“Not my will, but God’s. Not my life, but Christ living in me.” That’s the mantra Michael has chosen to say daily, and even more often, during this season of Lent. Today he was repeating that to himself as he walked to teach a class of Third year (of three years) students at the Many Pingy (pronounce the y’s as consonants, not vowels) Theological College.
Teaching at this school has been challenging because of several reasons. 1 – the education they received before this did not prepare them for diploma level classes. 2 – education at this level is supposed to be in English, therefore no translator has been provided, but few students understand English at a level that allows them to engage as fully as Michael would like them to. In addition, many of the students and congregations that sent them, simply want the certificate that will be handed to them after they have stayed for the right number of years, so that they can show they have educated people in leadership.
Many days, teaching is more of a chore than a joy. But recognizing that God has called him to this task in this place at this time, the mantra was appropriate and motivating.
On Monday afternoons Michael meets with the Third Years to discuss Evangelism. He has turned the course into a course on Discipleship instead, since evangelism happens in Africa whenever people talk. But discipleship, and the disciplines of following Jesus, do not happen so easily. Michael’s idea is that if we can teach people to be strong followers of Jesus – Disciples – then their evangelistic work will happen with more substance.
As we were talking at dinner tonight, Michael reported that he thought some of the students were “getting it” – after a year and a half of teaching! Today he taught on “Quiet Time”: what it is and at least a certain version of how to do it. He taught about the relationship of God the Father to his children. He asked his students (all six of them men, in this class) to think what it would be like to go home tonight and simply call their children together to talk. recognizing that the children would immediately be wondering what they had done wrong, he encouraged the men to invite the children to talk about their day, asking them what they had done, what made them happy, what made them sad. He suggested to the men that they listen to the children. And to imagine God doing the same with them during their Quiet Time with God.
The cultures we are working with do little to foster the idea of a loving father. “Our mothers love us,” I was told recently, “not our fathers.”
Michael talked the class through the idea of finding a quiet time and place to sit with God and be together. To listen to God’s voice. To tell God their sorrows and joys. And once again, to listen to God’s response.
As the students finished copying the notes from the board, closed their notebooks, and began to leave the room, one by one, they turned to Michael and said, “This was an important class. This was good.”
Michael and I both long to be able to present God to people as both a nurturing and loving mother and a providing and loving father. The lesson on Quiet Time today seemed to have met that goal.