National Christian Multicultural Student Leaders Conference
By Britney Smith
January 07, 2004
In the midst of the letter from the editor and the controversy The Beacon stirred up in its October issue, 31 students, five advisors and two bus drivers loaded a bus at 4:30 AM on Thursday Nov. 13. A 19-hour trip took them to Wenham, Mass. for the National Christian Multicultural Student Leaders Conference (NCMSLC).
Gordon College hosted the 17th annual three-day event. The theme for this year's conference was Hoping for Shalom: Repairing the Broken Walls, which comes from Isaiah 58:12. Students from 25 Christian colleges and universities around the nation gathered to embrace diversity through their unity in Christ. The goal of the conference, according to NCMSLC's website is "to provide participants with knowledge and skills that enhance their understanding of multicultural ideals, challenges and realities, and the role of Christian students and Christian institutions in the journey toward cultural competency." The conference, staying true to its mission, empowered Bethel students to increase their understanding of cultural differences. Candace Cecil declared it was "an internal and external spiritual change."
The conference began with a large group session Thursday night, but unfortunately Bethel's students were not able to participate since they arrived after midnight. Friday began with the first workshop of the conference, followed by another large group session with Dr. Allen Callahan. Friday afternoon NCMSLC attendees boarded several buses and traveled into Boston to meet at Historic Twelfth Street Baptist Church. After a short presentation, the students dispersed for another workshop.
Each student and advisor chose two of the 13 offered workshops. Each workshop had a different theme and offered different knowledge of ideas students could take back to their campuses. One workshop was about the different types of multiethnic programs and how to implement them. Another workshop explored how white culture can be celebrated and expressed in God honoring ways. A very powerful workshop titled Titanically Speaking: Sink or Swim challenged students to test their cultural competency and leadership skills. Other workshop titles included Latino Empowerment & Identity, Relationships in Black & White, Black Leadership in the New Millennium, Asian American Identity Development and Gender Reconciliation. On Friday night NCMSLC participants had to opportunity to take a tour of Boston. Some students went to Little Italy, Copley Square, Newbury Street or Faneuil Hall. Once the students were back at Gordon they were able to dialog with one another about what they had learned from the conference, the types of programs they had at their schools or what life was like at their schools.
The last day of the conference began with yet another large group session and was followed by ethnicity caucuses. The 475 NCMSLC attendants broke up into 8 groups based on the ethnicity they best related to. Each group then talked about problems and solutions to those problems on their respective campuses that pertained to that ethnic group. Later in the day the groups rejoined and a representative from each caucus shared what their group had talked about.
The final session of the conference was held at Gordon Theological Seminary. Soong-Chan Rah shared ways in which Christians can celebrate their heritage while continuing to be one body. Attendees were blessed by a showcase of talents. Sheldon Smith and Shayna Brown participated by reading a Jamaican poem. Adele Burnett also did an interpretive mime of a song.
Smith, who is the student coordinator for the House of Higher Learning, noted that the students hope to apply what they learned at Bethel.]
"A focus of the conference is to help enable students address issues like race and culture on their campuses from a Christian perspective. After The Beacon articles were published, few people at Bethel validated the complaints that were made. Some students either dismissed them as unimportant or said they did not understand what the concerns were. NCMSLC stressed that in order for our faith to be effective in this area, communication is imperative for understanding. I hope the students that attended this conference can convey that message to the rest of the campus."