Around the globe, there is a need for faithful, biblically grounded leaders with a concern for reconciliation, tolerance, and social justice. With the help of two scholarship funds established by the Global Mission Ministry Committee at Saint Mark Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, MD, and mission co-workers Eric and Rebecca Hinderliter, students at Lithuania Christian College (LCC) are getting much-needed financial help.
Saint Mark has a long relationship with LCC and the Hinderliters, which began after two members of Saint Mark joined members of the Hinderliters’ home presbytery, Carlisle, on a 2009 trip to Lithuania. The group spent time teaching English to Ukrainian high school students using a documentary film about a Holocaust project in rural America and a Southern Poverty Law Teaching Tolerance curriculum. Some of those same high schoolers are now college students at LCC in the Hinderliters’ classes.
Ellen Kiel, a member of Saint Mark, was on that trip, and in 2014, when Russia invaded Ukraine and many lost jobs and homes, Kiel helped set up a special fund just for Ukrainian students. That money is now helping students in significant ways. Valeriya Boyko, a junior communications major, was awarded a 70 percent tuition discount for the 2015-2106 academic year and sophomore business administration major Erik Dudik received a 40 percent tuition discount. About 40 other students were granted a 10 percent tuition reduction to help offset the financial burden many are suffering in the depressed and unstable economy.
“All of us felt great energy when we met these high school students,” says Kiel. “Despite all the challenges they faced, they were so appreciative of the opportunity to learn English and were so hopeful for the future.”
In 1991, after the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, LCC was founded in Klaipe'da, Lithuania, as an English-language institute by Canadian and US Mennonites along with Lithuanian Christians. Today it is a fully accredited liberal arts school with a Christian emphasis that helps prepare students for leadership roles in the post-Soviet region. The Hinderliters have taught at LCC for more than 15 years. Eric teaches economics, sociology, and theology. Becky teaches accounting.
For its first 10 years, LCC drew students predominantly from Lithuania. The school focus is now well beyond Lithuania. Starting in 2004, LCC broadened its reach to post-Soviet countries to the east. About half the students now come from Albania, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine. Russian is the predominant language, but now about seven languages are spoken at the school. All classes are taught in English.
“Presbyterian World Mission partners with LCC, not because it offers Western-style education,” says Amgad Beblawi, who coordinates Presbyterian World Mission’s partnerships in Europe and the Middle East, “but because of its holistic model. Students at LCC receive good academic instruction and have access to hearing the good news of the gospel. Many of these students become influential leaders in their communities in East Europe and Central Asia.”
The Hinderliters especially enjoy visits from former students who share their stories of family, job success, and church involvement. The students often credit their LCC education with shaping their values and helping them shape their careers.
“Our hope is that we teach more than the narrow subjects from the college catalog, including accounting, economics, and political economy,” says Becky Hinderliter. “We hope our students catch something more, something about how to live a life of value, how to relate to others, and how to contribute to the common good.”
Individuals and congregations interested in supporting the Hinderliters’ work may send a check to: Presbyterian World Mission, PO Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700. Checks should be made to Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and note account E200361.