New exhibits and user-friendly interactive displays that focus on world affairs and global Christianity beckon visitors to the Global Center in Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School.
A recently completed three-year renovation project gives the Center many enhanced features that will prove helpful to students and others interested in global Christianity in the 21st century.
Whether it’s an obscure fact about a long-ago Christian martyr, or the current political climate in a modern-day hot spot, the information is likely either included on a wall display or accessible on a website on one of the Center’s computers.
A goal of the renovation, says Center director Dr. Mark Elliott, is to highlight personal dimensions of the growth of the church worldwide and the missionary effort supporting it.
“For example, the new wall murals featuring enlarged photographs and quotations of 25 missionaries are meant not only to inform, but to inspire and even provoke us to stir from our complacency,” said Elliott, who joined the Beeson faculty as Center director in 1999.
The displays highlight missionaries whose lives and work span five continents and eight centuries. They range from the earliest, St. John Chrysostom (347-407), who was a missionary in the Roman Empire, to Tokunboh Adeyemo (1944- ), who serves in Nigeria.
Additional displays honor a half-dozen Christian martyrs of the 20th century, one representing each inhabited continent. The six--Dietrich Bonhoeffer, May Hayman, Bishop Haik Hovsepian-Mehr, Archbishop Janani Luwum, Romulo Saune and Bill Wallace--are also honored in sculptured busts in the Divinity School’s A. Gerow Hodges Chapel.
Each will be honored in a series of chapel services during the next two years. The series was inaugurated in November with a lecture by Ugandan Archbishop Henry Luke Orambi in honor of his mentor and predecessor, Archbishop Luwum. The next lecture, on April 5, will be presented by Rev. Robak Hovsepian-Mehr, brother of the late Bishop Hovsepian-Mehr.
Other displays feature memorabilia from the lives of celebrated missionaries Lottie Moon, Peter Deyneka, Sr., Pandita Ramabai and Carl Whirley, a Samford graduate who served many decades in Nigeria.
Informational exhibits on 21st century trends in global Christianity illustrate the newest chapter in Christian history, which, according to exhibit text, is expected to be the story of “a multi-hued majority of believers south and east of the church’s former North Atlantic center of gravity.”
The exhibits also highlight the growth of Christian renewal movements associated with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the rise of Christianity among the world’s poorest peoples, the large numbers of Christians who continue to lose their lives for their faith each year, and the impact that 21st century information technology will have on Christian endeavors.
CD-Roms and subscription-only Websites unique to the Global Center offer a variety of information sources.
Anyone wanting to know the proper way to greet a new acquaintance--or conversation topics to avoid--in any of 167 countries can tap into the Center’s CultureGrams CD-Rom.
“It can save a short-term missionary a lot of grief,” observes Elliott. Being armed with the proper knowledge, he said, can be a “safety valve” for any traveler who wants to avoid saying or doing the wrong thing in a different culture.
A CountryWatch/Country Wire program offers newspapers from around the world. “This is especially useful for people wanting to research the smaller countries,” said Elliott, noting, as an example, that most libraries don’t have online access to Papua New Guinea’s daily newspaper.
The six-foot diameter globe that has fascinated visitors of all ages since the Global Center was opened in 1995 remains on display, as does the population clock that shows the net global growth per second, births minus deaths.
The Global Center is open weekdays, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Church and school groups are welcome.