Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Thanking God for Friends from Seminary

By Roy Ciampa, PhD
Associate Professor of New Testament

They were the first couple that Marcelle and I met when we arrived at seminary back in 1982, and we quickly became the best of friends. To avoid referring to them as “they” or “them” let’s call them “Keith” and “Rebeccah”… Keith and I had many classes together and talked through all kinds of subjects. He and Rebeccah introduced us to music we hadn’t been familiar with but liked right away and that has been a part of our lives ever since. They also taught us some card games and, as poor seminary students, much of our leisure and entertainment time in seminary was spent playing cards together as two couples and talking into the night. We also went camping together (at the foot of the Maroon Bells ) and enjoyed great times of fellowship.
We wouldn’t be where we are today were it not for the influence of Keith and Rebeccah, and others like them, in our lives. Keith saw me as a seminary professor long before I could ever see myself that way. He became the president of the student body and appointed or recommended me to serve as the student representative on the seminary’s Faculty Affairs Committee, which gave me the opportunity to get to know faculty members and see how they conducted some of their business and to imagine what it might be like to be in their shoes someday. When Carl F. H. Henry came to campus it was Keith who arranged for the two of us to have a private meeting with him, during which Keith referred to me as the “theologian” of the student body. It was a title I didn’t deserve, by any means, but it reflected Keith’s perception of my gifts (and calling), one that would later be confirmed by others and within myself. To this day I don’t remember a bit of what we talked about with Dr. Henry, but I’ve never forgotten the complement paid to me by my friend and what it said about his view of my potential!
Keith has been a faithful pastor since our days in seminary. He’s now pastoring a church in Arizona. Marcelle and I just enjoyed a wonderful visit from Keith and Rebeccah. They took the time to come and spend a few days visiting and catching up with us. We walked the freedom trail in Boston, visited Salem, attended church together, discussed the Bible, theology, ethics, philosophies of ministry, ministry challenges, family issues and many other things. We also enjoyed evenings with long card games and deep conversations into the late hours. He and Rebeccah continue to be an encouragement to us and models for us of faithful ministry in both good and very challenging circumstances. I thank God for them and the roles they have played in our lives.
Do you remember particular friends from college or seminary that have encouraged you, or helped you identify your gifts or who played key roles in shaping your vision for your future ministry? Was there someone (or more than one person) without whom you don’t know how you would have gotten through, or that you feel made a significant contribution to your understanding of God’s call on your life? If you haven’t been in touch with that person for a while, or haven’t expressed your appreciation for them recently, perhaps you should think about giving them a call or writing them a note. And perhaps you might even think about planning a way to get together again for a few days to renew that friendship, and see if you don’t both benefit from the truth expressed so well in Proverbs 27:17: As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (NIV).

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