Update on Bible Teaching

Sorry for the slow month of blogging; Sora has been gone since mid-March in Dulag, Leyte. I have seen her photos as they come in on my iOS Photostream, but I have assured her that I will leave them for her to blog. She returns tomorrow, so maybe she’ll put up something exciting and midwifery-related then.

I’ve been keeping busy too: Faith Academy is entering the last month of the school year, and I am pressing to finish Dante’s Inferno with the juniors and seniors in my Epic literature class. The 10th grade New Testament class will finish Romans this week – conveniently, because I have been teaching it to my adults at UCRC’s Bible study as well. My work isn’t as photogenic as Sora’s. If you’ve seen one shot of me lecturing in front of a whiteboard, you’ve seen them all. Here’s my lectern in the Faith Academy NT class: tiny center-column reference edition NKJV, and slightly bigger Biblia Graeca (LXX + NA28 in one binding) perched together on one lectern.

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The Biblia Graeca is a delight to use for teaching and study: the marginal apparatus of loci citati vel allegati is the best in the business, far more comprehensive and enlightening than most cross-references in most English translations, and with the added benefit of having the LXX from which the quotations and echoes are derived right there in the same binding. This was the Bible I received from the hand of Bishop Daniel Morse at my ordination last December.

It has been a great semester for rethinking Romans and Pauline theology: after 5 months, I’m nearing the end of N.T. Wright’s magnum opus Paul and the Faithfulness of God. My thinking was also helped by Andrew Perriman’s The Future of the People of God. I am very thankful for ebooks: Logos Library also picked me as a reviewer for their Anglican Silver package, so now I have access to a lot of books that would be difficult to find here in Davao City.

The Romans class at UCRC has been very well attended, with new folks joining from week to week, including two more since this photo was taken:

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Comments from the participants have been very appreciative: they are finding that a covenantal, narratival, and historical perspective on Paul helps them make sense of other passages of Scripture and see the big picture better. In my view, this is one of the most needed things here in the Philippines, and people who love Jesus are hungry for it.

I’ve also received word that my application to teach at Koinonia Theological Seminary (a Methodist-affiliated evangelical seminary here in Davao City) has now been put before the board of that institution for consideration.

My Greek class and Latin class are on break for Holy Week, but will resume next week.

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Academician as a Missionary Calling

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Above: Matt’s Epic Literature class at Faith Academy taking a quiz.

Do you know what percentage of the children of Christians enter full-time Christian service as missionaries, pastors, and other similar callings? One in two hundred, or 0.5%. Yet among the children of missionaries, that figure soars to 3 out of every 10, 30%. And of those 3, two of them will eventually go back to serve on the overseas mission field in some capacity themselves, and 17% will be long term missionaries. (Numbers from Raising Resilient MKs) I have ten classes a week to talk about the Bible, God, and literature with 40 of these young men and women. Probably 10 or 15 of these kids will be teaching others the things I teach them about Jesus this year. Like Sora with her student missionary-midwives, God has put me in a place of greater leverage than I had in Cincinnati.

When I was 12 years old and in the public schools (a miserable experience I would never wish on my kids), my mother taught me Latin at home. It was determinative for my future life, though I resisted and grumbled about it at the time. (“Do those Latin flashcards, or you’ll have no dessert tonight!” Yes, Mom was a tough cookie.) My pre-teen perspective was that I took a full slate of classes at school just like everyone else, so why should my summer vacation be ruined by having to learn Latin? But the lesson I subliminally learned was that my mother loved me and that she thought a knowledge of Latin was a precious enough possession that it was worth imparting to me despite my grumbling. That was the takeaway for me: teaching someone difficult concepts and ideas was a way of loving them. This love-language doesn’t work for everyone, and sometimes it isn’t understood until years later, but when it clicks, it is a beautiful thing.

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Above: Naomi sharing the love with Hosanna via Ørberg’s Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata.

A lot of missionary activity here in the Philippines is geared toward conversions. My ministry is not. I am not, for instance, running a youth camp designed to bring kids to a crisis so that they make a decision for Christ. Instead, I am using my knowledge of languages (Greek, Latin, Hebrew) and ancient sources to give already committed Christians a deeper grounding and better reasons for what they already believe. And ironically, that makes my ministry a fairly rare one in a city that has a lot of crusades and revival meetings. It is easy to find preachers here who will “convert” you or get you ready for the Rapture. It is harder to find someone who knows enough Greek and has read enough scholarship to tell you, say, what N.T. Wright and David Daube say about the Sadducees and “neither angel nor spirit”, so that you can understand Acts 23:7-9 and teach it to others. I am not aiming to make converts; I want to make teachers, as Paul says:

… what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:2 ESV)

This is a ministry that targets a smaller audience (“faithful men”, not unbelievers) and takes more time with them. One of the first questions my Latin students asked was, “How long will you be here?” They wanted to be sure that we are in it for the long haul before committing to a long-term course of study. It takes time to learn an ancient language, or to cover the history of the early church, or to survey the Jewish background of the New Testament. Deep academic instruction is not a “one-and-done” ministry.

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A little light reading on Jewish background and Hebrew Bible.

The depth of serious instruction gives me the chance to build the same sort of teacher-student-parent triangular relationships that I had as a teacher in Cincinnati. A teacher doesn’t just affect kids; through kids, he also touches parents. (How many MHA parents heard from their kids over dinner, “Guess what outrageous thing Mr. Colvin said today?”) Parents trust teachers with their kids. If you’re a faithful and excellent teacher, you will win favor and the hearts of parents. Many of our senders in Ohio have that relationship with me, and they are sponsoring our presence here in Davao City because they want me to form that sort of relationship with others.

While my position teaching MKs at Faith Academy Mindanao was semi-miraculously lined up within 24 hours of deciding to become a full-time missionary, it isn’t the only ministry I’m engaged in here. I have also been blessed by our friends Pastor Vic and Cathy Bernales. Even before we arrived, they welcomed us with open arms. They have sought out opportunities for me to teach Filipino students. I have filled the pulpit for Pr. Vic when he was away. He invited me to teach church history and Jewish background of the NT in his Reformed Institute of Ministry. He and Cathy are the organizers of the homeschooling coop here in Davao City, and they advertised my Latin class and introduced me to other families who wanted to have their kids learn. They have also embraced with enthusiasm the idea that I should start a Greek class, and are spreading word about it to their friends and acquaintances in other churches. Their own older children, Yuri and Ysha, have been students in all my Latin and RIM classes. More than anyone else here in Davao City, they have been the enablers of my ministry here, seeking out opportunities for me to teach, and connecting me with Filipino homeschooling families and adult learners.

I’m about to start the second academic quarter at Faith Academy tomorrow. When I get home, I’ll have Latin class in our dining room. Then it’s off to church to teach NT Jewish Background from 6:30 to 9:00. (Yes, Tuesday is loaded!) Thank you to our senders, and to the parents of my students, for entrusting me with this ministry.

Leverage

As we have traveled around the country raising support, we have deliberately put Sora’s ministry front-and-center at every church we’ve visited. There are many reasons for that: midwives are rarer than teachers on the mission field; Sora’s calling preceded and in many ways generated Matt’s calling; and midwifery is the reason we’re going to Davao City, and not somewhere else; and Sora has already been to the Philippines and practiced midwifery at the birth center during her short-term trips in 2009 and 2010, so she has lots of stories that help churches here in the US understand the impact of midwifery in the developing world.

I, on the other hand, have not been to Faith Academy yet. So my testimony about its impact has to be second-hand. Since I’m about to join the faculty, I get emails that are sent to the school’s email list from parents of past students. Two such parents, translators with Wycliffe, gave me permission to share their message:

Dear FAM administrators, teachers and volunteers,

We thank the Lord for you.  We are grateful for your love for God, missions and children, and your skills and training.

The existence of Faith Academy Mindanao made it possible for us to live in Davao and do our work ((New Testament translation for one of the SE Asian languages).  Our son attended FAM for 9 years (1994-2003) and our daughter attended for 12 years (1994-2006).  Now you are continuing to keep missions projects going for a whole new batch of families, as well as reaching an international business community.

May the Lord give you wisdom, creativity, ideas, physical strength, and joy in being here.

With much appreciation,
(Names)

I have often said that one of the reasons we’re going as missionaries is to leverage our gifts in the service of Christ. Yes, Sora’s work as a midwife has been a blessing to many families here in Cincinnati, but it will be a blessing to many more in Davao and beyond. Yes, my work as a high school teacher and Bible teacher has been well-received here in Cincinnati. But it will be even more valuable in Davao.

And there is another way in which this multiplying effect will be at work – one that we have already seen during our deputation time. As we’ve visited churches (all over three REC dioceses and many ACNA parishes as well), it has struck me that as missionaries, we can be a blessing to many more churches here in the USA – churches with whom we would not have any contact or much relationship if we were not going abroad.

Faith Academy Mindanao

Faith Academy Mindanao