Running late in Haiti

This has been my fifth year teaching Principles of Spiritual Warfare at the Emmaus Biblical Seminary in Haiti. [links: 1 2 3] I’d like to invite you into the classroom and let you experience the adrenaline rush of teaching and the outrageous Joy of learning.

It seems to happen every year (five years running now). The class starts a little slowly as I try to feel my way around to determine where the students are and what they know. But in this instance slowly is nearly catastrophic. As the first week progresses I find myself increasingly behind schedule. And the farther behind I get, the faster, it seems, the end of the module approaches.

As of now I’m at least one full day of hard study behind. I don’t like being behind though not nearly as much as I dislike being ahead of schedule. Being ahead of schedule gives me the distinct feeling that my students aren’t “getting it” perhaps because they’re not engaging me with questions. While being behind makes me realize I’m going to have to skip something and potentially something that may be very important in the long term.

The trail behind us

To date we’ve covered a rather large bit of ground. I’ve challenged them to question their own worldview and to attempt as best they can (and as best I can facilitate) to honestly define and evaluate a biblical spiritual worldview up against their own. Learning you’ve been “wrong” in the past can be quite a trying experience. But this is a thirty hour seminary course in just two weeks, there’s no time for sympathy – only data download.

While efficient perhaps, data download is remarkably ineffective. Sympathetically working with my students through some of their questions and objections is surely the best way to make things stick, so I pause to answer questions – good questions – relevant questions which do as much to reveal their internal struggles as their theoretical ones. In the process I hope that lessons are indelibly learned, yet I discover to my horror that I am farther behind. There is still so much to cover and time is running out.

I’ve also taught a somewhat complete albeit compressed Angelology, Satanology and Demonology including such topics as origin, limits, freedom and responsibilities of these beings. In between all of this, I’ve attempted to harness the teachable moments to bring home a particularly useful application when the moment seems right.

I’ve challenged them and pushed them, opening up entirely new understanding of some passages which have in the past perhaps merely been passed over. By the same token they have challenged my positions on some points and have pushed for other potential explanations. They’ve floated some poor alternatives which I have tried to shoot down gently. And they have caused me on occasion to pause and either evaluate the translation or clarify my position a few different ways. And frequently they offer startlingly difficult insight into a culture heavily shaped by voudou.

Some of these explanations I wish I had a tape recorder for since they are almost never in my notes but I’m nearly certain that having them for next year would eliminate similar problems.

After finishing the largest of the five class segments, which is predominantly a systematic theology of the spiritual realm I announced a quiz and sent them to prepare.

The Next Leg of the Journey

The second major segment of the class revolves around the less spectacular aspects of Spiritual Warfare – namely dealing with personal sin. I realize that some Christians never think or at least never dwell on the angelic or demonic implications of sin and in fact many would prefer to think that such beliefs merely reflect ancient superstitions which have been bested by medical or psychological science. I used to be one.

However many Christians with at least a rudimentary awareness of the demonic are terrified of the other end of the spectrum. The nut jobs who see a demon under every tree and blame the devil for every hang nail. The truth certainly lies in between.

With that in mind the second major division (out of five) in the course delved into trying to determine the cause and effects of personal sin in our own lives. Through this section, pens are scribbling, the chalk board is filled, emptied, filled, emptied and filled again. Hands fly into the air, opinions are floated, questions are fielded and future pastors are gaining the tools to help identify, isolate and cut off the sources of sin in their own lives.

A third segment of the class focuses on the Armor of God. They learn not only to defend themselves, or rather how God defends them but in the fourth segment they also they learn about exorcisms and power encounters all the while focusing on the monumental importance of abiding in Christ who is our victory. Living victoriously in Christ and helping others to do the same is the focus of the fifth and final segment.

The Road Ahead

My hands are coated in chalk dust, two weeks have flown by at a spectacular rate. Another quiz is on my desk and the students are rubbing their hands to satisfy the cramping. They walk in and out of class mumbling as they struggle to grasp all of the concepts presented and compile them into one meaningful stream they can hold in the palm of their hand.

I’m smiling because even though I’ve been behind for most of the class, I believe they have been learning, not merely to pass a test but learning to live in victory. These men understand the importance of this class, the same way they understand the value of every class they take. In two more years they plan on walking down the aisle, gripping a diploma and moving into ministry prepared for whatever the Devil throws at them.

Tomorrow however, they’ll have to tackle what I throw at them. It’s final exam time – I hope they have enough time to finish all five pages.

Followup: I’m pleased to report that they did very well on the exam and over all.

Now that I’ve finally got a chance to post this, I’m awaiting my ride to take me to the Cap-Haitian airport. My next post, God willing will be from the soil of my native land.