A Light in the Mountains

by Bradley Alger

Vermont is not known for being a bastion for conservatism or for Bible-based Christianity. However, there is a light in the darkness that God Himself had placed there for the specific purpose of reaching the most unchurched state in the country. In the southern region of the Green Mountain State, nestled in the fairly secluded town of Bennington, the same town that is home to the prestigious Bennington College, exists another educational institution with a mission higher than that of the former, although I, by no means, mean to demean it. Northeastern Baptist College was founded in 2013 by Dr. Mark Ballard with the purpose of reaching the northeast with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to train its students to have, as the motto says, “The mind of a scholar, the heart of a shepherd, and the perseverance of a soldier”.  And, as a current student at NEBC, I can humbly say that they have taught me just that.

Northeastern Baptist College was the third college I had ever attended. I had previously studied Creative Writing at an art school in New Hampshire for a year and then, after that, I had studied English at a university in northern Vermont. During my time at the latter, I had started to fall into some dark sin that took the form of a brown beer bottle and a noose. I had known fairly early on that I wanted to leave that university, but I didn’t know where I wanted to go. I thought and planned on going to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary but I had very little desire to go all the way to Louisville, Kentucky, far from my beloved New England.

It was during one of my darkest moments that I had been told about NEBC, and the very first thing I did once the disbelief that there was a conservative Christian school in Vermont had worn off was apply for admission. That spring break, I had been informed that I had gotten accepted. The next semester, I made the move from northern Vermont to Bennington.

It was a far cry from the previous two schools when I had moved my effects into a dorm that had once been a motel that evidently very popular with Bennington’s homeless community and Long Trail hikers for which they would offer either discounted or entirely free rooms.

When training their students to have the mind of a scholar, they do so by hiring the best of the best they could find in terms of both staff and faculty; people who truly have a call from on high top teach biblical truth in the fields of biblical studies, Christian Counseling, business, and education. The people that teach at NEBC are not there for the money, rather, they are all there for one singular, shared purpose.

As stated before, Northeastern Baptist College specializes in four fields of study; Biblical Studies (Pastoral Ministry and Church Planting), Christian Counseling, Business & Administration, and the most recent addition, Christian Education. Another thing about NEBC that sets it apart from other higher educational institutions is that it offers students the very rare opportunity to graduate essentially debt-free.  This is done through their unique work-study program where the students work for the school in jobs ranging from maintenance and library work to even running the school’s two cafés, The Well and The Hebrews café. If a student is given a work-study assignment, their tuition is effectively paid in full, thus giving them a free education. However, the student still needs to pay in the form of housing, which is often in the form of a simple $75.00 housing deposit with the rest being taken care of by a full housing scholarship or a partial one. In a few rare circumstances, the student may pay for their housing out of pocket or, which is even more rare, their church or family will take care of it. However, if a student lives off campus, than they do not have to pay a single dime for their education which is something our dear brethren on the left have been lobbying towards for quite some time.

NEBC has a unique benefit form being so small (being roughly fifty people including both staff/faculty and students) is that the professors often have a relationship with their students that many larger colleges and universities do not have. The closest thing that it can be compared to is the relationship between Professor Julian Morrow and his students as seen in the novel The Secret History by Donna Tartt (an alumnus from Bennington College, NEBC’s neighboring school) although much less clique-ish and cultic. The close relationship between the professor’s and their students lends itself to the student’s learning, allowing the professors to better encourage, and critique, the students work and developing their gifts and their talents in their respective fields.

The heart of a shepherd is developed and cultivated by the close relationship between staff and student but also the commitment to biblical truth and the belief that everything should be done in love as Christ loved us when we were unworthy of such love.

With such a small student body, tighter bonds between the students form, which is rarely seen at other, larger institutions and this could be compared to more of a familial relationship with a running joke between students and the occasional affiliate with the school being “get a ring before spring or get your money back” developing due to the often large amounts of married couples that oft come out of NEBC.

The final part of NEBC’S motto, the perseverance of a soldier, is developed in a multitude of different ways given the many different students and their many different circumstances. Being a Christian institution in a very secular state, the students at NEBC are chiefly made to persevere through the trials and tribulations from both the world and the Lord of this world.

There are certain adjustments that certain people may need to make when first coming to NEBC. As a former art student, I was used to holding my tongue, perhaps wisely, on certain conservative/Republican topics even though I had never been particularly political. However, when I had come to NEBC, I was free to speak about such things as I wished. However, on the opposite side of the spectrum, I was also the only artistically inclined student there who thought of fiction writing and poetry as something I was still interested in doing as a career. Another thing that I had to get used to was the rare, albeit somewhat irritating, statement that, as a writer and reader of fiction, I surely must have devoured both The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis and The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan and, although I admire C.S. Lewis’s work, I would not call myself a fan of his. But this is all said and good fun and not meant to be a slight on anybody.

Even thought my interests are far from the interests of almost everybody else at any given non-artistic educational institution, my interests were nevertheless encouraged by other people specifically by a small handful of professors and students who were actually interested in fiction. But it is not only b y own selfish interests that received any kind of special treatment. Everyone was encouraged in what they were interested in, obviously as long as it was glorifying to God. Be it music or fiction writing, everyone’s talents were all valued to varying degrees and even used.

NEBC is truly a college like no other. In many ways, it had saved my life, with God putting it in my life in the darkest moment, as He had done for countless others. Being in a dark and cold state such as Vermont, it is clear the Northeastern Baptist College is a light in the cold dark mountains.

Bradley Alger is an aspiring writer and a Christian Counseling student at Northeastern Baptist College and he lives on campus in Bennington, Vermont.

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