As many have heard me say, my first visit to Hong Kong was in 1980 following an international congress in Thailand, organized by the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, for whom I'd become the Senior Associate for Large Cities. But I was also Professor and Dean Elect, of Northern Seminary in Chicago, and a respected colleague had told me about a phenomenal young HK leader, and that I should recruit him for our urban theological studies program in Chicago.
That fall, David Ngai came to study with us, and following his graduation we began collaborating on a vision for HK, the cities of China, and all of Asia. Year after year I came, and the network of those sharing our Kingdom Agenda, resonated with many. That vision led us in 1990 to inaugurate and convene the Pacific Rim Think Tank, first in Hong Kong. Not long after that, my friend, Dr. Carver Yu, then Dean at CGST, nominated Pastor Phillip Tang to come into our doctoral program, during which he translated my book "A Theology as Big as the City" into Chinese, and secured China Alliance Press to publish it. Church and mission leaders like Dr Fai Luk, Thomas Wang and Philemon Choi, both refreshed my soul, and stretched my vision every time I met them over 30 years.
Then, 18 months ago, when the Bakke Graduate University Board announced they might close, The Board of BGU (HK) accepted the gracious offer of Dr Fai Luk, President of Bethel Bible Seminary (BBS), to establish the Ray Bakke Centre for Urban Transformation (RBC) under Bethel Bible Seminary to continue the very same doctoral programs which had already blessed dozens of students in HK, China and urban Asia the previous decade. In June of 2012, it was my privilege to meet with friends old and new, at Bethel for the public dedication of RBC.
The first task was to secure a way to allow the existing students to continue their studies, and I will tell you that was a challenge both financially and structurally. Some folks made loans to guarantee that these students could continue. Secondly, all year long, Dr. Natalie Chan and Dr. Annisa Wong worked as Director of RBC and Head of Practical Theology Department of BBS, with President Fai Luk, to oversee the academic transition, so that the combined resources of the BBS and RBC, could continue to offer the same US Government Department of Education Accreditation that BGU offered in Seattle.
Most schools have up to 10 years to prepare for an Accreditation Review, culminating with the final visit of the accrediting body, in which they must be prepared to allow every file folder on every course, every financial report, and any student records, to be thoroughly examined, and any or all staff to be interviewed. And before they come on sight, the Bethel/Bakke team had to send a written report summarizing and documenting everything they could examine. It is daunting in every case, but imagine doing it all in the very first year that you are setting up, even inventing the very systems that will be examined, and all the while you are teaching classes with existing masters and doctoral students, trying to recruit new students, and also raise funds to support the advancement of RBCso it can continue to expand.
Meanwhile, the existing students, Natalie and Annisa took a plunge into the Middle East with me and two US colleagues last October, and did the annual spring plunge into China with President Fai Luk in April without missing a beat. By now also, the former Board of BGU(HK), has transitioned to become the Executive Committee of RBC legally, and the personal loans are being repaid.
So, in little over a month, when I return to Hong Kong both to teach a course, and to speak at graduation, it will be with joy that we join together with thanks to God, and our heroic colleagues, Fai, Natalie and Annisa, to celebrate what has been accomplished.
God's peace, and my thanks to our whole team!
4/16/2013 at Seattle