It began with the donation of a former potato paddock, and a $10 cheque. Eastwest College of Intercultural Studies celebrates 25 years in Gordonton this July.
And they’re holding an Open Day on Saturday 31 July, 11am to 4pm, and welcome one and all to a day of activities, kai, tours and talks. The Rainbows Early Childhood Centre will also be open.
Members of staff wrote the following article on the development of the College for N8N:
“IN THE Bible we see examples of God making less into more—the feeding of the 5000, the widow’s pot of oil and the growth of the church from a small rag-tag group in Palestine. Does that still happen today? It certainly does.
Over the past 25 years, God has turned a potato paddock into a thriving international missions college, completely free of all debt, with graduates serving across cultures in countries right around the world.
The prayers of faithful supporters, the generosity of donors, the labour of volunteers, the ministry of professional teaching staff who have poured their time and energy into lecturing, the support staff who provide the needed infrastructure that assists students and staff—this has been the testimony of just one way in which God has taken ordinary people with their gifts and skills to serve the world that He loves.
A Gordonton farmer donated 33 acres (about 13 hectares), an elderly lady sent a cheque for $10, and in July 1996, four brave students enrolled in a college that wasn’t even there! The only buildings were a small re-located weatherboard library which was later to become staff offices and is now a small gym and one staff house. The small team had a huge vision and so lectures were held, free of any rental, in the local Gordonton Presbyterian Church (now Oaks Christian Centre). By the second year, the roll had more than doubled to 12 students, and has progressed ever since.
It wasn’t all plain sailing. Early staff will remember that at one stage—with money being so short and budgets so tight—a dilemma arose of whether to purchase a muffin tin or a tin of paint. The tin of paint won!
In 2001 when the college had grown to a dining room, two accommodation blocks and four staff houses one supporter felt that a missions college without a chapel didn’t seem appropriate, so donated the finance and the chapel was duly completed. The college currently consists of six purpose-built accommodation blocks and seven staff residences, as well as modern administrative, catering and library amenities. We are especially proud of Rainbows, a quality Early Childhood centre that serves families across the wider Gordonton community.
As student numbers grew, so did staff numbers. There has never been a shortage of staff despite staff members drawing no salary and living ‘by faith’. Over the years, many random needs have arisen from painting and plumbing, graphic design and web development, to electrical work and fine art. If there were no staff members skilled in these needs, sometimes a student or volunteer would appear with exactly that skill or qualification and happily take on the role.
But of course God’s miracle is not only about bricks and mortar but about the effect the college has had on people’s lives around the world. The reality for many Christian workers is that eventually they will work in international teams. Yes, there are many books and resources about living and working in multi-cultural groups and communities but these are no substitute for actually living it day to day, sharing classes, work and meals together. Eastwest College is a multi-cultural community which lives, works, studies and prays together.
Over the years, students from New Zealand have been joined in their studies by people from around the world including South Korea, Vanuatu, Malaysia, Finland, Russia, Japan, China, Myanmar, Mexico, Hong Kong, South Africa, Brazil, USA, Canada, India. The list goes on! Such a mix of nationalities would seem fertile ground for misunderstandings and conflict and yet it is a place to understand our own worldview and appreciate the perspective of others. Through prayer, love and hard work, the college has grown organically into a stepping stone to serving a world in need.
Twenty-five years of graduations have witnessed students move to 45 countries on every continent (except Antarctica!) in a wide range of professions and fields; medicine, business, education, church work, science, IT, pastoral care, agriculture and horticulture, trade services and specialist skills. In many countries in the developing world, a graduate from Eastwest College can be found.
When Eastwest started up a low-powered radio broadcast to give the students radio training experience, the frequency we were assigned was 107.3 FM. This made us pause to look at Psalm 107.3 in the Bible. It says, “…those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south”. A fitting word for us as Eastwest, situated in rural Waikato, is a place of gathering from the four winds (ngā hau e whā) and then a scattering to serve and to bless the four corners of the globe.
Ko te ringa me te aroha o te Atua to tatou waka! The hand and the love of God is our waka!”