I had the great pleasure of teaching Philippians to 16 students at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Tshwane (Pretoria, South Africa) for three weeks in early to mid May, following a two week stint of teaching Romans to 9 students at Matongo Lutheran Seminary (Sondu via Kisumu, Kenya) in late April. I am pleased to report that the students at both seminaries were hungry for the Word of God, asked questions, made many connections between the biblical text and congregational ministry, and were fully devoted to the enterprise of learning these portions of God’s Word in Greek. As I had three periods of instruction per day with students at both seminaries, I spent the first two periods on the two Pauline letters (Roman, Philippians), then the final period each day on Greek for its own sake, beginning with “the basics” (verb forms, declensions, adjectives, participles, etc.), then increasingly on such finer points as accents and composition. I teach Greek aggressively—whether in America or Africa—and it was great to see the students rise to the occasion, take to Greek, and so get the most out of my limited time with them. Indeed, I very much feel that Lutheranism in Africa (and anywhere else) would be well served if pastors-in-training were able to learn Greek better, so perhaps one day I will have the pleasure of having some Africans in my Summer Greek class. It was somewhat humbling for this Greek professor to realize that these African students knew at least three languages (some knew five or six), making it possible for one student—Paul Okeyo—to translate for me when I held forth on John 14:15-21 at Orengo, Kenya, on the sixth Sunday in Easter: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments...” The needs are quite concrete in Africa: food, water, bare necessities, gainful employment, etc., so an African Lutheran—who has lost both parents to AIDS, for example—may have far more insight into the following promise than the average American churchgoer: “I will not leave you orphaned, I am coming to you...” (John 14:18, from the same text for Easter 6 A). That promise anticipates the festivals of Ascension, Pentecost, and the Holy Trinity, for which also I was wonderfully privileged to preach in Africa. But those are other stories, and space fails me here to relate more. Suffice it to say that I learned much more from my students than I ever taught them, have missed the students and Africa since my return home, and would like someday soon to return to teach—and to be taught—by the Lutheran Christians there.
Dr. John G. Nordling
Associate Professor of Exegetical Theology (NT)
Concordia Theological Seminary
Ft. Wayne, IN