I realize that my bloggage output has been somewhat lethargic lately. Travels have kept me quite busy in the last month, and I hope to reward your attention with some mildly interesting accounts of my excursions to Minnesota, Wisconsin, Amsterdam and South Africa.
Part I: Wisconsin
The week of March 19-26 I taught New Testament at PBU’s Wisconsin Wilderness Campus (WWC). WWC is a freshman-year, modular program; visiting instructors teach one credit-hour’s worth in a week (typically 14-15 hours of instruction). Some of the instructors come from PBU’s main campus, and some are outside instructors from other institutions.
I had the privilege of teaching Module 3 of The Pentateuch in October, which covered Numbers and Deuteronomy. This time, I was in much more sketchily-charted waters for an OT graduate student: the Corinthian, Prison and Pastoral Epistles of Paul.
Some may find it puzzling that PBU’s School of Bible and Ministry does not have distinct OT, NT and ST/HT departments, but I have always found this to be a strength. Of course, each professor typically teaches within a specialty, but the cross-pollination between the disciplines produces a wonderful collegiality and cohesiveness within the curriculum.
I must say: the challenge of preparing a course in the NT for undergraduates, while immersed in preparations for graduate exams in OT criticism and Philosophy of History, was very fruitful for me spiritually, personally and academically. Teaching undergrads has “kept it real” for me during this year of transition out of the conservative PBU/WTS bubble into a more progressive, Reformed university context at Stellenbosch (more on that later).
But how do you teach nine books of the NT in fourteen hours? Very carefully and selectively, as it turns out. The students had already studied Gospels, Acts, Romans and Galatians, so they had some Pauline context. I was able to give them my own interpretation of the NPP and a broad survey of some recent developments as best I could. We then dove right in to the texts. I tried to provide a survey of the context, themes and message of each book, and then examine a key chapter here, an important doctrine there. I tried to stay away from passages that could more easily be addressed in a Bible-study or sermon context, and to focus on passages that are difficult to exposit outside of a sustained, academic treatment.
One of the blessings of this trip was that Corrie and Daniel came along with me. Daniel has traveled more in his first year of life than some folks do in five years, and he is a little trooper on planes. Corrie was concerned that she might not have enough to do, but had always wanted to visit WWC since so many of our fellow students had enjoyed the program.
I was especially glad to have them along when I took ill on Tuesday night. I didn’t feel too great when I went to bed, but then I woke up with nausea and–well, other things. The flu hit me hardest Wednesday and Thursday; I could barely sit up, didn’t eat anything, ached all over, and just tried to stay hydrated. It was brutal. The students and staff were very flexible and reärranged the school-days for me so I could teach in the afternoons with some more rest. Corrie was wonderful; she nursed me back to health, brought me medication and little morsels of food, and even taught one class period for me (one of the benefits of having a wife with degrees in education and biblical studies!).
By Friday morning, thankfully, I was healthy enough to go to breakfast and adminster the exam. But I had fallen behind on my prep and grading, so the last day was not nearly as profitable as I had hoped. I apologized profusely to the students and staff, and of course everyone understood and was very supportive. Being ill–really sick, on my back, without any cure except waiting–does two things: it makes me appreciate good health, and it forces me to trust God.
I wonder whether the students will long remember most of the facts I taught that week (I hope something stuck, of course!), but the week was overshadowed by some other difficult circumstances at the camp. But I was encouraged by the depth of the students’ character and faith amidst the tumult, and I hope that they were able to see Christ in me, Corrie and the staff. I don’t really remember any “facts” I learned my freshman year; what I do remember is professors, teachers, friends–relationships that affected me deeply. I hope the relationships begun at WWC this year will bless the students and staff as much as they bless me.
Instead of flying back to PA on Friday as instructors typically do, WWC had booked me and Corrie a hotel in Minneapolis for Friday night since Saturday flights were significantly cheaper. We made the 3.5-hour drive from Cable, WI to the Twin Cities, checked in, and then made our first visit to the Mall of America, which I believe is the country’s largest mall (depending on the criteria). It’s huge, man–what a spectacle. It’s got a theme park in the middle of the mall that is visible from all the stores, and four or five floors worth of mallage. We went to a noodle restaurant–about all my stomach could handle–and then walked around a little and went back to the hotel, just to say we had been there.
We nearly missed our 7:20 flight the next morning, but made it home without other incident–tired and still somewhat ill, but satisfied. I gained some valuable teaching experience, but more importantly, shared experiences with and tremendous respect for my wife–a true אֵשֶׁת-חַיִל.
I was also a little panicked about the study-hours lost to sickness in preparation for my trip to Stellenbosch for oral exams. My departure on Thursday, March 31 and my arrival in Cape Town on April 1 will be the subject of my next post.