This summer, twenty-eight elementary school teachers from China stayed on the campus of Johnson University and completed the Master of Arts in Educational Technology. The students came from four different institutions: fourteen students came from Zhengzhou Metropolitan Educational Bureau; one came from No. 2 Middle School; six came from Henan Institute of Education; and seven came from No. 47 Middle School.
Chris Templar (Director of International Teacher Education, TN) was a main sponsor for the group, but many others entertained and drove the students, including Melissa Abernathy, Jeff Bond, Hope and Matt Hixson, Lila Holt, Duan Hua, Karla Hunt, Anna and Tony Krug, Gary and Janis Weedman, Tim Wingfield, and Clay Young.
Most of the students arrived in Knoxville at night, but six of them arrived at the Nashville airport because one travel agent in China confused Knoxville with Nashville. A bus was sent from campus to pick them up. The next day they made the first of their weekly trips to Walmart where the Chinese teachers stocked up with so many eggs and vegetables that it was hard to fit them and the food in the bus.
The students took four classes during the summer: Digital Video, Old Testament Hebrew History, First Century Eastern Mediterranean Literature, and Ethics. The students worked very hard, and all received As and Bs in their classes.
Every Sunday, all the Chinese students visited a local church. They were intrigued by crosses and counted the number of crosses at each church. At Dollywood, they saw a beautiful glass cross that they would like to have taken home with them, but they were afraid it was too fragile. As a result of this interest, three wood carvers at Gap Creek Christian Church made twenty-eight crosses, which were presented to them at the last service. The Chinese teachers were thrilled with their crosses.
Different churches welcomed them in different ways. Laurel Church of Christ and Gap Creek Christian Church provided them with a meal, Woodlawn Christian Church gave them a gift certificate to Chick-fil-a that paid for their lunch the following Saturday, and Seymour Heights Christian Church provided refreshments before the service. People were very warm in their welcome of the Chinese students, coming up and speaking to them and making them feel at home.
The students also enjoyed sightseeing and social activities every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Tony Krug (Professor of Educational Technology, TN) planned the activities and helped implement them each weekend. Attractions visited by the students included Rainforest Adventures, Tanger Outlet, Sequoyah Birthplace Museum, Cades Cove, Dollywood, Bush’s Beans Museum, Clingman’s Dome, and the Biblical Times Dinner Theater.
The group also enjoyed watching videos about the Bible. During the Bible classes, Dr. Templar showed two videos a week, and although attendance was voluntary, almost everyone came each time. On two Sunday nights, they watched Jesus and Son of God while they ate pizza. During the summer, one student was baptized into Christ.
Fifteen of the students completed a survey about their experience at Johnson. Many of them commented on the physical beauty of the campus and the friendliness of the people. They developed a deep appreciation for the Bible and its stories. They enjoyed traveling around Knoxville, and they especially enjoyed the visits to different homes.
The students prepared for the graduation ceremony at Dr. Templar’s home. Summer Commencement was held in the Alumni Memorial Chapel on Sunday, August 17. During the service, Nancy and Morely spoke about their appreciation for their experiences at Johnson University, Grace performed a traditional Chinese dance, and the group sang a traditional farewell song.
With many tears, the Chinese teachers left to return home on August 19. Dr. Templar has received emails from every one of them telling of their safe arrival, how much their lives have been changed by being at Johnson University, and how much they miss their friends at the university.