The Lord gave me the idea of starting each semester at the university with three Local proverbs to set the right tone for the students. I told them, “We will operate in this classroom according to these three proverbs.
“The first is this, ‘The rooster that crows at the wrong time gets his head cut off.’ That means, when I talk, you be quiet. If you don’t want to listen, then sleep, read a book or a newspaper. Just don’t disturb those who want to learn.
“The second proverb is: ‘A lake is made drop by drop.’ If you do your homework each day, when the exams come, you will be ready.”
“And the third one is, ’Each sheep is hung by its own leg.’ So, if you get a 0 or 100 on your test, I did not give it to you, you gave it to yourself. You are the one responsible for the outcome.”
Any time there was a problem in class, I simply had to repeat one of these well known proverbs and everyone nodded in agreement.
My job in this class was to bring these students’ English up to college level so they could begin attending college classes, all taught in English. Since some of them had very little English, it was a daunting task to reach this goal in one year. But we did!
I had to learn “student language” in evaluating excuses about undone home work. One fellow said, “I was unable to complete my home work last night.” “Why?” I asked. “Because,” he said, “I had to attend a soccer match!” “Ah,” I said, “You were able to do it but chose not to!” He hung his head.
Each semester I would ask my students if they would like to meet my “first wife.” They looked puzzled, as some of their fathers had more than one wife. The next day I would bring Barbara with me and explained that she was my first and only wife, much to their amusement.
And each semester my students asked me the same question, “Do you wash dishes?” When I answered, “yes,” the students would immediately whisper to each other in the local language, “hen-pecked.”
Then I would speak up, “No, I am not henpecked.” They were always amazed that I understood them. “If I washed dishes because my wife ordered me to, then I would be hen-pecked. But I wash dishes because I want to help my wife when she is tired. That’s love in action.” The girls would all beam and all the boys would glower.
At the end of each semester Barbara and I would invite the students to our home for tea, and there we would share more openly about our faith and the students could ask questions they’d had all semester, but couldn’t voice in school.
To this day we have contact with some of those students. In fact just last night Barbara and I visited one of my former students and his family!
Sadly, only one of them has become a believer thus far, but happily, his mother and father came to faith also and they all persevered as believers through many years of difficulties.
Picture: Barbara serving some of my students visiting our home. One is holding little Nat.