Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

10/31 2013

Reflections on Phonathon 2013

So this fall I was checking out the new look for the PTS website when I saw the posting for the annual Phonathon in the lower right corner of the homepage. I may be in a small select group when I can say I actually get a little excited about the Phonathon.

Thinking about it brings up memories of filling up that lower room with tables and phones and paperwork and alumni volunteers and coffee and food. Somehow all that together works for me. As a student I’d drop by to stuff envelopes, get a cup of Green Mountain, say hi to any alumni I’d know and any help I’d give was greatly appreciated by Carolyn Cranston who headed up the effort. One job I had was calling up donors and thanking them as a student who received aid. It felt good to be able to thank those who had financially helped me and other students.

This time I’m an alumni, by the grace of God, and I find myself waiting for a call and living in Pittsburgh, not too far from the campus to drop by to help. I was looking forward to this and it didn’t disappoint. I got to call up virtually all of my graduating class, being their first alumni call to contribute to their alma mater.  It had only been a few months since I last saw them but I had just finished spending three years in and out of class with this group of people. I ended up leaving many voice mails but I did get to speak to a bunch of people who I got to be excited for as they started in positions of ministry, following God’s call on their lives. Later I got to call other classes including those who were retiring and encouraging me by relating to me the enjoyment of lives well chosen and lived in ministry. There were also those in the midst of their careers who wanted to hear how my journey was at this point.

Volunteering got me back on campus where I got to see good friends that are still in school and taking classes that I still feel very fresh from being in. Scholarship and academics can be difficult, yet I learned so much from all the work that I put into it.  There is much I miss from my seminary days, I’m glad I got to continue to be part of this institution and support it in ways that I can.

Written by Paul Spangler ’13, MDiv alumnus


4/25 2013

A Mission Reflection: Southeast Asia

Her name is Ester.

Upon inquiry about what she does, without hesitation she looked us straight in the eyes and said she’s a servant of God.  She uses art and puppets to reach and teach either stories she has written or stories from the Bible to children of the highlands.  It all started with an English class she was leading that became a Bible study, and now those members are the ones who help in her ministry.

Her name is Oahn.

It was 2004.  She knew God was Almighty and that Jesus was Christ and Lord, and that he came for her sins and in him she had salvation, but she didn’t feel it here, in her heart.  So one night she prayed that if God was the One God that He would then fill her heart, or she would go and follow another religion.  At that moment, she felt her heart being filled with what she called a sweet warmth.

Her name is Nim.

She works with her family weaving fabric by hand.  She and her aunt are the only Christians in their village.  When we stopped with them and read scripture with them, she would cradle her Bible close to her heart like a precious child.

Her name is Qua.

Her son lost fingers on one of his hands, which makes it hard for him to work.  And being an ethnic minority makes it hard in and of itself to get work anyway.  She has been praying for some sort of cure.  A miracle.  She had been told this happened to him because her husband doesn’t believe in Christ, and the weight of that guilt rested on her heart.  But as we prayed with her, one of our leaders put a hand on her shoulder and declared “You are the daughter of the King.  There is nothing that can come between you and the Father.  There is NOTHING that can come between you and the Father.”  Later, she said she felt free.

Her name is Hicn.

She was more reserved and quiet than most of the others, but there was a fire in her eyes that came out when she and other women would dance in worship and try to teach me the steps.  Her petite frame radiated strength, for her feet had complete trust in whom had built the foundations of the firmament upon which she tread.

Her name…I don’t remember.

When in 2000 she decided to follow Christ, her family and friends came and beat her, tied her up to the back of a truck, drug her around, and beat her some more.  She was badly hurt, but she said it didn’t matter to her if she lived or died, for she had Christ.

Their names were never offered, so again I don’t know them.

It was at a women’s conference, and translators were few.  But it didn’t matter. They clamoured over the language barrier between us and sang to me, touching my arms and nose and face, in so trying to tell me I was beautiful.  So I would touch them back, so they would know they too were beautiful, that they too had worth and value.  That they were loved.  And we sat there, together, speaking a language that requires no words.

Her name is daughter, sister, mother.

They are my sisters, our sisters, our daughters, our mothers, our nieces, our aunts.

We are family

By Rebecca Dix, storyteller and MDiv student.

Learn more about WMI and the work they do by liking their page on Facebook or going to their website: http://worldmissioninitiative.org/


4/19 2013

A Mission Reflection: Senegal

In this season of Easter, I have been reflecting upon the way God is breathing resurrection power into the lives of those who live in Senegal. It was awe-inspiring to live amongst our Senegalese brothers and sisters for two weeks; here are some of their stories.

Here is the Baobob tree and Francois, our translator, sharing the “monkey fruit” with us.

The first is a couple. They are our hosts. Although Senegal is a completely open country for spreading the gospel, I will refrain from using their names because their history is so difficult. The husband was a brilliant military leader in his youth. He was invited to another nation to train troupes and stage a coupe against the reigning president. But after serving for a while, he realized that the troupes he was training were not just preparing for the coupe, but where killing civilians from rival people groups. He became disillusioned and wanted to leave, and met some Christians who likewise were realizing that this was not the way of the Lord. But you don’t just “quit” leading a rebel army. He was tortured. And only by the grace of God was he able to flee, with his wife and children to Senegal. There, he learned about the Lord, mostly through the faith of his believing wife, and now both of them lead the church.The wife is now a powerful teacher and preacher. Her husband is also a pastor now, and he speaks to the President of Senegal when matters concerning people of faith arise. God took the natural gifts that God had born in our host – gifts of charisma and an ability to lead people – and turned these gifts from training for violence to training up in the way of the Lord Jesus on a national level. That is the power of resurrection.

Story telling in the villages. We acted out the stories of Lazarus and Bartimaeus.

The second story is about a local village pastor. The work God is doing through him is a tangible manifestation of resurrection power. Pastor Malek lives in the bush, where most people live day-to-day. The land is extremely dry and with the exception of three months out of the year, it is difficult to cultivate plants. But Pastor Malek knows the Lord Jesus and has hope in difficult situations. He has started a farm to feed not only his wife and eight children, but to provide income for his village and for his church. Although he has to walk two miles to get to the garden and then carry buckets up the hill over and over again to water the plants, he is giving new hope to his people by showing that the land can produce. The Lord is enabling this pastor to live in the power of the resurrection in a tangible way, literally turning uninhabitable land into a paradise.

The team

Yet another place where we encountered God’s resurrection power in the life of His people was through the testimony of Suza. She is not from Senegal, but from the Congo. And she paid a large sum of money to a man who told her he would get her to France by boat if she could get herself to Senegal. We heard many, many stories of people like her, trying to escape impoverished situations in their home countries. Families putting all they had on the line for the sake of one family member making it to another country where there might be hope for work. But it is a rouse. When she arrived in Senegal, she knew no one. She did not speak the language. She had no family. She had no home. Nothing. If anyone has a right to be bitter and angry, to turn away from God, it’s Suza. But the church took her in. They pay her a very small salary for odd jobs  And they allow her to take classes at the Theological Seminary where we were teaching. Suza is a woman of deep joy and passion. She said to me, “KJ, if that man had never deceived me, I would have never learned about the Lord. How can I be angry with him? The Lord will provide for me. I will find a way forward.” Suza has not experienced resurrection, newness of life, in a way that I am use to seeing it. She is still a poor woman, living day-to-day in a foreign land.  And yet, she knows the power of resurrection.

I am so thankful for the opportunity to have met our brothers and sisters in Senegal and hope that their stories inspire you on this day as we remember Christ’s resurrection in this Easter Season.

By KJ Norris-Wilke, MDiv student at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Learn more about WMI and the work they do by liking their page on Facebook or going to their website: http://worldmissioninitiative.org/

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