Showing posts with label TESTIMONIES. Show all posts
Showing posts with label TESTIMONIES. Show all posts

Thursday 24 September 2020

Historically Black college welcomes white pastor with passion for racial justice

When Chris Caldwell thinks about student housing and food services, his pondering goes deeper than the mere campus amenities that concern administrators at most colleges.

“We have many students who are insecure in terms of their housing, and we have significant problems with food insecurity,” said Caldwell, vice president for academic affairs at Simmons College of Kentucky. At Simmons, a historically Black institution in Louisville, it is not uncommon to hear of students sleeping in their cars, he noted. “We try to do everything we can to try to help with those situations.”

Some students are single parents, so the housing situation for them is even more complex. Since Simmons has limited college-owned housing, it looks to various community resources to aid students in their search for a decent place to live.

Like most schools, Simmons stresses the importance of class attendance. Yet its leaders know students can be present but too hungry to pay attention. “We work hard at feeding our students during the day so they can focus on class,” Caldwell said.

While not all Simmons’ students come from dire circumstances, most come from impoverished backgrounds they are seeking to transcend. This is a key part of Simmons’ mission, and its leaders believe Historically Black Colleges and Universities, like Simmons, are uniquely positioned to empower all segments of the African American community.

From a tall-steeple white church to Simmons

Caldwell, who is white, came to Simmons as a part-time professor in 2015 and moved to full-time status in 2017. He had been pastor of Louisville’s Broadway Baptist Church, a congregation situated in an affluent neighborhood eight miles across town from Simmons. He assumed his vice-presidential role in 2018.

An academic vocation was not a novel idea for Caldwell. As he finished his doctorate in New Testament at Baylor University in 1997, he was considering a career in either the classroom or the pastorate. An address by former President Jimmy Carter at Baylor helped him choose parish ministry. “He talked about his post-presidential period and how he had been guided by a pretty simple concept,” Caldwell said. “He went where he was needed.

“I thought about that and prayed about that and at that point, there were a hundred people lined up for every job in the academic world,” he recalled. He sensed he could make a larger contribution by serving moderate Baptist congregations that were “seeking to navigate the waters of those times.”

It was an era when many moderate congregations had either recently left or loosened their ties to the Southern Baptist Convention because of its far rightward shift. Caldwell has no regrets serving in congregational ministry and would “absolutely do it all over again.”

Racial justice observed as a child

However, when he decided to follow his calling to Simmons, it was a step in a long journey of interest in racial justice that began when he was a child in the 1970s. Growing up in a northern suburb of Nashville, he frequently heard racist epithets and lived on a street where a cross was burned on the lawn of an African American family. He did not forget the anguish he felt, and it helped spur him to engage in interracial work as a pastor.

His energies became more focused in 2015 when pastors from predominantly white East Louisville started meeting weekly with pastors from predominantly Black West Louisville. The group, known as Empower West, “put some wheels on the vehicle when it came to the passion I had,” he explained.

“It gave me an opportunity to learn a lot,” he continued. “I had given thought to a lot of those issues but basically from a white perspective.” He and other white pastors began reading books written by Black intellectuals and learning more about the structural injustices encountered by Black people, such as the wide wealth gap that separates white and Black Americans. They began sharing their knowledge with their church members and inviting them to greater interracial involvement.

Through Empower West, Caldwell learned more about Simmons College, an institution founded in 1879 by former slaves. While it eventually became a comprehensive university, it ran into financial difficulties during the Great Depression and sold its property to the University of Louisville. The campus became the home of Louisville Municipal College, the arm of the university that served Black students during the days of segregation. Simmons continued to hold classes on the campus but limited its course offerings to theological studies. After U of L integrated in the 1950s, Simmons moved to a new location and became known as Simmons Bible College.

Season of growth at Simmons

Kevin Cosby, senior pastor of St. Stephen Baptist Church in Louisville, was elected president of the school in 2005 and began to greatly expand the curriculum. Simmons now offers bachelor’s degrees in business entrepreneurship, cross-cultural communication, music, sociology, and religious studies. It also reacquired and moved to the property it had sold to U of L. Under Cosby’s leadership, Simmons gained accreditation by the Association of Biblical Higher Education and recognition from the U.S. Department of Education as the nation’s 107th Historically Black College and University.

Asked why HBCUs remain important, Caldwell said they provide students “ethnic armor,” a term he said Cosby often uses. “We pass along the skills for students to be successful and thrive in the dominant white culture, but we also pass along the intellectual and academic traditions of the African American community,” he said.

Simmons students live in a city where feelings of anger and alienation now permeate the African American population due in part to the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, on March 13. For months, protesters have taken to the streets demanding the officers involved be charged.

The city’s housing patterns have helped inflame racial tensions, Caldwell said. “Louisville is a very segregated city. It is one of the most segregated cities in the United States, but it is not an outlier by any stretch.”

While much racial justice work needs to be done in Louisville a
nd elsewhere, Caldwell sees Simmons as an example of empowerment that can help society move toward racial equity.

Motivating students to be “agents of change” is a priority at Simmons, Caldwell said. “We are trying to help students make their life situations better, but also to remember they have a calling to reach back and bring others along.”

While some Simmons students are “academic rock stars,” most come to Simmons “woefully underprepared,” he said. Yet he emphasizes when a student demonstrates potential Simmons is determined to help them achieve. “We don’t lower the bar,” he said. “We show them where the bar is and help them get there.”

Colleges and universities typically gain prestige by touting the sterling academic credentials of the students they attract. Yet Caldwell measures academic quality by a different standard.

“The measure of excellence of a school is not what kind of students you attract but how far the student travels in four years under your tutelage,” he declared. “And by that measure, you can make a case that Simmons is the best college in the state.”

Friday 28 August 2020

The Testimony of Sami Herscu

Sami Herscu

Sami was born in 1915 to a Jewish family in Romania. His father was killed in WWI when Sami was just 4 years old. His mother, who couldn't provide for her 4 children alone, sent Sami, by train, on his own with only a small suitcase, to another town to learn a trade. Sami, who was only 9 yrs. Old, suffered from great loneliness and cried a lot. The owner of the place where he stayed sent Sami to Bucharest. Because Sami had no address to go to and didn't know how to ask for help, he lived in the streets and worked on odd jobs, eating from the food thrown away in the marketplace.

Later on, Sami would tell his story and relate that even though he was alone, he knew Someone up above was watching him and cared for him. "For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways." Psalm 91:11. "Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven." Matthew 18:10 And sure enough, one day a friend of his older brother's found Sami and took him back home. 

This same friend, together with Sami's brother, had attended Richard Wurmbrand's gospel meetings, and both came to saving faith in Yeshua the Messiah. At some point, they took Sami along with them, and he too was saved at 17! When Sami shared his faith with his mother, she, like many other Jewish parents, disowned him. It was a price that many Jewish believers had to pay. 

Sami married at 27 yrs. old. His wife, who was 18 yrs. old was from an ultra-orthodox Jewish family, and she too came to faith at Richard Wurmbrand's meetings and was disowned by her family. During WW2 Sami was sent to a labor camp, but he somehow escaped. During the entire period of the war, both Sami and his wife had to hide from the Germans and informers.

After the war, Romania became communist, and Sami, who was a good tradesman and had 'hands of gold', provided for his wife and six children in relative providence. Sami had a shop for spare parts. He did not forget his years of want, however, and was generous especially to those who were needy. The communist government did not like to see Sami do well and tried many ways of harming his business. After many unsuccessful attempts, they sent Sami to prison for 3 years, for handling foreign currency. Twice Sami and his family tried to escape communist Romania, but they were caught. The third time they tried, God opened the door for them, and miraculously they crossed the border into Hungary, then into Rome, and lastly arriving in Israel in 1961.

In Israel, Sami worked as a confectioner in Nazareth Ilit and later in Tel Aviv. He was forced to change his working place more than once because when religious Jews found out he was a Messianic Jew and believed in Yeshua (Jesus), they would fire him. In those days, the believers in the Land were few, and many were Romanian Jews. They used to gather in home groups and also in Sami's home in Nazareth Ilit. 

Finally, Sami and his wife moved to Haifa and lived in the Ebenezer Home’s housing. They belonged to the Beit Eliahu congregation. A few months after Sami and his wife moved into the Ebenezer Senior Citizen’s Home, his wife passed away. Sami spent a fifth of his life in the Ebenezer Home (almost 20 years) and passed away at the ripe old age of 96.

Like many in the Ebenezer Senior Citizen’s Home, Sami could find rest and care among the other believers. Although many have paid a high price for their faith and following Yeshua, they don't regret it, remembering the much greater sacrifice that our Lord paid for us! They understand that their reward is eternal and that they will be rewarded for following our Lord - no matter the price!

"And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life." Matthew 19:29

Submitted by D. Phillips, Project Manager of the Ebenezer Senior Citizen’s Home–Haifa, the only senior citizen’s home in all of Israel, where both the staff and residents are born again believers in Yeshua the Messiah. To learn more about the Ebenezer Senior Citizen’s Home ministry and the work that we do, please visit us at

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