This past summer, many of Truett Seminary’s faculty and staff took the opportunity to travel abroad, engaging in research, teaching, serving, and ministering around the globe. These are just two of the many stories from Summer 2018:
In 2014, Baylor University formalized and expanded a strategic, international partnership with Northrise University, the first private Christian university in Zambia. As a part of this partnership, Truett Seminary agreed to work with the Northrise Religion Department to explore the opportunity of enhancing the ability of the Department to equip students for ministry.
In 2015, Dr. Terry York, Professor of Christian Ministry and Church Music, and Financial Manager Jan Cason participated in an exploratory trip to Zambia to begin this conversation. Following the exploratory trip, Dr. Mike Stroope, Holder of the M.C. Shook Chair of Missions, and Dr. Andy Arterbury, Associate Professor of Christian Scriptures, took a group of Truett students to Zambia to join with Northrise students for a course team-taught by the two professors. This past summer, it was Dr. York and Jan’s turn again.
Together, the two team-taught a course for Northrise students who intended to become pastors, as well as a handful of local pastors. For this two-week intensive seminar, Dr. York focused on leadership while Jan instructed the students on the different business aspects of the church.
“Over these few years, we’ve joined Baylor in really feeling a kinship with the faculty and administration at Northrise University. It’s a very warm relationship. In the class Jan and I taught, we even had some of the administrators come and sit in as students,” Dr. York said. “All of that to say, there’s a very warm connection. They like what Truett is doing there.”
Dr. York and Jan experienced both the challenges and blessings of teaching in and to a different culture. Before making the trip, Jan had engaged in extensive research on laws and finances in Zambia to prepare for the class.
“We quickly established a relationship where we were all learners,” Dr. York said. “We came equipped to make sense early on, but it got deeper and made more sense on the students’ side and on our side as we engaged in conversation and discussion throughout the seminar.”
One of the personal takeaways noted by Dr. York was a broadening of his approach to reading Scripture. He described the “simplistic approach” of his Zambian students and how it contrasted to his more academic, studied approach. The deliberate and respectful reflection on these differences allowed for a significant learning opportunity for both students and faculty.
“We could read the same Scripture passage, and we could learn from each other. We found a third way to read. Each side tempered the other side,” he said. “I was convicted of not allowing simple application. And I think the students were confronted with the idea that there’s a different way to think about the passage, a deeper or broader way.”
Dr. York described a special moment that occurred the Thursday evening before he and Jan were to give the Northrise students their final exam. When class had ended, the students set two chairs at the front of the classroom and asked Dr. York and Jan to sit down before leaving the room. Soon, the students returned in a procession, singing an African song that thanked and blessed their two Truett teachers for their ministry.
“It was very moving, a very humbling experience” Dr. York said. “There were the people who were assigned to be the students and the people who were assigned to be the teachers, and both groups were true to those assignments. But, a mutual respect and a mutual teaching and learning was brought about by the fact that we are brothers and sisters in Christ. To me, going in to Africa and coming back out is like a baptism. I rise to newness of life when I come out.”
Tyndale House in Cambridge, England is a study center focused on advancing understanding of the Bible. It was there that Dr. Kimlyn Bender, Professor of Christian Theology, found himself this past summer.
“Tyndale House is a place where scholars from around the world come to do biblical research, and they do it in different ways,” Dr. Bender said. “Some are scholars from other universities or seminaries who come there to work on specific projects, which is what I did. Other scholars come to do research for doctoral dissertations and others come for different seminars and symposia.”
Although anyone can access the Tyndale library on a daily basis for a fee, to be in residency, you must formally apply. Dr. Bender’s decision to apply for a summer residency was inspired in part by the knowledge that several of his own former seminary and college professors had studied at Tyndale and spoken well of it.
During his time in Cambridge, Dr. Bender was beginning his work on a commentary in the Brazos Theological Commentary Series through Baker Publishing Group. The commentary will be on 1 Corinthians.
“It’s a theological commentary, which means it not only looks at the historical questions of the text but also tries to get at the theological content of what’s communicated in the text,” Dr. Bender said. “I was trying to do a lot of background work on Paul and Corinth and on 1 Corinthians specifically, and Tyndale House is a tremendous library for work in biblical studies.”
Not only is Tyndale renowned for its excellent library, but it is also recognized for its emphasis on community and fellowship. For example, every day at 11:00am and 4:00pm in the silence of the library, a gong is sounded summoning all of the researchers for a half hour of tea and coffee together.
“You get to know a whole host of people,” Dr. Bender said. “I met someone from Africa who was working on a doctoral dissertation. I met people from Cuba who were studying Greek. I met a person from Australia who was working on a biblical commentary on Colossians and a theological librarian and theologian from a seminary in Romania with whom I enjoyed many conversations. You meet people from all over the world.”
In addition to the daily tea times, Tyndale House also holds a chapel service every Tuesday.
“It’s very interesting, humbling, encouraging, and edifying to have all of these people working on very technical questions and monographs and then to go upstairs and sing together and to worship together,” he said. “It’s a really marvelous experience.”