It has been fun to have multiple days this semester when Isaac arrives home soaked in sweat from teaching in the tropical heat, but still beaming and enthusiastic and saying, “This is why I’m here.” It’s the end of the semester, Isaac’s third semester teaching. Each semester he’s more comfortable and has a deeper understanding of how things work here, what the students most need to learn, and how they learn best.
Isaac came here to teach leaders for the church and in society. The school here asked for two teachers to come from the USA and help raise the educational level that is provided by the school here. Isaac came knowing he would teach, train, and disciple, but what exactly that would look like and what kind of people he would be teaching was something we couldn’t picture until we arrived and started to get in the game last year.
Now that Isaac is in the teaching groove he says his favorite thing to teach is Old Testament theology. Here the challenge of understanding scripture is compounded by the fact that many of the students here come from tribes without an Old Testament in their language. Frequently the Old Testament is taught as moralistic Sunday school stories, and frequently people understand God’s commands and promises to Israel as being literally for believers here too. And so we see strange Zionist movements, prosperity gospel, and other false teaching stemming from bad Old Testament interpretation.
Isaac has been assigned a series of courses on how to read and interpret the Old Testament. The class discussions and applying it all to their world here is exciting. There are questions that students in the USA ask like, “Do we have to tithe a tenth?” But then there also questions coming directly from their experiences here like, “If God is pleased with Israel they are blessed with the promised land. Is our land promised to us?” Discussions about the supernatural world lead to comments from students about the traditional beliefs about “suangi”, a sort of ghost boogeyman.
Isaac also believes he is responsible to help the students learn to think and to do work (any work) with integrity. He’s trying to stretch each student so that they are able to think and analyze a little bit more for themselves. He confronts issues like plagiarism or simply not doing work and he believes that this is helping to train students who go into society and ministry and are diligent and honest rather than dependent and corrupt.
Isaac’s favorite of all is when a student comes to him with questions and they get to sit together, Bibles open, walking through scripture together to learn how to read and pull meaning out of an Old Testament book. Recently he got to work through the book of Jonah with a student named Aleks. Aleks knew the story of Jonah but to take the book section by section, seeing what it means in context, and then seeing his face light up as it really hits home.
That is why Isaac comes home excited about his work teaching here. Transitioning between cultures is no joke, and on days when we are overwhelmed it is a great gift to know that God has called, equipped, and given Isaac the responsibility to teach and train. Then there are the days like yesterday, the last class of the semester, where Isaac is able to look and see the students’ growth over the course of the semester and enjoy the rapport they’ve built. Yesterday he looked outside the classroom window and snapped a photo of tropical rain pouring down over banana and coconut trees lining the river outside, a bit of the Pacific Ocean in the distance. In those times we feel the great privilege that it is to be a part of the work God is doing here in this beautiful place.