The Creation Care Study Program (CCSP) is CEL’s oldest and best know program. For two decades CCSP has been educating tomorrow’s generation of Christian leaders “to be a part of, and agents for, God’s shalom particularly through understanding and caring for creation,” to quote CCSP’s mission statement. This works out to be approximately 1188 students (774 in New Zealand and 414 in Belize), while serving approxmately 25 Christian colleges and universities.
A BRIEF HISTORY of CCSP: In 1993 while studying for his Ph.D. at Biola University, Dr. Chris Elisara was invited to a retreat in the Northern California Sierra Mountains hosted by the Christian Environmental Association (CEA). Founded by Roy and D’Aun Goble and friends, CEA hired Gordon Aeschliman to expand its local church based ministry into a national creation care organization. Inspired by historic Christian student movements, Gordon’s first move was to host a retreat for approximately 20 Christian student leaders to strategize how to propel CEA into a national ministry.
At this retreat two interrelated projects were hatched, the nascent Eden Conservancy—a project to protect Belizean rainforest, and Dr. Elisara’s idea to use the conserved rainforest as a learning lab for creation care. Roy and Gordon were intrigued and asked Dr. Elisara to develop a proposal, and the Global Stewardship Study Program was born.
With help from Dr. Jeff Schloss (Westmont College, CA), Dr. Timothy Peterson (who at the timewas teaching at Malone University, OH), and Dr. David Unander (Eastern University, PA) the program was designed and approved by the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities. Simultaneously the program’s campus–Jaguar Creek–was built in 1995 under the rainforest canopy of Caves Branch in central Belize. Then, with a handful of students, the Global Stewardship Study Program was launched in January 1996.
The program’s first semester was led by Dr. Don and Eva Aeschliman (Gordon’s parents). Thereafter Dr. Chris and Tricia Elisara directed the Belize program until three years later they handed the leadership off to Joel and DeAnn Vermillion. In the spring of 2001 Dr. Chris and Tricia Elisara launched the New Zealand program, which ran for two years as a spring semester program until they handed off the leadership to Dr. Andrew and Dr. Ingrid Shepherd.
CCSP emerged from a difficult transition leaving Jaguar Creek and its parent non-profit, Target Earth, in July 2002. Jaguar Creek holds many fond memories and today hosts PathLight International, an educational ministry developed by Roy and DeAun Goble that continues to expresses their heart for the young people of Belize through teacher training and student support services. Gordon now resides and works in his beloved homeland–South Africa.
In fall 2002 CCSP started hosting the Belize program at Nabitunich in Western Belize. First built for archeologists excavating and studying the Maya ruin of Xunantunich, CCSP would make Nabitunich its home until 2011 when it moved to its majestic new campus on the Macal River just outside of the twin cities of San Ignacio and Santa Elena. Meanwhile in New Zealand CCSP moved from the Great Barrier Island to Kodesh Christian Community in Auckland, then to Living Springs Christian Camp outside of Christchurch, then back to Auckland for a year–including a brief stay that the beautiful coastal town of Piha–before finally nesting into our permanent campus, the Old Convent, in a town that Sperm Whales also call home–Kaikoura.
Today many Christian colleges and universities are furthering their emphasis on global engagement and study abroad experiences. On top of that, many schools are working to make their own campuses more sustainable and incorporating creation care into their curriculum and student life. CCSP is in a unique situation to meet these demands and help students not only study abroad, but to also learn what it means to practice environmental sustainability, community development and social justice.
CCSP 20th ANNIVERSARY REUNIONS 2016: God has been faithful and good to CCSP over the past twenty years! That is worth celebrating, which we will do with “CCSP panache.” We look forward to celebrating this milestone with alumni, faculty, and program friends with an eye towards securing CCSP’s future for the next 20 years.