June 25, 2018
This blog features stories about the Wheaton College Graduate School. This week's story is written by Dr. John Walton (M.A. '75), Professor of Old Testament and a faculty member of the Biblical Exegesis M.A. Program. Dr. Walton has just returned from a jam-packed adventure across the Pacific, giving 42 lectures and 11 sermons in just 44 days. This trip began as a plan with a former student to give lectures at her Bible School (she is now the dean). It expanded to a seven-country voyage almost entirely formed through the network of Wheaton College students and alumni. Join Dr. Walton as he shares highlights from his journal to give a glimpse of what his travels taught him about his ministry of Biblical teaching.
Stop 1: Kona, Hawaii
This first leg of my trip is the only time I will not connect with any students, faculty, or alumni of Wheaton. I agreed to come to YWAM Kona, a large missions base with around 300 students, to provide a week of Old Testament teaching. I confess that I was surprised when I discovered—after committing—that I would have just 12-20 students in my class, and only one chance to give an additional 90-minute masterclass which would be open to the entire 300-student population. 12 students for a week? I wonder, will this be the best use of my time?
AM: Class this morning went well. We talked about how to interpret narrative and it was very well received. The teaching that I am giving is clearly making a difference for people, and though I am reaching relatively few, these are people who will be teaching YWAM groups all around the world.
PM: Shame on me of little faith! 35 people attended the masterclass tonight in a hot and crowded room, and I spoke for 90 minutes straight on the use of backgrounds and on Genesis 1.
I have never had a more receptive and responsive audience.
They laughed at all my humor (which just meant I inserted more—and they laughed more).
They cried. In fact, some of them wept, especially when they asked: “Tell us what difference this makes in the reading of the rest of Scripture.” So they got the condensed version of my sermon on God’s presence (that I am going to preach every week for the next seven Sundays). They were deeply touched.
The attendees crowded around at the end and they prayed for me, and they were effusive in their enthusiasm about what they were learning, asking if I could please come back tomorrow afternoon and give them the second lecture. Of course, I said yes.
I stand chastened. I am where I needed to be and this time is being well-used by God. What a lesson to take with me through the rest of my travels.
Stop 2: Taiwan
Wonderful to make Wheaton connections! Met with Yi-an Nina Chen, a current student, and Yi-an Lulu Chen ('17), an alumna, both of the M.A. in Biblical Exegesis program; and with Wanchen Villegas, our international admissions counselor who is a native of Taiwan and currently in the country. I will be preaching at the largest Baptist church in Taiwan and lecturing at China Evangelical Seminary in Taipei and Campus Evangelical Fellowship.
Nina and Lulu (on my left), previously my students, now feel like my daughters! Wanchen is on my left.
The third and last of the 6-hour lecture days at China Evangelical Seminary in Taipei. Between the room of attendees, overflow rooms, and live streaming, my lectures were broadcast to thousands. I will never know the impact, but I pray that somehow people came away with a new commitment to be faithful interpreters and that they will benefit from the information that I was able to give.
Stop 3: Japan
I was picked up at the airport by a big committee, including the dean of Covenant Seminary, the publisher and the translator of my book, The Lost World of Genesis One, into Japanese, and Keiko, a Wheaton College Ph.D. student who has arranged and scheduled much of my Japan trip.
This morning I had two hours of lecture to the students of Covenant Seminary on the book of Job.
Afterwards, a woman came up to me who is a local pastor. She said that she had lost her daughter two years ago and had been struggling. She told me that my teaching about the book of Job was very helpful to her as she continued processing that tragedy.
Now at Lutheran Seminary in Kobe. The group of attendees represented a consortium of seminaries, Bible schools, and churches from all over western Japan. Students were given the day off from classes to attend, and many denominations collaborated to put the event together! All of the leaders are good friends and they get along well—a great example of the unity of the church.
Today we spent the morning at Hemeji Castle. It is an incredible architectural wonder. I was accompanied by Makito, Shinji (respectively, president and dean of the Lutheran Seminary), and Nate (Old Testament professor and my translator). We had a good time together. They are all very jolly folks. In fact, all of my hosts and the leaders that I have met have wonderful sense of humor—we spend a lot of time joking and laughing.
Back in Tokyo, and another alumni connection! Rebekah, originally from Uganda, teaches English here at Trinity Christian University.
Conversations with students and faculty here are giving me the impression that my material is reshaping Evangelicalism in Japan—a humbling thought.
Tomorrow I am off early for South Korea.
Stop 4: South Korea
A very full day. Preached at Jubilee Church (two services), and one of the largest churches in South Korea: Myungsung Church.
Sightseeing day in Seoul with my tour guide, Stephen Lee ('18)! We visited the Imperial Palace, Old Town, the Korean Contemporary History Museum, and then came the toughest stop of the day, Seodaemun Prison.
Halfway Day! My seven-week lecture tour has reached the half way point and still going strong.
For lunch, two of the doctoral students at Torch Trinity Graduate University picked me up and took me to a restaurant near the campus where I met with about 15 students and one professor. Most of the students were Korean, but there were two from Africa. A fun group!
Stop 5: Indonesia
A full schedule ahead: all-day lecturing today and tomorrow for a conference, and preaching at Jakarta's largest English-speaking church in the evening. Sunday I will preach three times. Then on to Southeast Asian Biblical Seminary (SEABS) in Malang for a few days of teaching.
A great highlight: dinner with David and Sarah Hall (and their daughter), both graduates and old friends from the M.A. in Biblical Exegesis program.
Friends at SEABS
Stop 6: Hong Kong
A quick two days in Hong-Kong: Lectures at Hong Kong Baptist University, Lumina College, and preaching at Union Church. Now on to China.
At Hong Kong Baptist University
Stop 7: China
Note: names, details, and specific locations from this portion of the trip have been omitted for security reasons.
I visited many seminaries, churches, and significant sights throughout China. I even was able to connect with a dear current student in the Biblical Exegesis program, and to meet two of our new students in the Graduate School (one in a Psychology, Counseling and Family Therapy program, and one in a Biblical and Theological Studies program). I wish I could share more about the beautiful people, churches, and seminaries I visited in China, but am only able to share with you some highlights from my sightseeing in Beijing and the final reflections and some stats from the trip.
Temple of Heaven
Great Wall of China
I prepared myself for this summer’s travels with the understanding that even on a trip with all the logistics in place, some things are bound to fall apart or change. What to do in that case? Here is what my strategy has been, and what I have learned:
- Even when nothing works according to plan, assume that God has already calculated the impact that my ministry can have. So, I need to focus on what I do end up doing rather than give in to disappointment about what did not work so well.
- Treat opportunities as “adventures in ministry”—God is the one who will maximize the impact of the ministry—not dependent on logistics and size of group. Some of my most impactful times of teaching and preaching have occurred in moments of weakness or disappointment.
0 baggage lost
42 lectures (about 4,000 people addressed)
11 sermons (about 12,000 people addressed)
7 countries and territories
7 incredible guides
... and an untold number of new friends
Cambridge University (England), University of St. Andrews (Scotland), University of Capetown, Stellenbosch University, and George Whitefield College (South Africa)... and more!