In 2008, I left my full-time job at a manufacturing company to pursue “by faith” an evangelistic ministry and the completion of my college degree. I was unsure how I would pay my bills, and less confident about my pursuits in higher education. All I knew was that the Lord placed a fire within me to preach the Gospel and return to college. I returned to college as a degree completion student from New York by enrolling online with a university in Virginia. I was able to carry out ministry assignments throughout China, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic and throughout the U.S. because of the flexibility of my education, all the while completing my bachelor’s degree in religious studies.
There are many stories like mine at FPU. Actually, there are well over 250 stories. Did you know that one third of higher education students now study online? Likewise, that FPU currently serves and educates at least one fully online degree student in New York, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, California and Washington? These students have come due to their call in the Kingdom of God to be equipped for ministries in business, churches, nonprofits, healthcare and other fields.
Adult and online education is not new to FPU. Although Academic Innovation (AI) was originally created to provide leadership and service to online education, our Continuing Education (CE) team has been serving local and distance educators for more than 38 years. FPU has been meeting the needs of more than 10,000 course takers (CE students) in more than 45 states, with the majority in California, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, Missouri, Illinois, New York, Maryland, Nevada, Michigan, Wisconsin, Virginia, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. Also in Canada, China, Colombia, Guam, Japan, Puerto Rico, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Thailand. These students have come to us for retooling and continuous training as part of their teaching and leadership professions.
Most of what we do could not be accomplished without the Center for Online Learning (COL). Each year, our COL team serves more than 100 faculty, develops or refreshes more than 30 courses (currently scheduled for more than 50 courses this year) and meets dozens of faculty requests for media development as well as strategies for innovative teaching and learning in the classroom.
In many ways, the AI team sees education as part of the mission of God. As a Christian university, we find inspiration in the Fresno Pacific Idea to “build and to extend the Kingdom of God by enabling persons to serve church and society.” Jesus declared in a similar way to the disciples, “…Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life…Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:16-20, The MSG). FPU has been serving the church and society for nearly 75 years. The mission of God is alive and well at FPU. Our missional and educational outreach efforts and accomplishments throughout the Central Valley and the rest of the world are humbling.
But God is not done with us. There are more students to serve in the Central Valley, nationally and internationally. I believe that the Lord is inviting us to think strategically about how to serve the growing church worldwide. As we join Dr. Joe’s invitation to pray in the month of April, let us pray for all of our past, current and future online, TUG, CE, graduate, seminary and DC students. The world will be a better place as we serve together to develop laborers for the harvest and mission of God.