Category Archives: Faith in public life

Youth Ministries at IWU

Speaker, Zach Coffin, praying for the FUSION students.

“At the close of chapel, IWU student Olivia Eckart invited the student body to seek the face of Jesus in a new and fresh way. Students responded in mass and the service was extended for another three hours as students prayed with each other, prayed over each other and testified of mountains being moved in their lives.”

I marvel at the number of times people comment on the spiritual atmosphere at Indiana Wesleyan University in conversations with me.  It is often stated in words such as these, “it isn’t just words – this is truly a Christ-centered school – the spiritual atmosphere in this place is truly amazing.”  We know it is true.  We also know this is something we can’t manufacture or for which we can take personal credit.  But we often see the beautiful transformations in student’s lives happening before our eyes.

I have a genuine concern for the young people of today.  This world is perceptively crafty in creating avenues for temptation and peril at every turn.  Our Christian young people need to be incredibly strong to traverse their adolescent years without falling into any of the many available pitfalls along the way.

In the midst of it all, the Word of God rings true:

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  Romans 12:1-2

Charlie Alcock, Professor of Youth Ministries

Understanding how vital it is to provide a place where teens can encounter God and be encouraged to walk in His ways, faculty member and Youth Ministry Professor, Charlie Alcock, has led the charge in orchestrating opportunities for young people to come to IWU for fabulous, Christ-centered conferences during their middle school and high school years.  The results are inspiring.  I want to share Charlie’s update about the most recent Fusion event:

On April 6 and 7, the Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) Student Ministries Department held its annual FUSION high school youth conference on the Marion, Indiana, campus. The conference featured Cory Asbury of Bethel Worship, Maddie Ray (artist), Zach Coffin (speaker), Olivia Eckart (worship leader), as well as seminar speakers Amanda Drury, Jim Lo, John Bundick, Kasey DeMicheal, Jacob Murphy and Anthony Cottrell.

Nine hundred seventy (970) youth registered for the weekend conference from 112 different churches. They were joined by IWU students and Marion community members in a Friday night worship service with over 3,200 in attendance.

Cory Asbury and Bethel Worship performing during FUSION.

FUSION 2018 started with the IWU chapel service featuring Cory Asbury of Bethel worship and speaker Zach Coffin. At the close of chapel, IWU student Olivia Eckart invited the student body to seek the face of Jesus in a new and fresh way. Students responded in mass and the service was extended for another three hours as students prayed with each other, prayed over each other and testified of mountains being moved in their lives. Stories of healing, financial miracles and recovery were blended with students seeking forgiveness and confessing publicly. It was an amazing movement that extended into the Friday night worship gathering and into Saturday. Not only were the two main sessions filled with Spirit-led worship and commitments, life changes and new commitments also occurred in the seminars.

Reports surfaced of classes becoming sanctuaries as one Tuesday night class the following week began with a short report about FUSION and ended over two hours later with students praying for one another and testifying of life changes. One class this week saw five students proclaiming Jesus as Lord or rededicating their lives to Him.

What a privilege it is to love these high school students and their leaders. Thank you to all the pastors, youth pastors and volunteer leaders who made the journey, some driving more than 20 hours. You are heroes and hero-makers.”

The first weekend of May, Charlie and his team will welcome over 1,300 middle school students to IWU for the Never2Young conference.  I can only imagine what great things will come from this weekend.  Thank you, Charlie, along with your staff for leading our youth to know and experience our great God!


A Story Full of Hope: Marion Design Co.

“And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:7

A fascinating story has been unfolding over the last few years – a story full of hope.  I have asked my communications assistant, Jill Pederson, to capture this story so that I could share it with you….

“It began four years ago when our Art + Design Division combined design, interior design, art and social impact into a new degree called Design for Social Impact – an idea originally birthed by Professor Wendy Puffer.

Professor Herb Vincent Peterson and Teaching Fellow Luke Anspach joined the ranks of faculty at IWU – each adding key talents, knowledge and passion to the list of instructors guiding the Design for Social Impact students.

In 2015, one IWU design student who enrolled in a typography class with Peterson also took a journalism class to fulfill a needed English credit.  An assignment for this journalism class connected her to the Mayor of Marion where she learned of the city’s desire to re-brand itself.  However, the city had a significant challenge in that they had virtually zero resources.  This student carried the message of the city’s need back to Peterson, who knew that IWU could help.

Word spread about the “re-brand Marion” project.  Perhaps the most amazing of all was a group of 17 IWU students who refused to go home during the summer of 2016.  They felt called.  They wanted to use their talents to make a difference in this community.

Wendy Puffer, Marion Design Co. Co-Founder

Puffer explains, “We had a meeting in my living room.  We explained to them that we could not pay them.  We told them that we understood the importance of making money during the summer months.  We prayed as a group about what the Lord would have us do; not one student backed out.”

Peterson began searching for studio space where their sizeable team could land for the summer to do their branding work.  Their number one desire was to be in the heart of Marion.  Through a series of remarkable circumstances, less than one week after his first inquiry, Peterson was holding a freshly cut key to the vacant bank building across from the courthouse – a space they were given to use at zero cost for the summer.

The space was perfect.  It had the exact number of tables and chairs needed for every member of their team.  The county (current owner of the building) took care of utilities and maintenance needs.  The students and faculty worked for free.

“This became a hub for an incredible, immersive learning experience for 17 students and 4 faculty.  We became a ‘thing’ that needed a name.  Someone mentioned the name ‘Marion Design Co.’ and that was that,” explains Peterson. “Marion Design Co. was a project grown by faith.  God was at work because things that are not humanly possible were happening every day.  We finished each day that summer saying, ‘What a day!’  We were living it together.  Our faith was stretched.  Our students’ faith was stretched.  We were learning alongside one another.”

They describe difficult days in the bank.  Their branding research was not easy.  They held design thinking sessions where people came in with heavy burdens, heavy concerns for Marion.  People had stories they needed to tell.  Stories of racism, poverty and unemployment that spanned generations.  They also learned encouraging things and discovered strengths of this community. When things got especially challenging, they took retreat in the huge bank vault to read scripture and pray.

The bank became a sacred space, a neutral ground.  In time, as they listened to people, talked to people, the students and faculty who made up Marion Design Co. became representatives of the city of Marion.

The result was something none of them could have imagined – work for a lifetime.  The Marion Design Co. has become marketing agents for the city of Marion seeking to change the visual vernacular of this city.  They are helping to revive, empower and propel Marion to a brighter future.

Like an army of ants, the people of Marion Design Co. are marching out to serve on boards, committees and work on projects on a scale of which I am incapable of fully explaining in one blog.  They are re-branding storefronts, re-branding businesses and schools, producing radio spots, volunteering time, creating spaces for conversations and infusing hope into every place they go. They are slowly, but surely changing perceptions.

They have completed two notable projects:  the re-branding of the City of Marion and a complete re-design of the City of Marion website.  If you have not visited the new website, here is a link: Anyone who visits this website will see Marion through the eyes of people who care about their community.

“It is truly remarkable.  I just had a student tell me that he wanted to apply for a summer internship position with Marion Design Co. for this coming summer,” explains Anspach. “Just two years ago, all of this was just an idea.”  Anspach describes his joy in being a part of marrying design with passionate, creative college students and putting them to work in a community where they are genuinely making a difference.  As he explains, “To me, this is what it means to embody the gospel.”

The county has given Marion Design Co. permission to stay in the bank building until they have a buyer for this building.  I have a hunch that one day, Marion Design Co. will be forced to vacate so that a flourishing, successful business that sees an incredible opportunity in Marion can move in.

Our students and faculty have big, beautiful ideas for Marion, Indiana.  Do you?”

“Even the largest avalanche is triggered by small things.” Vernor Vinge

Proposed Tax Reform Negatively Impacts Private Higher Education

Those who keep abreast of political news may be following the tax reform legislation under construction currently.  We are monitoring the situation closely because of the current legislation in Congress (the Senate’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and H.R. 1 in the House of Representatives).  Both bills have serious implications for higher education institutions.

At this writing, both bills have passed in their respective chambers.  It may be possible to change the final version of the law during the Conference process when the House and Senate versions are reconciled with each other.

Here are proposed changes to tax law that could have serious negative consequences for higher education institutions:
  • Student Loan Interest – The current $2,500 student loan interest deduction would be eliminated. Result:  Student loans become more difficult to repay.
  • Charitable Giving – The standard deduction would effectively be doubled, significantly reducing the value of the charitable deduction. This change would result in a dramatic drop in the amount of charitable giving in the U.S. due to an estimated 32 million fewer people eligible to claim the deduction.
  • Endowments – Private institutions would pay a 1.4% excise tax on net investment income above a certain threshold based on the ratio of enrollment to endowment size. Result: This would reduce the amount of endowment proceeds available for operations and student scholarships for institutions that reach the threshold.
  • Tax Exempt Bond Financing – Private institutions would no longer have access to tax-exempt bonds. Result: Cost of capital for construction and improvements would increase.
  • Qualified Tuition Benefit Reduction – Tuition waivers for employees, spouses and dependents would become taxable. Result: IWU would immediate pay over $360,000 in new FICA taxes, and IWU employees would be liable for $1.4M in newly taxable benefits.
  • Lifetime Learning Credit – The current $2,000 per year tax credit for part-time, nontraditional students would be eliminated. Result: An incentive for adults to pursue degrees would be removed.

These changes directly impact the accessibility and affordability of private higher education at a time when these institutions are already vulnerable.  The Council for Christian College and Universities has been proactive in presenting our case against many of these measures. They seem to unfairly and inappropriately target private higher education.

Last month, Trustee David Dimmich and I participated with about 40 CCCU presidents, trustees, and administrators in an intensive day of visits to our Congressional delegates in Washington, DC, to make them aware of our concerns.  We were well received by our Indiana legislators including Senator Todd Young, Representative Susan Brooks, Representative Todd Rokita, Representative Jim Banks, and Representative Jackie Walorski.

We have reason to believe that at least some of these issues will be removed from the final version of the new tax code.

IWU Hoops Mission Impacts the World

Last week I was able to share lunch with senior business student, and IWU basketball player, Jacob Johnson. If you have spent any time around the men on our basketball team or their coach, Mr. Greg Tonagel, you might be familiar with the “I Am Third” philosophy that permeates this group of men. I left my lunch with Jacob encouraged to see yet another fabulous example of the fruit of the “I Am Third” mission.

During lunch, Jacob humbly shared what an impact IWU, and specifically IWU basketball has had upon his life. He was a believer prior to coming to IWU, but it became clear as I listened to Jacob share his story, that it has been here, as a student at IWU and a member of this team that his relationship with the Lord has been transformed from head knowledge of what it means to follow Christ to a heart experience. Jacob talked about struggling to adjust to the drastically different mindset of IWU basketball where he explains that, “his coaches truly care more about me as a person than what I can accomplish on the court.” After two years of watching and listening, Jacob explained that he finally “bought in” and fully embraced a new way of living life. He decided to go “all in” and make the commitment encouraged of him by his coaches – to do everything for the Lord and others first.

Coach Tonagel preaches “I Am Third” which means – God first, others second, and I am third. They measure success by their teammates growth. They play for each other. Greg describes his goal for his team as this: “We want to develop men who will leave our program to be “I Am Third” men in their homes as husbands and dads, in their communities, in their churches, and in their work places.”

Jacob caught the vision, and put it into practice in his life as a college student, and as an entrepreneur. During his freshman year, his best friend from back home called asking if he’d like to build a drone together. Jacob loved the idea and within months the two formed a partnership that has turned into a thriving business called ALPS (Aerial Logistics and Production Services). These young men recognized a business opportunity in drone inspection services. Companies in service industries now use drones for inspection work, but they do not always want to be in the drone business (purchasing, certifying, licensing, piloting, etc.). Jacob and his partner have been there to meet this growing need.

They have four pilots and they are in the early stages of spreading their network nationally. While Jacob is licensed to pilot drones, his partner does most of the flying while he maintains his focus on sales, networking, business development, accounting and so forth. In the beginning, they did deeply discounted work in order to get new business, gain credibility and generate referrals. He explains that the business has exploded in the last six months and he is excited to graduate and make ALPS his full-time work. Check out their website to learn what these innovative and highly motivated young men are doing:

As I listened to Jacob talk about ALPS, I was amazed by the tone of his conversation. He exuded praise for his professors who have mentored him both practically and spiritually as he has walked the road of learning how to grow a new business. He spoke about the amazing business growth that has taken place during the busiest season of his life. He explained that when he decided to go “all in” with the Lord, the things in life that should have been impossible came to fruition and the things in life that should have overwhelmed him did not. He says, “We see that God’s hand is in it [this business]. He gets the glory. We pray over all of it and trust God.”

I asked Jacob if he had any advice for other college students. He did not hesitate—take risks while you are young, fail early and often learning from your mistakes, find mentors who can walk beside you, and don’t be afraid to put in the work. Persistence is important. He quoted Colossians 3:23 ‘Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men’ and proceeded to explain how choosing to focus on this verse has changed everything he does, “I’m doing this for the Lord. We want it all to point back to God.”

To say that I came away from lunch encouraged is an understatement. Jacob has learned an invaluable life lesson – how to practically put God first in all things. He has practiced that while he has been a student at IWU and I know he will continue doing so when he leaves this institution. I was also encouraged because Jacob is speaking truth that is good for ME to hear. Putting God first in all things. I am third.

To read Jacob’s blog on the site, visit:

David Wright and Jill Pederson

Spiritual Life on Campus – Chapel

If you utilize social media sites (i.e. Facebook, Twitter) or visit national news sites, you will most likely agree that we are living in a rapidly changing and politically super-charged day.

Our residential students are also engaged in social media and, for most, their days at IWU are the first where they find themselves interacting with the world from outside the umbrella of parental oversight.

Knowing how pivotal college is for young adults, we at IWU are very intentional about our time together – both in the classroom, as well as every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning when our Marion IWU community meets together for chapel. It is our time to worship, encourage, nurture, as well as stretch our student’s hearts and minds towards a deeper life in Christ.

I’ve known our Dean of Chapel, the Rev. Dr. John Bray, for many years. Before coming to serve as Dean of the Chapel he was the senior pastor of Heritage Church in the Quad Cities (Indiana/Illinois) – a position he held for 41 years. John and his wife Patty are passionate about inspiring our young people to think about their lives and the world around them in light of the truths of God’s word.

For this academic school year, John has arranged some fascinating chapel themes and guests speakers. I want to share a few with you, to provide a glimpse of the ‘chapel part of life’ for our residential students.

Chapel at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, IN.

Chapel at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, IN.

Our theme for this fall is “Choices Matter”. Every Monday, faculty from our School of Theology and Ministry are preaching through the book of Philippians. Paul, the writer of this book, consistently chose joy! What an powerful message for our students.



We launched Hispanic Awareness month by welcoming Gabriel Salguero, pastor of Lamb’s Church of the Nazarene in New York City, and founder of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition (NaLEC) which offers an important leadership voice for the close to 8 million Latino evangelical people in our country.

Did you know that 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation? Dr. Bray has enlisted faculty emeritus, Dr. Bud Bence, to dramatically portray Martin Luther.

To commemorate Global Awareness Week, we look forward to hosting Maryam & Marziyeh, Iranian women who were imprisoned for 256 days because of following the teachings of Jesus. In an Iranian court, they were ordered to denounce their faith verbally and in writing, but they stood firm replying, “We love Jesus. We will not deny our faith.”

Feel free to listen in by visiting our website’s chapel podcast archive:

(David Wright and Jill Pederson)

Probing the Evangelical Mind

The religious historian George Mardsen once defined an evangelical Christian as “anyone who likes Billy Graham.”

A few years later, when the famous evangelist was asked what the term meant, he was at a loss for words. “Actually, that’s a question I’d like to ask somebody too,” Graham said.

Fast forward to 2017, and the definition of the term “evangelical” has become even more clouded. For that reason, I am honored to join with Jay Hein, President of the Sagamore Institute, in hosting a gathering of Christian scholars to discuss what it means to be an evangelical.

Level Mansion

The symposium, “The State of the Evangelical Mind: Reflections Upon the Past, Prospects for the Future,” will convene September 21-22 at the historic Levey mansion, which houses the Sagamore Institute, in downtown Indianapolis.

The Sagamore Institute, which came to life in 2004, was intentionally located in America’s heartland to avoid the noise and rancor coming from Washington, D.C. The Institute’s mission is to tackle difficult issues with civility and focus on solutions not theology. Before becoming president of the Institute, Hein was the director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives under former President George W. Bush.

Other partnering sponsors of the symposium, in addition to the Sagamore Institute and Indiana Wesleyan University, are Christianity Today, and Excelsia College in Australia. The Lumen Research Institute, a joint initiative sponsored by IWU and Excelsia, is planning the event.

You can find more information about the conference at

Evangelicalism, however one defines it, finds itself at the intersection of a host of crossroads. After decades of relative prosperity in North America, the churches, universities and seminaries that evangelicals cultivate, populate and depend upon for leadership are wrestling with legal, social and ultimately theological questions on a wide variety of fronts.

For many, the financial challenges that compelled Christianity Today to close Books and Culture after 21 years were tangible expressions of those challenges.

This symposium offers a context in which participants can reflect upon that past but also think critically about the prospects for the future of the evangelical mind.

Confirmed keynote speakers for the event include:

  • Mark A. Noll, Francis A. McAnaney Professor Emeritus of History, University of Notre Dame.
  • Jo Anne Lyon, former General Superintendent and current Ambassador for The Wesleyan Church.
  • Timothy Larsen, Carolyn and Fred McManis Professor of Christian Thought, Wheaton College.
  • Lauren F. Winner, Associate Professor of Christian Spirituality, Duke University Divinity School.
  • James K.A. Smith, Professor of Philosophy and the Gary and Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology and Worldview, Calvin College.
  • David Mahan – Executive Director of the Rivendell Institute at Yale
  • Don Smedley – Senior Fellow of the Rivendell Institute at Yale

John Wilson will be honored during the symposium for his long and remarkable service as founder and editor of Books and Culture.

A Day for Renewed Hope

As we begin a new week, our hearts are torn between the pain and sorrow of the horrific events that happened Saturday in Charlottesville, and the hope our community has in Jesus and in the basic good will of our fellow American citizens.

The IWU community unequivocally rejects the white supremacist ideology on display over the weekend. It is not the way of Jesus. And neither is it aligned with the great values of the American dream we have pursued together for more than two centuries.

On this day, we need renewed hope. We need hope that good will triumph over evil. We need hope that humility ultimately wins over hubris. We need hope that we have a bright future together, one in which our differences become our strength and not our defeat.

I remind our university community of the heart of our mission. We are a Christ-centered academic community committed to changing the world by developing students in character, scholarship, and leadership. We take this calling seriously, to be a community committed to the hard conversations, to the challenging work of understanding the times in which we live. We will redouble our efforts to bring hope to our national community through the disciplined use of our minds and hearts under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Today we turn for hope and courage to our faith in Jesus, who took on himself the evil and suffering of this world and made a way for us to see and pursue beauty, righteousness, and goodness.

As for our house, we will follow the way of Jesus.

Response to Election 2016

IWU - Dr. Wright

This morning we awoke to one of the most unusual political events of our lifetimes.  The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency of our nation is an event that will be remembered, studied, and retold for many years to come.

This has been a tumultuous and bruising season in the life of our country.  Closer to home, it has been a time of intense debate, strongly held positions, and divisive language for our own IWU community.

From where I sit, I get to see first-hand what a large and diverse community IWU has become.  With 80,000 alumni spread across the world, over 14,000 current students in the United States and 30 different countries, and close to 3500 full and part-time employees, our IWU community encompasses racial, gender, economic, national, religious, and political diversity.

Today many in our community celebrate this election.  But many others in our community feel sadness and a new sense of vulnerability and fear.

This is the shared reality of our IWU community today.

What will we do about this?

On this day I want to remind our community of who we are, what we value, and what we are called to do.

Who Are We?

We are a Christ-centered academic community.  We take our identity from Jesus Christ – the One who is God with us, the Savior of the world, the Suffering Servant of all, the Redeemer of all the bruised and broken, the one who reconciles us to God and to each other.  Above all else, and despite our differences, the Indiana Wesleyan University community is defined by our faith in, allegiance to, and pursuit of Jesus.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus today, and take our cues for the future from who He is and who He calls us to be.

What Do We Value?

We value each other.  We are an inclusive community that loves and embraces one another despite differences of political persuasion, race, gender, nationality, immigration status, or any other characteristic that people have used to foster division, suspicion, and strife.  While some in our community feel better about the future, others in our community feel less safe, more vulnerable, less included today than they did yesterday.  Let us affirm together that IWU loves and embraces our minority students and staff, those who come from immigrant families, those who are international students, or those who identify with some other group of people who feel vulnerable and pushed to the margins.  I would ask all members of our community to remember and practice those values and virtues of Godly hospitality that represent the very best of what our Lord Jesus Christ taught us.

What Are We Called to Do?

We are called to serve.  A former colleague of mine used to remind me, “David, always remember, we are following the one who hung on the middle cross.”  We are not here to serve ourselves or to seek our own.  We are here to serve our students, our nation, and our world.  Please look around you today and be aware of those who need to be served.  Let us serve by guarding our lips and our actions.  Let me be even more specific about this.  Please join me in affirming that the IWU community does not condone or endorse exclusion of immigrants, violence against women, hatred against minorities, or any other type of language or behavior that dehumanizes our fellow brothers and sisters.  We do this not for any political motivation.  No politician or political doctrine teaches us to serve in this way.  We do this because it is what Jesus modeled, and what he calls us to do.

Friends, today our focus is inevitably on the kingdoms of this world and the power vested in earthly leaders.

But today let us also be reminded of the glory of heaven, a glory that teaches us to pursue more beautiful and lasting ways of living together.  Hear God’s Word.

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.  If you speak, you should do so as one who speaks the very words of God.  If you serve, you should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (I Peter 4:8-11) 

[In the coming days the university will provide opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to gather to discuss and process the significance of this election and the ways in which it impacts our IWU community.]

Jo Anne Lyon: Bringing Hope and Peace to a Troubled World

Dr. Jo Anne Lyon

People are life’s greatest treasures.  Spend any time at all around Dr. Jo Anne Lyon and you will be entertained and inspired.  Recently she won a very special recognition.  We couldn’t be prouder of or more thankful for our friend and colleague.

Dr. Lyon, who has served as Interim Vice President of Wesley Seminary since June, recently joined a prestigious list of international leaders when she was honored as the recipient of the 2016 World Methodist Council Peace Award, which has been presented since 1977 by the World Methodist Council.

Dr. Lyon is in outstanding company. Previous recipients of the award include former President Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former South African President Nelson Mandela and former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev.

While Dr. Lyon’s immediate response was that she did not deserve the honor, others would argue she is more than deserving for her unselfish and tireless work that has taken her to some of the most dangerous and remote areas of the world in an effort to bring hope, peace and justice to a hurting world.

That journey began in 1985 when Lyon traveled to Ethiopia with an ABC news team that was filming a documentary on the great famine. She described the experience earlier this year in an interview with Wesleyan Life magazine:

“One woman got to the gate of the refugee camp with her last surviving child and dropped dead right in front of me. She had four children just like I do. I stepped in a field of 2,000 people that were totally silent, because not one had the energy to speak. They were starving to death. God said to me, ‘It does not have to be this way. There is abundance. Be my hands.’ And I began to see the world totally differently.”

For 30 years, Dr. Lyon’s travels have taken her from the brothels of Cambodia, where she saw children for sale as far as the eye could see, to the White House where she represented The Wesleyan Church on the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based Partnerships.

Most of Dr. Lyon’s humanitarian work was done in her role as founder and former CEO of World Hope International, which is based in Alexandria, Virginia. She started the ministry in her home and, in 12 years, grew World Hope to a $17 million global Christian relief and development agency serving in 30 countries and dedicated to alleviate suffering and injustice.

After leading World Hope for 12 years, Dr. Lyon was elected and served eight years as the General Superintendent of The Wesleyan Church – the only woman in the 175-history of the denomination to hold that position.

On June 6, Dr. Lyon retired as General Superintendent of The Wesleyan Church and was immediately named to the newly created position as Ambassador, so that the denomination could continue to benefit from her international network of colleagues and partnerships.

A day later, she received her first ambassadorial assignment at Wesley Seminary, an institution which she played a key role in establishing. And so, for the next year at least, Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, Acclaimed International Peacemaker, will use her life’s story to help seminary students “begin to see the world differently,” just as she did three decades ago in a refugee camp in Ethiopia.

(Alan Miller and David Wright)

The Brain Kitchen: A Recipe to Address Childhood Trauma

The creativity and commitment of our IWU faculty never cease to amaze me.  Here’s a story Alan Miller wrote for me about the brainchild of Dr. Amanda Drury.

When Amanda Drury walked into Frances Slocum, the IWU professor immediately noticed the hand-written notes from children posted on the entryway wall. The notes, expressing the children’s dreams, were products of a Martin Luther King Jr. Day project.

Here is a sampling:

  • I wish I could learn the whole Spanish dictionary. I’ve already started!
  •  My dream is to be a smart girl, and my job is to be a scientist.
  •  I want the whole world to be made of ice cream.
  • I dream that people who cuss won’t have to.
  • I want to grow up to be a good kid.
  • I would like to get a tarantula for my 10th birthday.
  • I wish poor people were not poor.
  • I wish my Mom and Dad would stop fighting.
  • I have a dream that I could move to third grade, so I could be smart.

“I can’t do anything about many of these dreams—I can’t buy a child a tarantula for his birthday, but some of these dreams we could actually work toward,” said Drury, who teaches in IWU’s theology and ministry division. It was with those dreams in mind that The Brain Kitchen was born.

“The Brain Kitchen is an afterschool program with two primary components: there is the homework piece, and there is the cooking piece. A child coming to The Brain Kitchen would meet up with a mentor to help complete school work, and then he would be brought into the kitchen where he would learn how to make soup and bread. And by making soup, I’m talking about buying a chicken and using every single part of it, including boiling the bones to make broth.

“The children would work on the soup incrementally during the week, so that on Fridays they would go home with a vat of soup and three loaves of bread. One loaf they save, one they eat and one they give away. This meets a particular need within the community in that many children are provided with government breakfasts and lunches, but weekend food can be a bit more tricky,” Drury said.

The IWU community became more intricately involved this past spring when the Muncie-based Ball Brothers Foundation awarded the school $17,400 to transform The Brain Kitchen into a “trauma-informed space”.

This trauma-informed approach to education addresses the effect of trauma on children and learning.  It is estimated that one-half to two-thirds of children experience trauma, which is defined as negative events, which surpass the child’s ordinary coping skills.

In layman’s terms, the grant will be used to establish a community teaching kitchen with homework space to serve low-income children in the Marion community. “We are starting with a small group of students, between 10-15, and we hope to expand significantly as we get a sense of the kind of permanent space that we need,” Drury said. The Brain Kitchen is currently meeting in a small house owned by College Wesleyan Church while the program looks for a larger, more permanent space.

Drury has recruited IWU colleagues to help develop the project and oversee the Ball grant. Wendy Puffer, who teaches in the art department and is overseeing the new Design for Social Impact major, is looking at ways to create an environment that is conducive to learning. Katti Sneed, who heads the IWU social work program, is writing trauma-related curriculum that will be used to train volunteers. Missy Khosla, who has a doctorate in occupational therapy, is looking for ways to imbed brain-development exercises into the program.

“We have a lot of pieces working together now to create The Brain Kitchen,” Drury said. “Our hope is that these children will get something more than just homework help. We want their brains to actually look different after participating in this program. We want them to return home on the weekend with the confidence that they have a meal to share. And we want this to be done in a way that every single child knows he or she is loved by Jesus, because no one should hear about the love of God on an empty stomach.”