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Cross-cultural experiences help Morgan connect with students in and out of classroom


Dr. Janine Morgan teaches courses in Christianity in culture, cultural anthropology, missions and spiritual formation.
Dr. Janine Morgan teaches courses in Christianity in culture, cultural anthropology, missions and spiritual formation.

Students love to stop by Dr. Janine (Paden ’77) Morgan’s office, just to talk about life, faith and ministry.

Jacob Keahey, a senior missions major, is one of those, and it’s no mystery to him why students cherish the opportunity for a visit with Morgan.

“I get a lot of peace being around her,” Keahey said.

Morgan brought that trait to campus in 2012 when she and her husband, Ron (’81), chair of the Department of History and Global Studies, returned to a place they knew well – except for all the new construction on campus.

They had met at ACU in 1981 when both were working on master’s degrees, married and joined an ACU missions team in Brazil.

Before returning to Abilene in 2012, the couple had directed ACU’s semester-in-Oxford program for nine years. The Morgans are world travelers but they were grateful for the opportunity to settle in Abilene – at least for now.

“We’re at that stage in life where I think we’re going to be here awhile,” Janine Morgan said.

That’s quite a change from the life she has lived so far. She describes herself as a “third culture kid,” spending part of her youth in Italy, where her dad was a minister.

She graduated from high school in Albuquerque, spent two gap years in Italy teaching English as a Second Language through a Church of Christ congregation, and came to ACU in the mid-1970s, where she and her roommate were the first two female Bible majors. She laughs now, remembering a professor asking them, “What on earth are you doing, being Bible majors?”

Morgan wanted to be a missionary overseas and eventually was successful. Her varied experiences as “other” gave her a unique perspective, one that is picked up on by her students. Being a Christian in a culture that is not Christian-majority brings challenges, but also brings clarity.

“When you are in the minority,” she said, “your identity is stronger.”

Living in other cultures also taught her lessons that she passes on to her students. Keahey, who has been in Morgan’s classes and also has benefited from her mentoring, spent the summer in Botswana. He fit in with the culture, thanks to what he had picked up on from Morgan. Before long, the people of Botswana paid him the ultimate compliment.

“You are one of us already,” they told him.

Keahey learned from those he served, which endeared him to the people of Botswana. He recalled a story Morgan had related, one that he in turn put into practice.

Morgan told about living in Brazil and having a maid who “was of the wrong social class and ethnic class.” In Brazil, there are two elevators and two doors to every apartment, one for guests and one for servants.

The maid chose to take the service elevator, but Morgan insisted she come through the front door of her apartment, thereby both adapting to cultural norms but breaking them as well to show she valued the woman as an equal.

Keahey took that same perspective with him to Botswana and will take it with him wherever he ends up in the mission field in the future.

No doubt, he and other students will learn a lot more about serving in the mission field under Morgan’s guidance. Before settling at Oxford for nine years as director of ACU’s program there, Janine and Ron Morgan had lived a varied life. After marrying, they joined a missions team from ACU that served in Brazil. Among the team members was Max Lucado (’77), who would become a renowned author in addition to serving as church minister. Morgan helped edit and type Lucado’s first book.

After the Brazil experience, Ron decided he wanted to become a professor and earned a doctorate in history from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He got a job teaching at Biola University, a Christian school, in La Mirada, California.

Janine earned a master’s degree in intercultural studies at Biola in 2002. She started work toward a doctorate in intercultural studies at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena when the opportunity arose to direct the semester-in-Oxford program for ACU.

So the family was off to Oxford, and Janine finished her doctorate from Fuller in 2009 while living there. Now, she is putting that doctorate to use by teaching at ACU.

Because of her background, Morgan has had a lifelong interest in how cultures and Christianity intersect. At ACU, she teaches courses in Christianity in culture, cultural anthropology, missions and spiritual formation. ACU is unique, she said, because it delivers more than just a curriculum that is going to enhance a student’s job opportunity. She gets to help shape students’ purpose in life, as well as preparing them for the workplace. She gets to be a part of their lives.

“I love what I get to do,” Morgan said.

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