Teaser for ALEA Conference, “Christ, Conscience, and the Curriculum: ALEA Schools in Mission”

Day 1 of the conference will feature David Begbie of Crossroads as our first keynote speaker.  Here’s David (on the left) at Crossroads’ Silk Road Cafe enjoying coffee with service learning pioneer and University of Massachusetts professor, Dwight Giles.

Dear Conference Attendees and Other Viewers,

Thanks for your interest in the upcoming Asian Lutheran Education Conference to be held in Hong Kong, October 21-22, 2011.  The theme of the conference, Christ, Conscience, and the Curriculum: ALEA Schools in Mission,” is one that I find deeply meaningful on a personal level as well as a powerful strategy to reach out to students.  I hope that you, too, will find the topic relevant to your life and work.

I want to mention one highlight of the conference before sharing our teaser. Day 1 off the conference will be held at the newly refurbished Concordia Lutheran Yau Yat Chuen secondary school campus in Kowloon.  To kick off the conference, the dynamic David Begbie, the public face of Crossroads International, will be our first keynote speaker.  Following his presentation, David will lead us in a highly effective poverty simulation (pictured above).

David’s speech will be characteristically entertaining and inspiring, and the simulation will set the appropriate experiential learning tone of the conference.  I took the lead-off picture above of David this summer, as we enjoyed coffee at their Silk Road Cafe.

My HKIS colleague, Mike Kersten (middle of picture), and myself have been writing a booklet this summer that will accompany the conference.  We are nearing completion of the text, and are working with a friend and former colleague, Amy Vlastelica, to create a product that will be visually inviting.

However, we wanted to share a teaser for the conference, so you will find a portion of chapter 1 below.  We hope that you will find the approach of interest, and that you will join us in Hong Kong for the conference!

For a general overview of the conference, see the “Christ, Conscience, and the Curriculum” Conference Flyer.  For a more a detailed conference schedule, hit this link.  To register for the conference, scroll down the ALEA website for the registration packet.

Chapter 1: Introducing Social Conscience Education as a 21st Century Approach to Ministry


The oft-quoted insight that the Chinese word for “crisis” is a combination of two characters – “danger” () and “opportunity” () – is an apt description of Asia in the early 21st century.  In terms of opportunity, we thrill to live in the “Pacific Century” as a dynamic Asia visibly assumes a greater share of global responsibility.  Yet our enthusiasm cannot help but be tempered by daily news of rising food prices, famine, oil shortages, economic ruin, terrorism, climate change, nuclear threats, and a litany of other concerns.  Living and serving in Asia in this historical moment, we think you would agree, is both exciting and daunting.

If you are like us, you are attending this conference because deep in your soul you believe that to address this “crisis” (危機), we need an educational ministry that is both academically dynamic and spiritually nourishing.  And there might be no better place on earth for such a practice to thrive.  Education is traditionally accorded high value in this part of the world and the vibrant diversity of religious traditions in Asia makes conversations of the spirit readily available.

Accordingly, the mission of ALEA is to take this dual Asian heritage – a deep respect for learning and a reverence for the spiritual dimension of life – and synthesize it with Christ’s ringing directive to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Therefore, with one pedagogical eye on the state of the planet and the other on the needs of our students, we have been seeking to realize ALEA’s mission in our daily classroom experience.  This spiritual journey has led us as two Lutheran teachers in Hong Kong to integrate our faith life, reading of the Gospels, intellectual pursuits, passion for service, and love of Asian culture and language into a single piece.  These various threads have become knit together into a practice that we call social conscience education.  In this book we share what this concept means for us as ALEA educators with the hope that it will inspire and equip us to love “in action and in truth” (I John 3:18).

What is Social Conscience?

When we hear the word “conscience”, many people might think of that little voice inside your head that guides your moral decision-making.  For a Christian, this conscience is guided by an indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies and transforms us into the likeness of Christ.  If we add “social” to “conscience,” then we have God’s Spirit working through us in society.

When asked, our students at Hong Kong International School (HKIS) have a strong sense that society is not going in the right direction.  They want to learn more about the world, and get involved to make a difference.  For most students, their motivation is not specifically Christian; they simply want to improve the world and make it a more humane place for themselves and others.  As Christian teachers, their desire to make a difference provides an opening for God’s Spirit to work in their hearts and within society at large.  Students themselves acknowledge that individualism and self-centeredness are at the root of problems facing Asian societies.  As Christian teachers, we have an opportunity to work side by side with students, explore these moral questions, and offer the Christian message of hope that begins in the present and extends into eternity.

To begin this booklet, we will start with a definition of social conscience that emerged from Marty’s research with HKIS students and teachers.  Through interviewing students and teachers and reading students’ essays, social conscience was defined as “a personal consideration of one’s role and responsibility in society in the context of an emotionally-engaged understanding of the world.”  This definition suggests that students are hungering to find their place in the world.  Who better than Christian educators, who are following the lead of Jesus, the Author and Perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), to help students come to an understanding of their place in God’s world?

*     *     *     *

Thanks for reading the excerpt, and we hope you join us for the conference in October.


Marty Schmidt


About martinschmidtinasia

I have served as a humanities teacher at Hong Kong International School since 1990, teaching history, English, and religion courses. Since the mid-1990's I have also come to assume responsibility for many of the school's service learning initiatives. My position also included human care ministry with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in Hong Kong, southern China, and others parts of Asia from 1999-2014. Bringing my affluent students into contact with people served by the LCMS in Asia has proved to be beneficial to students and our community partners alike. Through these experience I have become committed to social conscience education, which gives students the opportunity to find their place in society in the context of challenging global realities.
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