Dr. John G. Nordling, CTS Fort Wayne
For service at Lutheran Theological Seminary, Pretoria, South Africa
3 – 14 March 2014
I have had the privilege of teaching selections of the Gospel according to St. Matthew for two weeks (3-14 March 2014) at Lutheran Theological Seminary, Pretoria, South Africa. This is my sixth teaching trip to South Africa (2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014) and funding this venture has always been a challenge. This summer I preached at several congregations that in the past have supported my teaching or showed an interest in the same. Most of the support this year came from the generous gift of $1,000 from St. Mark Lutheran Church, Waco, TX (Rev. James Price), which is the congregation Sara and I belonged to during our Baylor years (2001-2006). Other substantial gifts were received from Immanuel Lutheran Church, Frankentrost, MI (Rev. Mark Loest; $794.05) and the St. Philip Lutheran Mission Society (President Rev. Christopher Maronde; $500). Faith Lutheran Church, Merrill, WI (Rev. Kevin Hoogland) again contributed $332 for books. I am learning to establish contacts that seem beneficial to my Africa travels, but also to the congregations in the USA which are eager to learn more about the Lutheran students in Africa and to support our efforts to teach them.
Instruction for the Gospel of Matthew class took place 8:00 – 9:55 a.m. and 11:00 – 11:55 a.m. Monday through Friday (3 hours of instruction per day). I projected the Greek text of Matthew onto a screen and worked through selections of the gospel exegetically and theologically. Obviously, I could not treat the entire gospel in two weeks so was obliged to teach selections thereof. Nevertheless, I think we covered the most important points and that the students got a good “feel” for Matthew overall which in so many ways is foundational to the other three gospels and to the NT as a whole. I was also able to incorporate into my teaching relevant portions of David P. Scaer’s Discourses in Matthew: Jesus Teaches the Church (Concordia, 2004) which focusses upon the five teaching blocks in the gospel of Matthew—namely, Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7), Office of the Ministry (chapters 9-10), Parables (13), Life in the Community (18), and the Last Judgment (23-25). I brought 20 copies of Discourses with me in my luggage and gave one copy of the book to each of my students.
Here are the assignments I expected from each student:
4 quizzes (approx. 1 quiz every other day) 50 %
Assignment Sheet on Scaer (due over the weekend) 20%
Class participation (attendance, questions) 10%
Content of Matthew quiz (at the end) 20%
Total 100 pts possible
The assignment sheet consisted of some questions that were drawn from Scaer’s Discourses, 9-32, designed to get the students to think carefully about Scaer’s contention that the gospel of Matthew was written originally for catechumens who were preparing for Baptism and Eucharistic incorporation into the church in the earliest days. Most days there were 16 students in class, most of whom were seniors (who had had some Greek) but also 5 deaconess students who, although they didn’t know Greek, were very “engaged” in the class, taking notes and really setting a good example for the male pre-pastoral students. The remarkable performance of these deaconess students, I believe, was at least partly attributable to the quality of Deaconess Deborah Rockrohr’s teaching of these students last year. I hope that the fine foundation Deaconess Rockrohr established last year can be continued at LTS in the future. Thus, the composition of my Matthew class was “mixed.” I did not quiz as much on Greek this time, though I projected the Greek text and referred to that exclusively during my instruction. The quizzes were based for the most part on fill-in-the-blank and multiple choice questions drawn from the text selections. The students came from South Sudan, Botswana, Uganda, South Africa, Zambia, Swaziland, and west Africa. All in all, I believe the students worked very hard and derived the full benefit of my coming to them from America. It was a joy to see that the number of students I taught this year was back to nearly full capacity after a very small class last year. I shared teaching duties with CTS colleague, Professor John Pless, who taught from his recent book Didache(on the six chief parts of the Catechism) in the afternoons. Hence, it was a very “full” two weeks for Pless, myself, the students (who had to attend class 6 hours per day, every day), and for Bishop Weber. But it was obvious that Bishop Weber and the students had been anticipating our coming for a long time and were “ready” for us while there. There were no “glitches” that I could see nor inefficiencies. The “team teaching” with Pless seemed to work very well on this trip and may be the best way to conduct this ministry in the future.
Last May (2013) I mentored three students who were masters candidates at the University of Pretoria at the time—namely, Peter Abia, Enoch Macben, and Frank Kainerugaba. All three candidates have successfully completed their dissertations (I was the outside reader for Abia, and John Pless for Macben). Enoch Macben has continued to stay on at LTS to teach Greek to the beginning students there, with his wife Prossy, and their young child Shalom. Enoch shows a real aptitude for Greek, and Bishop Weber has asked that we secure the funding to send him to my 2014 Fall Greek class in Fort Wayne—which is a very fast moving and intensive class, with passive as well as active exercises (composition). Also, the intensive class at Fort Wayne would help Enoch’s command of English. Of course Enoch has already learned Greek and is in fact teaching it to the beginners at LTS; nonetheless, Bishop Weber would like to see a native African receive the intensive training in Greek from me so that he might, in the future, complete a Ph.D. in NT and teach Greek and NT offerings long-term at LTS. Needless to say, these plans are still pending, though I have been in touch with Dr. Timothy Quill who has written favorably of providing some funding for Enoch from either LCMS World Missions or CTS.
In addition to the intensive teaching Bishop Weber requested that I preach twice in Chapel (6 and 13 March). Thus, I preached Thursdays and Pless preached Fridays. Chapel services were well-attended on this trip and I would have to say that the daily offices at LTS provide a real focus and center for the spiritual life and formation of the students. Also, over the weekend (7-9 March), Prof. Pless and I accompanied Bishop Weber and his wife Angelika to Lesotho where we spent two nights at the Katse Dam and Lodge in the very heart of that land-locked African nation. It was a seven hour trip from Pretoria to the Katse Dam, through record rains and high mountain passes (3090 meters), but a wonderful opportunity to see more of Africa. There are no Lutheran congregations in Lesotho to speak of but we were “scouting” the place and learned about the Roman Catholic church there. During Saturday 8 March we toured the Katse Dam (a tour all to ourselves), visited an authentic African village under the guidance of two young locals, and enjoyed a two-hour boat trip on the Katse Dam reservoir—again, all to ourselves. We were impressed by the beautiful serenity of the place and the fact that it is as yet unspoiled by overdevelopment and pollution.
On Tuesday 4 March I presented the Lutheran view of the Sacraments to a group of 15 M.Div. students (6 men and 9 women) at the NG Kerk Hartebeesspruit (Dutch Reformed Church) under the direction of my friend Dr. Kobus Kok, a NT professor at the University of Pretoria. I received a fair hearing there and many questions which I attempted to field on the basis of Luther’s Small Catechism and the Greek NT. In prior years I have presented academic papers to Dr. Kok’s classes but he desired me this time to present “the Lutheran view” of Sacraments to students who had never before been exposed to Lutheranism. I made no coverts there but feel it went reasonably well; to show his appreciation Dr. Kok took me to lunch afterwards and we discussed further collaborative efforts: there are more masters students he would like to find outside readers for, etc.
Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to Bishop Wilhelm Weber, Jr., his wonderful wife Angelika, and three of their four children (Frederika, Detlev, and Matthias) who so kindly hosted us in their home throughout the entire two-and-a-half week period. Every day we’d wake at 6 a.m., breakfast, and accompany Angelika in rush-hour traffic to our respective places at the University of Pretoria or the seminary. Then when the day was over we’d retire to the Weber home where we’d relax: smoke cigars, drink beers, drink scotch, check our e-mails, etc. I should also mention in this connection that we received a free and nutritious lunch every day with the students at LTS prepared by Bishop Weber’s sister, Mrs. Renate Straeuli. We worshipped twice Sunday mornings at the English-speaking congregation that convenes on the seminary premises, and twice for Lenten services at nearby St. Paul’s Lutheran Church (German-speaking). Again I would like to point out that Bishop Weber has been to me a great host over the years and a real brother in Christ. In many ways I’ve felt that the extended Weber family has been the backbone of both confessional Lutheran churches in South Africa, and their personal faithfulness and piety have mentored many Lutheran pastors throughout the entire continent of Africa. It is vital that the LCMS continue to support LTS with our offerings and prayers, even as we respond to dramatic requests for assistance elsewhere. I welcome this opportunity to have served the Lord and his church by teaching at LTS in March 2014 and hope that this seminary can continue to influence confessional Lutheranism throughout Africa for many years to come, even as it has so faithfully in the past. I hope, by God’s grace, to return to teach at LTS next year.
Dr. John G. Nordling
Associate Professor of Exegetical Theology
Concordia Theological Seminary
6600 N. Clinton Street
Fort Wayne, IN 46815