A letter from Eric Hinderliter in Lithuania
The empowerment of women
Greetings from Klaipėda, Lithuania. We are back at school, back in the classroom as teachers for our mission partner, LCC International University. You might wonder what we really teach here. Becky is an alumna of Lebanon Valley College (LVC), one of the many good Christian liberal arts colleges in North America. LVC's motto is “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32). Our hope is that we teach more than the narrow subjects from the college catalogue: accounting, economics, and political economy. We hope that our students catch something more, something about how to live a life one has reason to value, how one relates to others, and how one contributes to the common good. And we also hope that students get a glimpse of what the Christian life might look like. We hope we teach the truth.
One of the elements of the Presbyterian World Mission's strategic direction is “Empowerment.” The strategy statement defines empowerment as follows: “We will focus on long-term relationships, building the capacity of each member of the Body of Christ to engage in God’s mission in sustainable ways. We will strive to be aware of issues of power and context as well as the gifts and hopes of others.” The paper goes on to discuss the critical global issues that are thought to be the focus of Presbyterian mission in the coming years. The strategy calls special attention to women and the call to improve their status in society: “Unfair treatment of women remains a major concern to which we as Christians are called to respond.” It is a truism of health promotion that if one wants a healthy child, then invest in the education of the mother; the rest will take care of itself. And in economic development we know that investments in women pay enormous dividends in positive social change.
We thought you might want to learn something of our view of the empowerment of women, how education at LCC builds “the capacity of each member of the Body of Christ to engage in God’s mission in sustainable ways,” one student at a time. Evelina Nosirevaitė, a 2008 graduate of LCC, is from Lithuania. In a recent interview she described her career goals: “Overall, Lithuania needs development in the practices of responsible business. One of the first things to do would be to educate people about the concept and application of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), its benefits to the society... I feel competent and strong enough academically to be a student at a big university, or at any university. Most important, I feel strong in my values and morals and I have to acknowledge LCC‘s high contribution to this. …Overall, Lithuania needs development in the practices of responsible business. One of the first things to do would be to educate people about the concept and application of CSR, its benefits to the society. I do believe that this input would be important, not necessarily by me, [but] by anybody who has understanding about this concept and is eligible to teach it. Why at LCC? Well, because it matches and contributes to LCC's mission of developing servant leaders, because LCC has strong Christian values and CSR has started with religious values and beliefs and has these values rooted beyond its normative description.”
Evelina went on to earn a master’s degree in corporate social responsibility from the University of Nottingham Business School in the United Kingdom last year. When she visited us shortly afterwards she was despairing: “Who will hire me in small country like Lithuania with such a degree called ‘corporate social responsibility'? It’s such an unknown field here.” Things have a way of working toward their intended purpose. Recently Evelina started work with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Lithuania promoting the national corporate social responsibility program. Her tasks include working with private business and the public to advance the double bottom line: profitability and social responsibility. She reports, “I work with the private and public sectors implementing social responsibility and environmental management systems in companies and conduct economic benefit analysis and other activities so that the private sector gains knowledge of CSR and sees the economic benefit of being socially responsible.” Evelina credits her experience at LCC with developing two traits: values and confidence. “My current worldview has been very much impacted by the Christian perspective. The profession I pursued after LCC is based on Christian values; therefore, especially while working with the private sector in Lithuania, I have a chance to share these Christian values.” Outside of work she is involved in her church in Vilnius; next month she plans to volunteer for a week to help out with Rev. Franklin Graham’s crusade, the "Festival of Hope,” to be held in Vilnius. This sense of direction—we call it vocation—has increased her confidence: “I truly believe that my LCC experience helped me grow as a person and pursue my further goals more strongly.”
We are glad to be a small part of Evelina’s story of growth and discovery. Becky and I think one of the most important “things” we teach is vocation: the discovery of the best use of the gifts God has given all of us for the common good. It seems to us that this is what empowerment means. And we are glad to report that we can tell more stories of young women who have discovered their vocation and developed the courage and confidence needed to make their way in the world, doing meaningful work and pointing to a better society. So we are witnesses to these transformations. Our watchword in mission has been the verse we first encountered during our time of discernment in India, “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:23).
Grace & peace
Eric & Becky Hinderliter
The 2011 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 204