Trinity fall graduates prepare to make a global impact

Trinity CommunicationsDecember 17, 2017

While serving in the Soviet military, Andrey Kravtsev received the gift of a New Testament.

His reading and some conversations with a Christian soldier ultimately led to his conversion, his graduation from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and a plan to evangelize the North Caucasus region of Russia.

Kravtsev earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in intercultural studies, one of 83 graduates who received degrees during fall commencement Dec. 15 for Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS) and Trinity Graduate School (TGS).

According to the Operation World Prayer Guide, the mountainous North Caucasus region ranks among the least evangelized areas of Europe. Apart from his time away studying at TEDS, Kravtsev has worked in that region since 2001, serving as a theology professor and then as president of North Caucasus Bible Institute.

After graduation, he plans to return to teach missions, work with church planting, and mobilize local Christians for outreach to their neighbors. Originally from Ukraine, Kravtsev’s dissertation at TEDS focuses on mission theology, and is titled “Russian Baptist Mission Theology in Historical and Contemporary Perspective.” TEDS awarded him the David and Sylvia Bacon Memorial Award, which goes each year to a deserving international student returning to his or her homeland.

Xiubin Zhang came to Trinity in 2006, and completed a Master of Divinity in 2009. In 2011, after he began doctoral work, his wife Lijuan was diagnosed with breast cancer. The cancer returned in 2014. Through chemotherapy treatments, Zhang said his three daughters, and “brothers and sisters from church and Trinity community” have supported Lijuan’s battle with the disease as Xiubin completed requirements for a Doctor of Philosophy in theological studies.

“Over the years we have experienced that our God is faithful,” Zhang said, “and his grace is enough for us in whatever circumstances.”

Morgan Elzinga completed a Master of Arts in Leadership, graduating summa cum laude. Elzinga, who also received a bachelor’s degree from Trinity in 2015, spent six months in rural Zambia to work with a sports ministry organization. She developed a girls’ soccer program there and trained coaches. Upon her return to the United States in 2016, she helped with the women’s soccer program at Trinity as she pursued her graduate degree.

Irene Sun finished her academic work this fall for a Master of Theology degree in Old Testament. Her husband, Hans Sun, completed his Doctor of Philosophy in theological studies earlier this year but deferred participation in spring graduation so he and his wife could graduate the same day. Irene says her husband worked hard to enable the couple’s special graduation night.

“I am so grateful for all the sacrifices he made this semester so I could study,” Irene Sun said. “He home-schooled our three boys, and gave me 10 weeks to hide in the library – a gift more precious than diamonds!”

Seven graduates completed TGS Master of Arts degrees, including four in bioethics and three in leadership. Among the TEDS graduates, 65 completed master’s degrees, nine graduated from doctoral programs, and two earned a Certificate of Christian Studies.

The fall commencement speaker was Colin Smith, senior pastor at The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in Arlington Heights. His address, from Mark 6:30-44, focused on Jesus feeding the 5,000. Smith spoke of how the disciples had to run from a point of serving hungry crowds to a point where Jesus gave them more bread.

“The disciples acted as runners for Jesus,” Smith said. “That is a wonderful picture of ministry. That’s what your life is going to be. Christ gives you the bread to set before the people. You receive from Christ as you walk with Christ. And when you come to Christ, you will never find his hands empty.”

Although Trinity only confers graduate-level degrees at fall graduation, 31 undergraduate students completed requirements for their degrees and will take part in spring commencement ceremonies next May.

Among those undergraduates is John Tyler, who will report to a teaching position at the Tarkenton School of Excellence in Chicago. Tyler did his clinical practice teaching at the school, and the staff moved to hire him immediately after graduation.

“The particular school that I asked to be placed at is an Academy of Urban School Leadership school and hence a training school for innovators of urban education,” Tyler said. “I knew from early on that I wanted to work in Chicago Public Schools.”

Commencement marks the completion of Trinity’s fall semester. Classes for the spring semester will begin Jan. 10.

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