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Admissions staff: Christian schools give students ‘the freedom to inquire’

When international students enroll at universities associated with Churches of Christ, many have no intention of becoming Christians.

Angad Madra was one of them. 

Madra, a native of India, came to Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., “through a series of events that he never expected,” said Sylvia Bearden Braden, coordinator of international student services. “Angad knew very little about Jesus and, at one point, felt like he would rather die than become a Christian. Two years ago, Angad was baptized into Christ and is a devoted man of God.”

Multiple such stories exist among Lipscomb’s 100 international students, who represent 36 countries, Braden said. Many initially are attracted to the university’s small class sizes and athletic programs — not its faith.

That’s also the case at Ohio Valley University in Vienna, W.Va., said Janna Menear, assistant dean of student life. The university hosts events, including an upcoming “Diversi-TEA,” to help its 35 current international students share their culture with teachers and classmates. 

Menear also makes personal contacts with international students and, on occasion, counsels them — Bible in hand. 

“Each employee feels a responsibility with all students, no matter what cultural background, to move them closer to a relationship with God and ultimately, salvation,” Menear said.

Recent anti-immigrant sentiment, fueled by terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., has done little to affect the number of international applicants at Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tenn., said Jeana Wiley, international student coordinator. The university is home to 33 international students.

“The international students have never complained about feeling unwelcome in the community,” Wiley said. 

Joe Askew, Freed-Hardeman’s director of admissions, added that the university’s domestic students are inspired “to imagine a world outside their own and think with a more global perspective,” thanks to their international classmates.   

Some international students — especial graduate students pursuing ministry degrees — choose Christian universities because of their faith heritage, said Brooke Cutler, director of international student services for Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., which has 866 international students from more than 75 countries.

“In our current cultural climate, many universities are shying away from one of the most common uniters — and dividers — of humankind: religion,” Cutler said. “Rather than simply perpetuate mythology about one another, Pepperdine is comfortable with interfaith dialogues, which brings comfort to students of this generation who want the freedom to inquire.”

Filed under: International

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