Tennessee Bible College’s African students may never set foot on the Cookeville campus. But they’ll see the walls of its classrooms.

Through a computer screen, that is.

They’ll also see some of their classmates and instructors, as well as TBC President David Hill. Have conversations, too.

Hill is just getting started on what is expected to be a monthly “Visit with the President” using Zoom video conferencing technology. In early February, he initiated a call with several students, including Ndongesit Effeh of Nigeria, Robert Amukwei of Ghana and Shadrack Msambaza of Tanzania.

During that meeting, Hill and the students were able to see and converse with one another, despite being half a world apart. They talked about the weather, family life and of course their TBC studies. On the wall just beyond Hill’s computer screen, a world map with the words “Into all the world with the Gospel” seemed to take on a new significance.

“The Zoom meetings are great because I’m able to connect with them,” Hill said. “Even if they don’t get anything out of it, I get something out of it. Just the encouragement of seeing where they are, seeing what they’re doing. You see the real person.”

Not only does Hill see the potential for virtual meetings to strengthen relationships between TBC’s foreign students and faculty members, he’s looking ahead at what the technology can mean for the college’s education programs.

“We have a good (distance learning) format the way it is — it was designed to be compatible with the systems they have (in Africa) — but if we could take Zoom and advance that, that would be good,” he said. “We’d love for our classes to be more interactive.”

In the meantime, Hill plans to continue his monthly Zoom meetings with students in other parts of the world.

“I’m going to try to reach out to as many as I can, just to hear from them, see how it’s going, encourage them, and let them encourage us,” he said. “I think it’s a great personal contact we can make.”

-Amy Davis, TBC Correspondent