I'd like to share my testimony that I read to the class yesterday, at the last lesson of one-year of Church History Survey. It is a respond to Dr. L's (the lecturer) e-mail invitation to the class. Let me quote his invitation email:
" At our final lesson next week, I intend to give some time for you to share about how our Church History course (both Parts I and II) has impacted you (if at all): Was there something you have learnt which changed your point of view, the way you live, or the way you carry out your ministry? Through your sharing, I hope that we can see some concrete examples of how what happens in the classroom or in our own reading can come to life. I also hope that these examples will also serve as guides for the rest of us as we try to make the transition from the classroom to the "practical" business of living and doing ministry."
So here it is:
A Testimony of My Experience as Student of Church History Class
Trinity Theological College 2010/2011
Dedicated to Dr. LTH, Lecturer of Church History Survey at TTC
The early experience of Church History was quite unpleasant as I saw it more on memorizing names, places, and facts. I found it very difficult to follow Sunquist's book. I would fall asleep every time I read it.
Pressure heightened when I had to face reality… the first test. How to do well in test if I don’t read the book?
God is good, He gave me gradual encouragement. The starting point of my "awakening" is when we started discussion on martyrdom, especially when we discussed the primary source reading on Martyrdom in Lyon. In addition to that, Dr. Leow’s family group presented about martyrdom in one of the Friday chapel. Then, I started to realize that Church History is not only about memorizing facts, but to learn from the people or events that happened.
By knowing the life and death of those martyrs really strengthen my faith. They are heroes of faith and I can learn from them about defending Christ until death. It is not something that is impossible. Many people in the past have gone through it. Well, I don’t know about my future, where I will go. I might be in Indonesia, in a place where persecution does happen and the threat of suffering of death can be real. And learning from martyrs really gives me strength and hope to face even the most fearsome situation.
Secondly, the first semester’s assignment which we were asked to write an imaginary letter to one of the church fathers. I wrote to St. Benedict of Nursia, the founder of Western Christian monasticism. I felt that it is quite relevant for me as a hostelite in TTC. I titled my paper “Spirituality in Community”. The idea of spirituality and community always interest me, and here as a hostelite in TTC I have a combination of both. To make it short, I would say that this paper make me realize that me and XJ, as Community Living Committee, must work closely and hand-in hand with EY and SK as Spiritual Formation Committee, to integrate spirituality into the community. There are some forms of communal worship or activities that can really contribute to TTC student’s spiritual & community life altogether.
Church History also makes me realize that God’s design is way better than human design. One example is Dr. L’s lecture and the reading about John Calvin’s life in Gonzales’ book. When we talk about John Calvin, he is always associated with one place named Geneva. Interestingly, he never intends to stay in Geneva. He thought that his gifts were those of scholar and author, not pastor or leader. He decided to settle in Strasbourg, but the direct route to Strasbourg at that time was closed by military operation, and Calvin had to make a detour through Geneva. Calvin arrived at Geneva with the intention of stopping there for no more than a day. But Farel, a missionary, told Calvin that his presence in Geneva is needed. Calvin was not convinced by Farel and explained that he has planned to go for studies. In the end Farel challenged Calvin with a threat: “May God condemn the calm you seek for study, if before such a great need you withdraw, and refuse your help.” Calvin mentioned that those words shocked and broke him, and he desisted from the journey he had begun, and thus began his career as the reformer of Geneva.
Truly, God’s design is better than human’s plan. Some of us plan to study further, some others plan to teach, some others to pastor in one particular country or church, or to be a missionary. Yes, we can plan our future, but we are not supposed to hold on tight on it. By reading these biographies, I was reminded to keep in tune with God. I was also encouraged to know that even what God plans might not be the same with what I want, but His plan is definitely greater and better, and I need to learn to obey whatever He wants me to do and just to trust Him that He provided what best.
The last but not least, I learned about the utmost importance of mission. I learned about it especially from the readings and group papers about the Church History in Asia. All churches in Asia were started by missionaries from Europe or America. The fact that we stand here today as believers is prove of God’s work through those missionaries’ dedication. Thank God for them.
In my church, we have several young people that decided to give their life to God to be missionaries. I really thank God for them. I think it is also my duty to assist them, nurturing their faith and keep them in their commitment to follow God’s calling to be missionaries. It is definitely not easy to follow God. Living in the world (particularly in Singapore) where people admire wealth, fame, power, can discourage them to follow God’s calling.
What can I do to encourage them should they discouraged? I can share with them about the church history in Asia (Vietnam, Korea, Myanmar, Cambodia, Malaysia, China, etc). From the group who presented about Lun Bawang people, we see the growth of the tribe into one of the biggest denomination in Malaysia, SIB. My group’s paper is on church history in Korea. We see how today Korea is the country with the biggest number of missionaries sending.
By telling those stories, I want to let them know that we are here today because of the work of missionaries that was willing to leave everything and go to share the Gospel in places that they never know before. I hope these facts will help them to see the great impact of missions on one person, one group of people, one nation, one continent, and on the world as a whole. We see today that the centre of Christianity is somewhat shift to the south, one of them is Asia. Christianity grows so fast in Asia, and it all started with mission work.
To end my testimony, I would like to thank God for all this inspiration through Church History class, and to Dr. L who has taught Church History in a way that make it become meaningful. Thank you.
NB: I enjoyed my Church History class. Now I might not remember the names, places, years, and events, but the spiritual lesson I learnt from the class will always be in my heart, living in me while I'm serving God.
I'd like to thank once again to Dr. L who has given the opportunities to share. It's been great to be taught by him :)