We just started our new semester of teaching. These students will be here for 3 months and then take exams. The second semester starts in January. Right now, I am teaching Mission and Evangelism, Church history 1, Introduction to New Testament, and Systematic Theology 1. Here is a photo of the current students - all of them, from first year to third year students. I teach at least one class for every year of students. Only three women students this term. The mzungu (white person) was a pastor from the UK visiting the college for a day.
Teaching has continued to be fulfilling and enjoyable, and also has been keeping me working very hard as I am teaching these classes for the first time. My biggest prayer request is that you pray I have enough time to get all of my work done. It's been so tiring, even though so good at the same time. Anyway, I wanted to continue to share with you interesting insights from teaching and from discussions with students. So in no particular order:
- In theology class, we had a very interesting discussion about God's omniscience (if God knows everything, including the future). Several of the students could not believe that God knows even the future. They especially couldn't imagine God creating the world yet knowing Adam and Eve would sin. Practically, this meant for them that events in our life can take God by surprise. It turned into quite a debate, but a very helpful one. We were looking all throughout the Bible. It was a privilege to be able to teach them about God's providence and control over this world, how he is working for good, and that even before God created the world, he knew he was going to glorify himself and show the full extent of his love through the incarnation and the work of Christ on the cross and the resurrection.
- In church history we looked at the Christians, during the time of the Roman Empire, who were eager for martyrdom, for the privilege of dying because of trusting in Jesus. I asked the students what they thought of that. They thought those people were a bit crazy, and I found out most of the students feared death. But after all of our class discussions on persecution, and after they read about the martyrs Perpetua and Felicitas, they came back to class and proclaimed that they no longer fear death. They are not going to seek out martyrdom, but now they feel they are ready for it. True teaching should change the heart, and I thank God for using my class in this way.
- In theology we talked about the creation of the universe. I was explaining that God created us, not because he needs us, but purely out of love. This brought about a 20 minute discussion I was not expecting. They said they always preach to people that "God needs you." He needs to use us because he can't do everything himself. (It was like they hadn't thought before how this goes against the idea of God being all-powerful). One of the students said that true love is only when you both need each other and you are both getting a benefit. You don't love someone who doesn't benefit you in some way. After much discussion, looking up Bible passages, and a little sermon on my part, they were finally able to understand that God's agape love is purely out of compassion and grace for us, and not because we benefit God in some way. He doesn't even need humans to give him glory; the creation itself is still able to give him glory without us. God wants relationship with us, but he doesn't need us. And we should follow his example in loving people even who don't benefit us.
- Like any school anywhere, there are challenges with students falling asleep in class, or coming late, or trying to check their phones while in class. But generally they are very alert, and this new group of students has been doing very well in keeping time. I also warned them that if I catch anyone on the phone, that I will start collecting their phones before class. So far, they've done very well.
- The new students made a special point to tell me how much they enjoy my teaching and how much they are understanding. They told me they had to go tell the principal how much they appreciated it.
- I have not had any students yet who have ever read the whole Bible. I keep encouraging them to do so. In some classes, I'm making them do so for their assignments. I am making one class read the whole New Testament during this term. For comparison, I only ever met a few pastors in Uganda who had read the whole Bible. Most East African pastors have not, from my general surveys.
- I was also disappointed to hear that only one of my students in mission and evangelism class has ever shared their faith with a non-Christian. But through the class they are developing a passion to reach the lost.
- In the mission class, we practiced sharing our faith to each other. At one point we had a lot of fun and laughs as I had them try to witness to me, an atheist ornery mzungu. They had a difficult time responding to my questions! But it was a good learning experience.
- Generally I thought that people are well aware of what is going on outside their countries in Africa. But during the August term, I was surprised to find out none of them knew about Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) that had plagued Uganda for years. But sadly, really it can be hard to keep track of all the instability and security issues and problems these East African countries have faced over the years.
- In August we had some really tough discussions about the Crusades in Church History and about relationships to Muslims today. Similarly to most Americans, Kenyan Christians treat Kenyan Muslims well, but also fear them somewhat. They have had to deal with so many terrorist attacks recently from Muslims (terrorists coming from Somalia). Yet for the most part, Christians and Muslims live peacefully together in Kenya. We all agreed to keep going forward in forgiveness and showing grace even to those who might hate us.
- On the topic of Islam, I found out that it is a common practice in Kenya for Muslims to pay people money or goods to convert to Islam, or to come to the mosque. I had heard previously about this happening in other countries as well.
- Last, we talked about what happens to those who die without ever having heard the Gospel. Some of the students figured, "well they are innocent, so they will be in Heaven." This led to a good teaching moment about how God judges us primarily for our sins, our sins are what send us to Hell. Whether we accept Christ or not does not change the fact that we deserve to be punished for our sins. Otherwise sharing the Gospel with people would be a liability rather than being good news. If everyone would go to Heaven if they haven't heard about Christ, then we should stop preaching the Gospel! For those who have not heard the Gospel, perhaps they will be judged less strictly, but they still are guilty before God. The hope we have is in God's amazing grace and his power to elect whomever he will for salvation.
For fun, a picture of the donkey chariots we see all the time -