Hill of Theological Wind

Greetings from the Lutheran Theological Seminary (LTS) on To Fung Shan in Shatin, Hong Kong. To Fung Shan means the “Hill of Theological Wind” and it has proved true to her name for me. Since starting my theological studies in mid-August 2015 here at LTS, I have had many wonderful chances to delve into theology in many interesting ways. My desire (or was it God’s will?) was to come to a Lutheran seminary to pursue my studies for a Master of Theology degree and this has been granted, in spades, here at LTS. I love the Lutheran theology practiced at Chapel most mornings and I enjoy the input of so many Lutheran scholars and teachers who now invest in me and all the students here. It is really a joyous time for me to be here getting mental, spiritual as well as physical stimulation and exercise.

Having left academia with my graduation from Trinity Theological College in Singapore in 2000, it has been quite an adjustment to return to studying after fifteen years in the pastoral ministry. After orientation and a wonderful retreat in August 2015, the school year began with the Fall semester in September. As partial fulfillment of the requirements for my degree, I have to take six credited courses during my course of study. I enrolled for Reformation History, the History of Spirituality, Seminar on Christology to the Eighth Century and audited the Seminar on God, Evil and Suffering in the first semester. Why so many history courses? Because this is my area of study – church history. I must say that it was not so easy getting back into the studying mode after pastoring for such a long time. However, the mental stimulus is wonderful. I really enjoyed Reformation History because I finally got to study the whole situation from the beginning to the Catholic Counter-Reformation! The final project for the course was a presentation on the Catholic mission in one country in the world and I chose to do Japan. I learnt about the “Christian Century” in Japan that sadly ended with martyrdoms and all foreigners “kicked out” and the country closed to foreign visitors. One of my classmates did his presentation on Macau and I was able to visit the sites which he mentioned in his presentation when a small group of us, seminary mates went for a day trip this semester in January 2016. Truly, when you get to visit the historical sites which you had only read about or heard about, it brings history to life.  Both the course on Reformation history and Christology were taught by Dr. Carolyn Schneider who is also my supervisor for my thesis. She comes from the U.S.A. and is a member of the ELCA.

Besides studies and things related like the library and the fact that electronic books and periodicals are now normal and a part of a library’s collection, there have been many other activities related to seminary life. It has been very difficult trying to keep from agreeing to help with many things pastorally related. Another matter is that of translation. LTS runs in three “languages:” Cantonese, English and Mandarin. This is because there are many students here from China who cannot speak Cantonese. I speak all three and so I was asked not long after the semester started to help with the Morning Chapel translation team. I accepted and have been part of a team of students who regularly help with translation for all the students who need it during Morning Chapel time from Monday to Thursday.  Beside this, I have helped with translations and interpretation for classes and also for seminary events.

The community here at LTS has three groups: the local students, the China mainland students and the International students. I am very glad that the International community is so diverse and varied both in the student body as well as in the many different lecturers who are teaching here. I am delighted to be part of an international, intercultural community once again as I had chosen to study at LTS partly for this reason. Partly because I am multi-lingual, I became involved in the Intercultural Students’ Fellowship Committee and this has meant that there is an aspect to my community living here which allows me to serve and see to the welfare of the International Community.  I have also sung in the Intercultural Choir and it is wonderful to be able to sing in a choir again.

This Spring semester has seen me struggle with my thesis proposal.  Due to the heavy workload that it takes to complete the proposal, I have taken only two courses this semester and they were “The Theology of Martin Luther” and “Jesus in the Quran and the Bible.” Though I have lived most of my life in Malaysia being surrounded by and a part of Islamic culture, I really do not know much about Islamic theology. The course on “Jesus in the Quran and the Bible” has really been an eye-opener. I never knew that Jesus and Mary were extensive mentioned in the Quran! Dr. Bambang Ruseno Utomo taught with the view of dialogue between Muslims and Christians always in mind and this has made the course so relevant for me. It has helped me understand why Muslims react and think as they do. I decided to do my term paper for the “Theology of Martin Luther” on “Luther’s Impact on Women’s Roles and Status.” The research for this paper was fascinating. Having an exchange student from Germany to discuss Luther with helped me see that Luther had a positive impact on the status and role of women in his day. Having done both the Reformation History course and now this course on Luther’s theology, I believe I can be an aid to the Lutheran Study Centre at STS as this means that I have had a chance to consider Luther’s theology and his impact on the Church, not just in the 16th Century, but the lasting impact made on the Church to this day.

It was a struggle but much credit has to go to Dr. Carolyn as my supervisor for editing and guiding me through to the completion of my thesis proposal. The working title for my thesis is “Gender Equality in leadership roles in the Basel Christian Church of Malaysia with particular consideration of church elders”. The thesis will have three chapters. The first chapter studies the history of the BCCM from her roots in China and how the missionaries from the Basel Mission Society worked among the Hakka people. What they found about the status and role of women in that people group at that time will be considered. From there on to the establishment of the church in North Borneo (Sabah, Malaysia) and the appointment of women elders in 1925 and this impact on the leadership role that women played in the church from then onwards. Chapter three considers what is still lacking for women in the church but also how women’s status and roles have been raised and changed in the indigenous peoples of Sabah who have heard the Gospel. Due to the short time frame to complete my thesis, I remain in Hong Kong over June and July to work on my thesis. I will take a two-week break in August and return home to Sabah to visit family and also to do some further research at STS.

I wish to express my heartfelt appreciation to LCA for supporting my studies through the scholarship granted to me and also to all who have been praying for me throughout this academic year. Your prayers have really seen me through a challenging year of adjustment in returning to academia. Your prayers have supported me greatly as I have seen God’s Hand and Presence in all the many experiences that have made my life colourful, joyful and full(!) this past academic year. Learning is a wonderful thing and I thank God and all the brothers and sisters who have so kindly and faithfully been my prayer partners for asking God to grant me this chance to learn more.  Thank you and all glory to God.

If you would like to know more about opportunities to personally support a scholarship recipient in your congregation during their stay in Australia, or ways in which you can financially and prayerfully support LCA International Mission’s scholarship program, you are invited to phone Nevin on (08) 8267 7300 or email nevin.nitschke@lca.org.au

Read more stories about LCA International Mission scholarships at http://www.lcamission.org.au/category/stories/scholarships/