This summer, our East African cooperatives took a Bible course on Paul the Apostle and Theologian. Recordings from when Gregg Garner taught the course in the States last spring were shared with them, and they gathered together to listen each week. They participated in discussions, completed homework, and wrote a final paper and exam. They are remarkable students, and are excited to begin their next course this fall on The Prophets.
Cooperative Lawrence Ssemakula shares his reflections on Paul class.
The last couple of months taking the class Paul the Apostle and Theologian have been such a great blessing. I can say much more than “I completed that class.”
Even though they were recordings, I felt as if the teacher Gregg was right there with us. He made the lectures so lively; they spoke to my soul. We were encouraged each day as we came to class with great energy. I realized that the presence of the Holy Spirit made classes very real and alive. Jesus was there with us and seeing our needs as we came. I even heard my classmates finding strength from the hope Gregg would reveal through the different passages, really speaking to our souls for the very things we’ve been experiencing. It’s very true that we are learning the living Word, and though we may know that as a fact, seeing the reality is another thing altogether. I am experiencing life in God’s Word; it’s really there.
Throughout the class, I could feel the Spirit of God opening my eyes and mind to new realities I hadn’t experienced before, deconstructing old ways of thinking and filling me with new truths. The impact is even now still so strong on my life that though the class has ended, I feel that God is still working in me, reminding me each day of the many important things Gregg helped us to understand as Paul communicated them. Until now, I had never really understood the majority of what Paul said in his letters. This was my beginning, and I had to go back and forth to my notes and sometimes listen to lectures again to understand. I reflected and prayed with Josephine [my wife] for God’s guidance to help us have God’s Word be our source for decision-making.
I am so humbled to have a fresh start, as many of Paul’s teachings were absolutely revelatory for me. I’m recognizing that even things like advancing the gospel of Christ implies having increased confidence in speaking the Word of God, and the failure to grow in this kind of confidence could imply we are not growing in Christ. The use of Scriptures daily in all of life’s circumstances should be a continued effort, even with our children who are growing up faster than we can grasp. I feel motivated to be more involved in demonstrating the love of Christ not only to my family and those I am in proximity to, but even beyond to proclaim through my life by giving myself like Paul does. Through Paul’s example, I feel very encouraged and strengthened that even when times seem hard, I know I can overcome because God is with me. Malaria is very prevalent these days and killing many children and adults in our district, but I am thankful for Paul class, and for God’s Word because it gives us strength and hope in the midst of these heavy realities.
I really feel for those who have not known the mystery God has revealed to us through learning his Word. I feel the responsibility to demonstrate so they can see and be helped, to be saved out of the different ideologies holding them back, to be set free from the captivity of religion and culture. I pray that what I have gleaned from God’s Word would be the source of strength while I serve the Lord each day, demonstrating his love, doing his will, sharing the good things he has freely given us. To remember the least of these who are at the core of the gospel Paul was advancing, and to please the Lord rather than people.
Finally, I really pray we can always acknowledge God’s grace (favor), just like how he helped Paul work with people of power to get them to do the right thing. The Lord has favored us in this regard in how we’ve been doing ministry and serving even at the school [St. John’s]; it’s been his favor upon us. I can now more specifically acknowledge these things the Lord has been doing. We are grateful for his authority, for even though we seem not to be having authority in the eyes of the world, he has granted it to us and it is working. It is from him, Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen.