Why Do I Teach? (3/08)

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By MonaRe Shields

An article from Readers Digest gripped me several weeks ago.  It rolls like a drumbeat in my head as I head up the steps of the Bible School in Bogota, Colombia.  It's cadence clicks on the tiles as my suitcase wheels behind me on the way through another airport.

"Why do I teach?  Why do I teach?  Why do I teach?"  Going to sleep and waking up, it challenges me to find answers.

It's not because it's easy.  It requires long hours of preparation and a constant quest of keeping in step with the times.  My transparencies are getting to be old hat!  Uggh, now I have to learn Power Point!

Is it worth it?

There are so many hours correcting papers, doing the administrative tasks of grades and digging out new truths, trying to keep my classes interesting.  It's weeks away from home, flying off to new challenges, uncomfortable beds, new students, new ideas.  Why do I do it? Should I keep doing it? 

I teach because teaching is built on change.  Learning forces us to change.

I caught the “teaching bug” when I was fifteen years old in the frigid Altiplano of Bolivia teaching Aymara Indians how to read and write.  My mom and dad both taught the pastors who came to study.  Yet some couldn’t even read their Bibles.  They just sat and  listened.  Some of them were so slow.  I questioned God on why he called people like that to preach.  But on Monday they'd come back from their weekend ministry.  I heard the testimonies:  "Hermano Grams, so many got saved this weekend!  There are people to be baptized.  When can you come?”  God showed me HE was the one who chose them, not I! 

The last command of Jesus to his disciples continues to motivate me.  “Therefore go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit. TEACH these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Math. 28 19-20

I teach because I believe in MIRACLES!

Benedicto Alvarez needed a financial miracle to continue studying in ISUM this year.  He's not our brightest student. His Spanish is rough and unpolished.  He writes in a different language in his head then tries to have it make sense when he puts it on paper.  But tears ran down my face as I heard his testimony last month in an ISUM chapel service. 

His father had studied in the Altiplano Bible School and was one of my “dummies” that didn’t know how to read and write.  Yet he learned, he finished.  He took his family behind the snow covered Andes, all of his seven children are in the ministry and have planted  68 churches in the Yungas area of  Bolivia.   Benedicto, the youngest son, pastors a church and helps to run three remote Bible schools where the coca grows and most people have given up. 

Is he worth investing in?  God spoke to me.  "THIS IS WHY YOU TEACH!"

Reyes Suescum sat in my office two weeks ago getting ready for his graduation.  He said “ISUM changed my life….  After taking your "Didáctica" class I realized the value of Christian Education.  I started a school in my village in the Colombian Red Zone close to the Venezuelan border.  We now have 220 students in an area where many of the public school teachers have had to flee.”   He took a sigh and with tears in his eyes continued. 

“Just a month ago my daughter was kidnapped, raped and killed.  She was one of the administrators of the school and helped me so much in the church.”  He pursed his lips in grief.  Yet Reyes presses on, in the suffering and personal pain, teaching others and making his life count. 

Yes, I believe in miracles.   How could I do any less?

I just finished another ISUM Seminar teaching Communications.  My good friend Isabel Cornejo was there as a ministry colleague to teach Minor Prophets. The comments from her students and the anointing as she shared about her journey in the chapel service answered my thundering question, "Is it worth it?" 

It's worth it!

Isabel was a rather anonymous second year student in the Bible school in Santiago Chile in 1994.  The next year she asked if I would disciple her.  It meant coming early each Wednesday night, leaving my two teenage girls and facing the incredible downtown traffic during the heaviest hour.  She had so many problems and complexes.  Her family was dysfunctional and it seemed like such a waste of time.  But she eventually finished Bible school and started ISUM.  She ended up sitting next to me in class as we studied together. After incredible personal struggles and a serious bout with cancer, today SHE  is an outstanding ISUM teacher.

Was it worth the investment? YES, a thousand times yes!  That is why I teach. Today she gets better evaluations than I do.  She understands the Word in a dimension that only suffering can bring, if only I could multiply myself in many more Isabels.

I teach because I like to learn. 

This year in January in Bolivia, the students in my "Levítico" class did a drama on the leper coming to the priest for cleansing.  They creatively dug out information about leprosy from the internet then presented a powerful (though gut-wrenching) Power Point.  They brought a live dove to class and released it as the priests did when a leper was cleansed. 

It recharged my batteries.  I learn from THEM, from their enthusiasm, from their creativity. I learn from correcting their "monografías":  "The Ten Lost Tribes of Israel”,  or  “Political Involvement of Evangelicals in Colombia” or “Fornication Patterns of the Youth in our Churches” or “The Consequences of Cartoons and TV in our Children.”  Wow!  I learn so much from my students.  That's why I teach!!  It forces me to change, to keep learning, to keep stretching.

I teach because I believe in what the Apostle Paul challenged Timothy to do. 

“You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses.  Now TEACH these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others."  II Tim. 2:2