It’s a unique experience, walking into a group of students (ranging in age from early twenties to older-than-me), knowing I will only have five days with them.
At Grace College in Monrovia, Liberia, I began with my class of fourteen (thirteen men, and one Olivia) on Monday. A stranger, with one point of union, Jesus Christ. I was amazed again (but shouldn’t have been), that by Friday I loved them. I shared, as best I could, with their struggles in the class. I wrestled, as they did, to understand what God intends to teach us of Himself in the Bible. I marveled at the wisdom of God and the book He has given, that can teach here and there, now and then, always. We learned together. We grew.
Hermeneutics can be challenging in any setting. Even the word is weird. For those who may not be familiar, hermeneutics has to do with the rules used to correctly interpret the various literary genres in the Bible. Good hermeneutics is hard work. Of course everything is made more complex with cultural differences and language hurdles. Fortunately in Liberia we were able to teach in English.
At the heart of hermeneutics is getting to what God intended to communicate through the original author, to the original audience of that particular passage, how that passage fits into the book of which it is a part, how it fits into the message of the entire Bible, and finally how that is to be understood and applied in the contemporary church. The bedrock is context, context, context.
Dyonah Thomas, the director of the school has a great vision for training leaders for the church throughout Western Africa. Part of the uniqueness of this setting is that Grace College is working toward accreditation. We gave a pre-training assessment test. We gave the exact assessment test following the training. I have not yet heard the before/after scores of my class, which is my test! We also gave daily quizzes, and each student has a research paper to write before their next TLI class (Genesis) in August.
I loved the adventure of learning together. What I treasure most is seeing “the lights go on”. We had some terrific discussions. I kept pushing the students into the text of the Bible and we kept seeing the wisdom of God emerge. We tracked some key themes through the Bible, and came to worship. We traced salvation by grace through faith in Jesus, and at the conclusion of that discussion we broke out in singing Amazing Grace.
Perhaps the highlight of the week for me was the discussion we had about God gathering a people to bear his name and his glory. We started in Genesis and concluded with the description of people from every tribe, nation and tongue gathered before Christ (Rev. 5). Those who know me won’t be surprised that I was in tears describing the scene. I told them I long for the day I can introduce each of them to others I have come to know in the family of Jesus.
I told the assembled group at our Friday closing that I would be praying that the reputation of the graduates of Grace College would be that they preach the Word of God, faithfully, compellingly, humbly as servants of Jesus.
I am honored to count these students as brothers, sisters, and friends. I am grateful to God and His faithful people who make it possible for me to share in training faithful teachers who will teach others also (2 Tim. 2:2). Heaven will reveal what the King of the Universe accomplished through this week.
Mike Evans, International Trainer
Training Leaders International