is expulsion from the country. The academic staff have to be careful not to criticise the leaders or the government policies in class lest risking expulsion. While it is not possible to openly share the gospel with the students, by offering friendship and equipping them with high level science and technological expertise, it is hoped that the university will train up a future generation of internationally-minded leaders who will be ready to step up in the face of inevitable regime change in the future. The university has particular need of academics from Electrical and Computer Engineering, Life sciences, Agriculture, Economics, Accounting and English to offer their teaching expertise.