GOING BACK TO SCHOOL AS CHRISTIAN TEACHERS, IS IT STILL POSSIBLE?
For international schools, the pandemic offered new opportunities for public witness around the world. It also resulted in staff shortages and unpredictable enrollment.
Andrea Dugan, the superintendent of Mountainview Christian School in Indonesia, was on vacation last year when she found out from a local newspaper that one of her students was hospitalized with a suspected case of COVID-19, among the first in the area.
She returned home to Indonesia to extend the school’s quarter break before eventually making the call for her 210 students to go virtual for the remainder of the semester, just days before the Indonesian government closed all schools. Virtual learning continued through the 2020–2021 school year, with just four in-person weeks in the spring before rising cases sent them back to the screens.
From March to May, she remembers feeling “flooded with adrenaline” as she kept up with local government orders and ran the school while also ensuring her own children learned online.
“We’re the international school,” she said. “We’re going to be seen. Whatever we do, people are going to know.” For Dugan, leading a Christian international school meant that following government orders and strict COVID-19 protocols with integrity mattered not just for safety but as a witness to the local community.
Even though I have teachers intending to join my staff come August, I’
International Christian schools typically cater to a mix of missionaries, diplomats, large corporations, and locals who want a Christian—and typically Western—education
COVID-19 safety as Christian witness
Dugan and her family have been planning a trip back to the United States, a six-month furlough to their home state of Minnesota, but now she’s worried the limited visas could affect their reentry and is anxious to step away from the school during such an uncertain season.
She’s been in Indonesia for the past nine years and knows that if she wants to continue to serve long-term, a break is necessary after a year when leadership has felt like “walking through mud.”
“If you’re the chief motivator and you don’t feel like doing your job, how do you deal with that?” he asked. “The pressure on leaders in these schools right now is tremendous and it’s very tiring and they have to lead somehow.”
At international Christian schools, staff feel a particular obligation to meet the pivots and pressures of the pandemic and care well for their communities. They see their work in Christian education as part of their testimony, particularly in places where the church is in the minority or underground.
“It’s so hard to ask more from your people than you would ever want to have to ask. … But I think as believers, we want to be promise keepers,” said the head of an international school in Russia that works with families from several large corporations. “As a Christian school, if you’ve contracted services, we’re going to provide them.”
At her school, online learning has presented a unique opportunity for parents who might not be Christians to watch chapel services and hear Bible classes taught in their native language with their children.