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Where would I be today were it not for Elisabeth Elliot? Last week it was A. B. Simpson, founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance whose large worldwide footprint was indelibly stamped on a northern Wisconsin farming community and inside the doors of a white clapboard church. My life in the 1950s and early sixties revolved around that little church. After many twists and turns in the following decades, Elliot’s footprint also profoundly influenced my life.
I began my teaching career in 1978 at Grand Rapids School of the Bible and Music utterly unprepared. I couldn’t teach music, though I had been a fine French horn player, nor Bible, despite a long list of undergraduate Bible courses and two years of Greek. I was a historian. The good news was that another professor wanted out of the history of mission class he was teaching. “It’s an important course,” he told me, “but unfortunately, the subject matter is so boring.” I knew nothing about the history of missions—not even that it was boring. But that was the way a lot of us started teaching in higher education back in the day. Start from scratch and show up in class.
Courses - Semester - Writing - Qualification - How
I was a part-timer with two assigned courses: first semester, Creative Writing. My only qualification was that I had co-authored How to Set Up Your Own Preschool. It was, therefore, assumed I must be the perfect person for the course. I purchased copies of William Zinsser’s On Writing Well (1976) and E. B. Whites, Elements of Style (with William Strunk) and I was off and running. Whether or not students learned much from those writing courses I would teach, there is no question that I did. The same with the second semester’s History of Missions course.
Here is where Elisabeth Elliot comes in. What if...
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