I can remember my very first evening as a new student during the orientation week at Heritage. It was a cool, crisp, fall night.
We were wearing sweaters and sitting around a bonfire. I remember being so humbled by my fellow students. Most of them had walked pretty seriously with Jesus and I was just recovering from a number of years of rebellion. It was good to hear them talk honestly about their affection for our Savior.
Heritage was a great time for me. I met my wife there, but more importantly I was enlightened to God’s word and to the leading of the Holy Spirit in an entirely new way. The classes on Biblical Interpretation and the studies on specific books of the Bible inspired me. For the first time, I really felt like my melancholy, doubting, unsure, real life questions were being answered with good, honest, hopeful, intelligent, and faith-filled answers.
After graduating from Heritage, I served as a youth pastor for two years and then went to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. After graduation I worked at Emmanuel Baptist Church for six years as the college and small groups pastor. It was then that Sara and I felt God leading us to serve in Mozambique, Africa. Specifically, we felt we needed to go to Africa because our gifting and passions matched the ministry of the Maputo Biblical and Theological Seminary. I went to serve as the director of the school. However, after living on the red soil for just nine months, our son Gabriel was diagnosed with hepatoblastoma; childhood liver cancer.
Our doctor in South Africa diagnosed Gabriel. After the three-hour journey, through a third world border and lots of heat, we made our way back to Maputo and arranged flights to travel home. Currently, Gabriel is doing fine and after seven months of treatment there does not appear to be any disease in his body. We are thankful to God for this and pray that the cancer will remain absent.
This journey has brought us into many dark places and low marshes, but it has reinforced our faith. There is nothing if there is not a resurrection. I’m so glad for all of the Biblical reminders of the truth of the story of Jesus. I am so glad that what Jesus taught is so accurate that it can always answer our questions. I am so glad that he lived a life of suffering to be an example to me. Now that we think about the future, I believe even more so in the words of the Bible. Young men and women all around the world need to be trained in the historical accounts of truth and love in that book. They are living. Those words are breathing. They continue to cut us to our hearts. They peel back the armor and cut away the cancer of our deceptions and delusions. This year we have been surrounded by death. In some cases, the death does not win over the people dealing with their loss or thoughts of their potential loss. In other cases, that death floods over and drowns. I have found that the difference between the two situations is often found in placement of one’s footing… on the rock or on the sand… in the arms of the shepherd or the mouth of the dragon… listening to the words of Jesus or rejecting them. People who enter into these terrible situations really listening to Jesus often see something strangely divine about the whole situation.
I am burdened to see college students choose to serve God, to give him everything and watch him hold them up high in joy. I am burdened to see this generation of parents put aside the chaff they have been eating, which was bought from the market place of this culture, and see them present their families the real fruit and meat of Jesus’ kingship. We need more places like Heritage. We need more places like the Maputo Biblical and Theological Seminary.
Mike Thiessen is a Heritage graduate of 2002 and is currently working for OMS International – Canada. www.omscanada.org