Dear Friends: Picture me moodily eating my breakfast. A young man leaves his table, walks up to mine, and smiles awkwardly. He’s a first-year part-time student. We have never met.
“What time is it, please?” he asks.
“I have no idea,” I say. It’s true. I took my watch to be repaired yesterday and I won’t get it back until this afternoon. He leaves. A moment later he returns, still smiling, but a bit more strained.
“What time is it, please?”
I’m starting to realize that something is up. His friends at the other table are snickering. I come back with another question.
“What time would you like it to be?”
“Thank you,” he says, and departs. But we’re not finished yet. He comes back yet again. The third time is a charm.
“What time is it, please?”
“It’s the exact time that you deserve,” I say.
“Thank you,” he says, and I see him rush back to his table, relieved. I feel relieved for him, too. I suppose some endless, complicated game of forfeits is going on. Perhaps not surprisingly, the embarrassed lad is here this week for a certificate program in ministry to adolescents. To me, most of them don’t look (or act!) much older than the age group they serve. However, I can remember a time when I thought similar (and not so harmless) pranks were hilarious.
The goofy breakfast conversation confirms that I’m not living in my own apartment anymore. As of last week I’ve moved to the Odessa Seminary campus, which means I’m back to dormitory living—not bad, in its way. For one thing, we’re slightly outside the city limits and I love the view of the evening sky from the tall upstairs windows. I also love not having to get up in the morning to catch the bus. But I have to get used to having more people around, and I can see that I will probably have many more opportunities now to practice being a good sport…
This weekend I’m off to Donetsk Christian University to teach Church History Survey for a couple of weeks. At the same time I’m trying to get ready to do a new course in Armenia during the first two weeks of December. Communication with the Armenians is more difficult, so I’m not exactly sure just what they’re expecting, but they’ve asked for a course on women in the church. Fortunately, just before I left the United States someone in Newton, Kansas gave me a copy of Courageous Women of the Bible by Linda Gehman Peachey, so that’s going to be my main resource for a daily Bible study. Well, that takes care of about an hour a day; all I need to do now is organize the remaining 50 hours…
- I would really appreciate your prayers for both these teaching ventures. In some ways, teaching is the easy part—or at least the most straightforward. I’ve found that a visiting instructor often becomes a counselor as well, or at least a listener. Since I’m there only temporarily, sometimes people feel it’s safe to tell me things about their fears and frustrations that they wouldn’t tell the people they work with every day. Please pray for the effectiveness of the teaching, of course, but also that I would be a patient and helpful listener as the need arises.
- Thank you for praying for the summer camps organized by Trinity Baptist Church. I’m told that the one for children was hard work this year, but the one for visually impaired adults was the best ever. Pray that all campers—wherever they were, not only with our church—would remember what they heard and experienced during the summer.
- Thank you for remembering to pray for the developing Master’s program at Odessa Seminary. When the students come together now, it really feels like a group; relationships have formed and ideas are starting to coalesce. We’re ready to admit a new group of students in the spring, which is wonderful, but which will also add to the administrative burden as we try to locate and schedule instructors. And how are we going to manage the dissertation stage of the program?
- I appreciate your prayers for my family in St. Louis, especially my elderly parents.
I enjoyed meeting some of you this summer in Pandora, Ohio, and also in Inman and Newton, Kansas. I was surprised and pleased to be asked about specific people and events I’ve written about. Thanks again to everyone for your generous hospitality.
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
P. S. The picture shows me with Antonina Onishchenko, a descendant of one of the first Ukrainian peasant “Stundists” in the 1860s. Stundists gathered outside of regular Orthodox worship services for Bible reading and prayer, like the German colonists in South Russia (Ukraine) who came together at a Bibelstunde, or “Bible hour.”