A letter from Jane Holslag in Lithuania
September 30. 2012
What is happening in “my world”? On this last Saturday in September in Klaipeda the best I can offer are a few snippets from my journal reflections…
9/3. Classes for the fall semester began today. I am once again teaching Introduction to Bible I—the Old Testament (plans to freshen it up) and for the first time, Biblical Interpretation (hope I can manage to be more than a day ahead of my six bright and eager women students). I am richly blessed with young people from Lithuania, Latvia, Moldova, the Russian Federation, Belarus, Ukraine, and the U.S., and though it is quite a variety, they actually only reflect a quarter of the 28 countries represented in our student body.
Where do these students come from? The Internet allows me to learn about their homelands from daily news reports in English! FYI? Most recently the same president who has ruled since 1994 was again elected in Belarus (no surprise?!); the current president of the Russian Federation’s term lasts till 2018; the U.S. and Europe have called on leaders in Ukraine to hold free and fair elections in October, noting with regret what is seen to be "selective prosecutions" (no translation needed); drunk driving and the alcohol-related death rates continue to plague many countries in the region (male residents from the homeless shelter in my neighborhood are a daily reminder to pray); Lithuania’s population is now under 3 million, down from 3.5—the most extreme emigration in the EU. My prayers for my students include their families and the nations they come from.
9/10-9/20. Several conversations from these September weeks still echo. After a rather detailed lecture reviewing Genesis and its "warts" (dating the text, authorship, style, etc.), I devoted the last quarter of an hour to the question of Moses as author of the entire Torah, referring to those textual bumps that make a careful reader scratch his/her head (this is what I call a "hard ball" lecture). Students were attentive, took notes, and it seemed they were following. At the end of the hour, two students waited till the room had cleared and then came to me to talk. They excused themselves and then sort of whispered their "just one question": "Who is Moses?” OOPS, I said and thought—retool, retool! J
There have been conversations about the relation between the Old Testament concept of blessing and the "prosperity gospel" (theme for one student’s final project), about the merit of asking questions and having discussion even when we don’t arrive at answers, and about what must we know and do to really "get the meaning" in the Scriptures. En route to campus one morning, I was told by a student why a liberal arts education does indeed have value! This was once a big question for this student. AND almost daily I’m reminded how much I have yet to learn, how much God has to reveal, and what a gift I’ve been in given these years at LCC International University.
9.30. I am blessed by the last bouquets of summer, raspberries and Pfifferlinge (chanterelle mushrooms gathered from the forests) from the market, even laundry hung out to dry on my wee balcony (it’s not raining, and the sun is almost warm enough to do the job, IF the sky will just stay blue!), and a clean apartment, thanks to a dear student who helps me ward off dust bunnies! It’s the end of the fourth week of classes, and finally a day with some spare time...
THANK YOU for making these days God’s good gift of peace and hope and joy even when it’s a lot of hard work!!! Keep praying, please! Pray with me for my students, whose hearts and minds are more or less eager to learn about God from the Old Testament, more or less open to the promise we’ve just begun to explore, more or less ready for the surprises from a loving and gracious Lord in the stories that fill chapter upon chapter!
Please pray for our 4th year students anticipating graduating and making big choices about further studies, returning home, looking for work, and wanting to start careers in countries and economies, not unlike the U.S., where the prospects are slim.
It’s hard to believe how fast these first weeks have gone…will there be time? Will there be energy? What about my "to do" list, the ongoing department responsibilities, colleagues and friends I’d just like to spend time with? Lord, you know better than I what is necessary, and so I pray for wisdom and focus, for health and enthusiasm, for me to remember it’s not about me but about you!
Grace and peace, dear friends and supporters!
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 278