Friday, January 11, 2013

Dwight and Emma and a place called MBI



One day, on eBay, I found this silver key charm from 1915. Because I love history and all things vintage, from time to time, I do an online search for items that are related to Moody Bible Institute. This charm belonged to at student named Myron Griswold - and asked to be returned if lost...for a reward!

As I walked to my Chicago office, Myron's charm on a chain around my neck, I smiled. This little bit of history was going back to the right place, a place where I have worked since 1990. Funny how things come full circle.

I work at Moody Bible Institute because I love my job - I teach writing to college students who are driven to change the world for good. I help them learn to tell their stories and articulate their faith. They are hopeful, sometimes naive, but always determined that they can make a difference.

I also work there because I believe in the purpose and history of this unique and important Chicago institution  The college, located in the center of downtown, is a century-old bastion of Bible education. The school began in the late 1800s with the specific intent of training men and women in Bible and practical ministry.

Turn-of-the-century Chicago was a rough place. If you've read Devil in the White City or Sin and the Second City, you can imagine the problems. A huge wave of immigration had increased the city's size, but also the number of destitute families. Industrialization had brought jobs, but also child labor problems and harsh work environments. Women arriving in the city looking for work were often caught up in sex trafficking. The skyscrapers were rising and casting shadows on the sewage-filled city streets.

Into this place of need and vice, a young East coast evangelist came. He was bold and charming, not particularly educated, but spoke confidently and preached well. He attracted masses of listeners. He was not wealthy and not schooled, but he had a burden for orphans and street children. He started a Sunday School and invited in all the children who would ordinarily not darken the doorstep of a church. His ministry grew.


He met a woman, Emma Dryer, who was a single, school teacher from the East. She was training other teachers in Normal, Illinois, at the newly built university. She also felt called by God to do something different with her life. He challenged her: "Teaching is okay for some people," he told her. "But you can do more..."

She did. Moody and Dryer started a school - a training school for men and women. She took a map of Chicago and drew a grid upon it. She organized workers to visit every home in the rough and tumble city. They handed out Bibles and started classes to train immigrants with home and work skills.


A portly, uneducated man. A single female teacher. Together they started something grand.

Moody Bible Institute still stands today. The college and seminary, now located in three states, has trained thousands of young men and women to work as relief workers, teachers, preachers, missionaries, linguists and musicians. Our students have left for every country - going where they are needed.


D.L. Moody wanted to make sure that students would attend regardless of their ability to pay - and that tradition continues today. Tuition is paid for by donors at the Chicago undergraduate campus.


What a legacy these two ordinary people left behind.
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