Dr T is from the south Pacific and is spending his sabbatical in different parts of India.
I thought it would be enrich to post excerpts of his travel diary as a way of broadcasting some of his thoughts about doing theological education in another culture and to illustrate the enrichment it is for people who undertake this service.
Daily food is an interesting part of my visit to India. Sometimes it is a case of buy it if it is available. Otherwise make do. I am enjoying rice and noodles but also have potatoes. Dahl is a tasty sauce on fish cakes or fried chicken that A prepares for me. Today she made a custard with nuts, apple and sultanas in it – my first dessert in India. I will make one bowl last a few days.
I rise with the sun at 5 am breakfast after 6, when I have cornflakes with banana or delicious mango, and milk from powder. I get the best toast using the Teflon frypan, especially as the electric toaster suffers from the frequent low voltage power. I can spread vegemite that G gave me, or cheese from a tin, or honey or jam.
My colleague Y (31) takes me shopping via rickshaw, about ten minutes. The store is like a Dimmys with a small food section. The building is still under construction. You can see how bamboo is used for scaffolding even to support newly poured concrete floors. Near the school gate, a man spreads his plastic and various vegetables we buy fruit weighed on traditional scales, beans, cabbage, squash, pumpkin.
In the early evening I make a light meal, perhaps with egg, or some left overs. In between I have snax and even chocolate. I have enjoyed meals in some faculty homes. But last week I inadvertently loaded a sauce which they soon told me had lots of chili in it. I have learnt the hot way that I can manage curry OK. But chili wipes me out!
So Indian food is rich and enjoyable, as also the food for thought that nourishes us. Yesterday we farewelled the very delightful Dr K, a retired international professor of Old Testament, which is also my area). It has been amazing to me how in special campus lectures we each gave we put a common viewpoint, namely that Law and Gospel go hand in hand throughout the Bible.
My students are first year with BA or B.Theol. Some have (if you will pardon me) a good Baptist Bible knowledge. But there is little depth or understanding of scholarly method. Even some third year students are poor preachers: they fall back on exhortation and fail to educate.
I have begun to see that exhortation about our own faithfulness can be helpful only if the preacher also speaks of the grace of God. So I am telling them that the main character in every chapter of Genesis is God, and that they should talk about God’s grace and will in a way that inspires us all to grow. That is the meaty food we have to offer.
There are about 12 teaching faculty here, most with doctoral degrees…. The IT phenomenon is just beginning to revolutionise their education. Each year a few more students come with laptops. But so far the library has not matched their commitment. It is very clear to me that a few computers in the library linked to the web will increase their resource access immeasurably.
I am sure I am the learner. The faith of others is one of the great foods that can nourish our lives.
Got a Sabbatical?
Got a sabbatical or study leave coming up? It could be enriching to spend part of it teaching in another culture.
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Dr Geoff Pound
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Image: “Dahl is a tasty sauce on fish cakes or fried chicken that A prepares for me.”