“Now, Jerry”, My friend’s voice hinted at mischief as we started across the church parking lot, “tell me about tee-hee-hee.”
To know Van Gill was to treasure the sound of a rolling chuckle. And take in a pair of grinning eyes, coaxing response to his merriment.
Everything about the Texan pastor was large. Large frame, large mind (among the keenest), large humor. All of these reflecting a thing largest of all – his overflowing, over-spacious heart.
Van was a man of the Book. Indeed, it was his love of Scripture that, in part at least, stirred him to offer the teasing invitation. . . tee-hee-hee.
By the time of this our family’s visit from Africa, I was co-authoring a study book on the Gospel of John, a curriculum piece for Theological Education by Extension, widely labeled T – E – E.
Writer’s workshops, led by Fred and Grace Holland of the Association of Evangelicals of Africa and Madagascar, trained missionaries and nationals in Bible school text development.
After my training I had partnered with Evangelist Josephat Rungu of Western Kenya. Together, we teamed with South Africa counterparts and, Teachings in John was born. Published in Nairobi, the T.E.E. training series – featuring topics from Old Testament Survey to Bringing People to Jesus – spanned denominations and cultures across the continent.
From Latin America to Africa and beyond, T.E.E. had begun empowering the church, equipping spiritual shepherds in the care of their flocks. Especially the many pastors and elders who were unsuited, for various reasons, to traditional schooling in far-away, culturally-detached settings.
When our extension Bible school met weekly under a big tree at mid-day, we engaged a means to dodge the harsh rays. “That’s it, bring your chair again this direction, keep moving ahead of the sun.”
Week after week, month after month, young and old apprentices to Jesus engaged each other in such settings, some indoors, some out. They would sip hot tea, an open hand would fervently wave to emphasize a point. Laughter erupted now and then. The minds of these servants of God were those waking more and more to fresh discovery of truth. They grappled with ancient scripture and sought ways to apply it well. In their own lives, their households, and to the broader community of faith. Transformed lives by Jesus and the Holy Spirit, their aim.
Through our beloved Africa years, perhaps nothing – apart from watching my three children grow – brought me greater pleasure, more sheer joy.
Tee-hee-hee. Not bad.
©2017 Jerry Lout