I have one more lecture left in this year’s Vocation, Work and Ministry class. It’s a Biblical Graduate School of Theology class that seeks to help people understand the biblical significance of work, both church-related work and, especially, work in the marketplace. The course also helps people discern what work God may have called them to do. A friend asked me how the class was going. I replied that he would have to ask the students, but in all probability we will only know how the class went some years down the road.
Earlier in the week I heard from some friends I hadn’t connected with for some time. They were in my Vocation, Work and Ministry class some years ago. Husband and wife, they were both professionals from top schools; he from a school in the States, she from one in the UK. They could have plied their trade anywhere in the world. They happened to be in Singapore and they happened to be in my class. I make it very clear that work in the marketplace is no less spiritual than a church-related vocation. But after much prayer and soul searching, they believed that God was calling them to pastoral work, and specifically to pastoral work in Malaysia. (One of them is a Malaysian.) They went on to do further studies in a seminary and are now both back in Malaysia.
In his recent note to me, the husband said: “It was your class that started us on this journey.” Every teacher knows the power of such a note. It makes all the hard work worthwhile. A few weeks ago I felt tired and unsupported. I give my all to this class but sometimes I wonder, “who cares”? Is it fatigue? Spiritual attack? Self pity? All of the above? God knew and this note came soon after. All of us in a teaching ministry know of such dark moments but we press on because it is work that we render unto the Lord, and because of the precious souls who are our students. And once in a while the Lord gives us much-needed encouragement.
It has been a rough week. The ongoing devastation of starvation and cholera in Yemen. The horrible plight of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. The slaughter in Las Vegas. You look at situations like these and you are overwhelmed. Any words you say would sound trite. You pray that somewhere deep inside you the Spirit is praying. And you take a deep breath and do the things the Lord has asked you to do.
I look forward to the last lecture for this year’s Vocation, Work and Ministry class. But I know I will miss the class. I am excited to see what the Lord will do in their lives and through their lives in the years ahead. My way of lighting candles.