Speaking with a board member a few days ago, we agreed that in our lifetimes, we had not seen a year like 2020. Chaotic politics, civil protests across the nation, a viral pandemic, a record-setting wildfire season, and an intimidating hurricane season have combined to make 2020 a year we would rather forget. But instead it is ingrained in our minds.
2020 has been a perfect storm of problems, yet even as we begin to lose hope, there is still light. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus responds to a grieving synagogue official by saying, “Do not be afraid any longer, only believe.” Problems come on a moment-by-moment basis, and when they do, Jesus tells us not to fear, but believe. That is my message to you today: do not fear, but believe.
The summer of 2020 at YTI was a success, in spite of COVID-19. Over 500 people have viewed our Gilhousen lectures online or in-person. Drs. Drever, Fowler, Winn, and Millhouse did a fine job of presenting academic material to a primarily lay person audience. This year’s lectures were focused on the New Testament or the early church. Next year, we are planning on bringing in speakers who are Old Testament scholars. We will be offering a full slate of classes in July 2021, as well.
Enrollment in our Bellingham, Washington, cohort is growing, thanks in part to our friends at Hillcrest Church. All of our faculty have been reaching out in Montana, from Billings to Great Falls to Missoula. Most of these connections have been through pastors in each of these communities. Schools, dealing with COVID-19, are suspending all outside vendors from coming to campus at this time. Nevertheless, students are finding our low tuition and willingness to provide online education as positives. Potential student inquiries are at an all-time high, and applications continue to come from as far away as Wichita, Kansas and Ashland, Kentucky.
The YTI Board voted to move forward with development of our property on South 19th. Our architects are working hard on plan revisions. Additionally, we are entering into a joint venture agreement with a prominent developer to begin work on the southern portion of our property. This development will have a variety of housing options, a multi-family complex, a small retail section, plenty of park space, and some seriously needed student housing. We are enthusiastic about what this partnership will bring to YTI in the future.
A Team Effort!
Finally, I want to brag on the faculty and staff a bit. Our current group is doing a fantastic job of teaching, recruiting, and managing our various programs. Our Director of Operations, Melissa Smith, has done an admirable job of connecting with our community arts partners, arranging meetings and keeping our “boat afloat!” Kim Treat and Brett Desper have been diligently making sure that our Populi© academic management software is up and running for our students and faculty, while simultaneously keeping up with student recruiting, advising, and technology set-ups. Matt and Kathryn Green (aka “The Green Team”) have been on top of our website changes and fixes, as well as keeping up with our social media and brochure demands. Our student workers, Hannah Smith and Kristina Dahinden, have been organizing our library and working with our various marketing initiatives. Eric Young, our Western Washington recruiter, has worked hard on getting potential students into our Washington and Bozeman classes. Jim Keena, Derry Long, and Ashley Denton have been meeting with local pastors on a weekly basis, introducing them to YTI and explaining our programs – not to mention teaching! They are well deserving of this hardy thank you!
In closing, I would ask that each of you breathe, pray, and trust God during this difficult time. Find the time where you can turn off the television, take a walk and let God’s peace, which passes all understanding, flow into your heart.
Dr. Jay Smith, President
Bridger Professor of Theology & Ethics