Dordt College News

Bell is changed by his time in Zambia

January 19, 2011

Devin Bell, an agriculture missions major at Dordt College, took his agricultural studies beyond the fields of Iowa and across the Atlantic Ocean when he spent the fall semester studying at Northrise University in Zambia.

In the fall of 2009, Northrise and Dordt signed a partnership agreement with the hopes that students and faculty from both universities could interact with and learn from each other.

Agriculture professor Ronald Vos and theology professor Tom Wolthuis have both taught summer courses at Northrise, and Bell is further cementing that partnership by being the first Dordt student to study at the university.

“Northrise is a great school that has high visions for the future,” explains Bell. “The people here are great, and I am building so many good relationships.”

Northrise was founded in 2004 as a university deeply committed to providing Christ-centered education. It currently offers classes in business and theology, but it also hopes to start an agriculture program in the near future.

In 2008, Northrise’s leadership began to look for models for their agriculture program and happened upon Dordt College in a Google search. In June of 2008, Northrise’s president Dr. Moffat Zimba and other Northrise leaders visited Dordt and “liked what they saw,” says Professor Vos.

“They came back in November that year presenting a partnership proposal,” Vos explains. Because Northrise is a Christian academic institution, the relationship between the two colleges came naturally. After a series of visits to Northrise, the partnership was made official in fall of 2009.

Vos has returned to Northrise two summers in a row to teach a Foundations of Agriculture course. “They have a farm, but no official agriculture program yet,” explains Vos. “I’m there to help build excitement for the program.”

This past summer, Vos took six Dordt College students with him to Northrise to participate in a two-and-a-half-week course titled Service and Learning in Southern Africa. The students spent some time in service opportunities, but the largest objective was to “build relationships with people and learn about and experience the local culture without dominating it,” says Vos.

The students stayed in the homes of Zambian families, worked on the Northrise farm, and interacted with university students.

Hannah Clark, a junior agriculture missions major, explains, “Zambia is a developing country, so to see homeless people or street vendors living on the street was not uncommon.” The biggest difference that Clark noticed, however, was in the way the Zambian people approached their Christianity. “Zambia is declared a Christian nation and people there seem less afraid to express their faith. They were very open and almost immediately asked us our personal testimonies.”

Bell also notes that day-to-day life in Zambia is very different from the United States. He has had to learn how to wash clothes by hand and to boil water before drinking it.

Although Bell is the first student to spend an entire semester studying at Northrise, other students have expressed interest, and Professor Vos hopes that Dordt can send more students next fall. Northrise is also hoping to send several students to Dordt in the fall.

“This is very exciting for me, but it is also very good for Dordt College,” notes Vos. “The summer service and learning course is open to students from other colleges, and this partnership ties in well with Dordt’s plan to develop internationally.”

The partnership is also an invaluable opportunity for students, as Bell points out: “The experience I am having is amazing and life-changing. I would recommend Northrise to anyone who wants to attain a good education in a totally different environment and culture.”

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