By Jennifer Johnson
Several of the colleges and universities affiliated with our movement understand the need to reach their own cities while preparing students for an urban future. Here’s what one of them is doing.
HOPE INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY
The U.S. Census Bureau defines an urban area as “comprising one or more central places, and the adjacent densely-settled surrounding territory, that together have a minimum of 50,000 people.” So while cities like New York and Chicago certainly qualify as urban, so do urban sprawl areas like Anaheim, California.
“Anaheim is home to 350,000 people,” says Kip Lines, professor of intercultural studies at Hope International University in nearby Fullerton. “It’s one of the 10 biggest cities in California, and it has the highest population of any city in Orange County. It’s also home to many immigrants, to a large number of homeless people, and to a lot of gang activity and crime.”
This context provides a laboratory for students who want to study and prepare for ministry in a number of different areas.
“This fall we started a new initiative especially designed for students focusing on urban ministry and intercultural studies,” Lines says. “City Semester takes us off the Hope campus to work with and learn from My Safe Harbor, a nonprofit in Anaheim.”
My Safe Harbor, launched in 2008 out of Anaheim First Christian Church, creates programs and pathways for women in Anaheim—many of them single moms and many of them undocumented and unable to speak English—to develop life skills, discover their potential, set goals for the future, and do the hard work of changing their lives in a supportive community.
“I’ll teach the class one day a week, and a variety of guest lecturers from the community will teach the other day,” Lines says. “My Safe Harbor works collaboratively with a variety of community agencies, so our students will hear firsthand from the chief of police and his leadership team, the person in charge of local youth services, the gang reduction program coordinator, and the school district superintendent. Students will go to a city council meeting and they’ll meet the mayor.
“They will learn not only about what Anaheim First Christian and My Safe Harbor are doing, but also how they partner with others. So when we talk about homelessness, for example, they’re going to learn about the issue and about possible solutions from a variety of different perspectives.”
Half of the students in this fall’s cohort are ministry majors, while the rest are studying social sciences, psychology, and business, and many of the students have also registered for internship units or plan to volunteer.
“The ongoing goal is to incorporate cultural diversity into every degree,” Lines says. “We want students to understand cultural differences no matter what your educational program.” Because of Hope’s merger with Nebraska Christian College, students from Nebraska will also be able to come to Anaheim and participate in the City Semester.
Jennifer Johnson, a CHRISTIAN STANDARD contributing editor, is a freelance editor and writer living outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.