"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

THIRD CULTURE KID: Multnomah School of the Bible

     I was a seven-month-old baby Christian when I started Multnomah School of the Bible (now Multnomah University). Everything was new to me. We took a Bible knowledge quiz when we enrolled and we took it again at the end of the three-year program to see how much we'd learned. At graduation (39 graduates) I got the prize for "most improved."
     That was the easiest award I ever won. I could hardly have known less when I started. I even flunked the sample question on the cover of the test: "What are the first five books of the Bible called?" I'd never heard of the Pentateuch or the Torah.
     I came to Bible School as a pacifist. I challenged one of my Bible teachers with "I can't see Jesus carrying a bayonet!"
     He shot back, "Ever read the book of Revelation?"
     Before coming to Multnomah, I had given away my two prom dresses, although I would have liked to keep them, and I had my hair cut short, although--because--I felt pretty with it long and wavy. I think I was expecting Bible school to be more of a nunnery. (My future husband, who entered Multnomah the next year, had the same misconceptions. He saw a motorcycle in the college parking lot and judged the rider as "carnal"--only to declare upon getting to know him he was "the most spiritual student in the school.")
     I came to Bible school with the simple, unquestioning faith I talked about in my post, "I prayed for a cat." Most of Multnomah's students came from Christian families and had grown up in Sunday School. The zeal had worn off--or had never been there. Once in our after-dinner devotions, someone called out exultantly, as if making a great discovery, "God is still on the throne!" and I thought, Of course He is. Where else would He be? I judged the solid, long-term faithful believers for not being more emotional and evangelistic about Jesus.
     When we paused for grace before meals it meant--for me--an interruption in the constant dialogue, or at least monologue, I was having with God. It went something like, "Father, please help Marie get over her cold and--excuse me, Lord, time to thank You for our food--and help Jack to master Greek."
     I hung out with other first-generation, newly-saved pagans, like Genie Lombard, who had also become a Christian in Japan, and Dennis Miller, who came to the Lord after breaking his neck in a fall from a trapeze.
     Everyone had to pick a "Christian service assignment." I picked the rescue mission. I'd go with a small team who would present a mini-church service to homeless men slumped in pews before they could have their free meal. (I was so gullible one man talked me out of my own lunch, going off with three of my room-mate's Tupperware bowls which I had to replace.)
     Only guys could do the preaching. (An unofficial motto for Multnomah men was "Be prepared to preach, pray, or die at a moment's notice.") I wasn't interested in becoming a preacher but I did take homiletics and after my first year of Greek the school hastily ruled that girls could not take two years of Greek, lest they end up with a degree making them eligible to preach.) Girls could "give testimonies," help with children, and sing.
     One evening I went with a group which teacher Tom Stanwyck was leading. I was the only girl on the platform with him, the only girl in the room. When the song leader asked everyone to open to hymn whatever-it-was and we started singing, I heard the most beautiful soprano voice--and realized with amazement it was coming out of my mouth! Not only that but I had total control over it. I could vary volume and dynamics, hit notes I was surprised to hit.
     I've never been able to sing well, before or since. I was eliminated during solo try-outs breathed shyly into the ear of my second grade piano teacher. Humiliating. Once while swinging and singing alone on a playground I heard a nearby window slam and thought maybe it was personal. I slunk away ashamed.
     Now I was caroling with the joy and freedom of a lark. I knew it wasn't me. It was God, gifting me temporarily for His own purposes. I heard later that one of the homeless men--a young one who was new to the mission--came to Christ that night. I assume that was God's purpose for the gift. It was not for me; it was for him.
     We also, as a student body, went out once every semester, to take the gospel to our city. We would go door-to-door, two-by-two, with literature. I didn't mind this--I am not saying any of this to criticize the school; I am very grateful for the Bible foundation I received there and have been building on it ever since. I was taking the gospel to every creature I met anyway.
     But one semester, as my partner and I passed a house on our way to the blocks to which we had been assigned, I saw a young mother struggling to carry a basket of wet laundry to the clothesline in her back yard. I wanted so much to forget my assignment, go help her hang up the laundry and be her friend. I didn't but I have never forgotten that tug in my spirit and I have given in to similar tugs many times since then.

Today I am thankful for God's gifts through us to others.


  1. dear jessica..when i read this post and saw that you received the award for most improved, it reminded me of a sunday school concert i went to years ago.
    when the children were receiving their rewards for the year of sunday school for perfect attendance, most bible verses learnt, etc. i was really pleased that EACH student had words of praise from the sunday school superintendent.not ONE child was omitted and when one of them was named "most improved". i thought that the cheers were even louder for this little boy!
    oh and jessica, it made me think of the awards that the christians will be receiving on the day that lord will be giving them and no matter how little or how much we are able to do for him, there will be a crown for each one, a crown that we will be able to lay at the feet of jesus!
    this was such a great post...it brought back to me such a sweet encouraging memory.
    thank you jessica...love terry

  2. Dear Terry (and anyone else out there), If you are pro-life I am sure you are already sensing it but the enemy seems to be racheting up the attack. I'm feeling more intense and sustained spiritual opposition to us pro-life people than I have ever felt before. Heavy-duty pressure to divide us from each other. Please be praying for the dear people on the front lines, outside abortion clinics, counseling women, all of these. And if you are one of these people, Jerry and I are praying for you! God bless you. Speaking of crowns, you have beautiful ones coming!

  3. Thanks for this post because I KNOW you understand. Speaking from my perspective (I am going into my 6th year as an executive director of a pregnancy resource center), the struggle has never been so exhausting. There are many days when I wonder if I won't just drop from the stress of trying to protect the ministry God has entrusted to me, balancing relationships-some of which are already non-too-healthy and leading people who WANT to serve here where God has called them, but who also struggle with all the above-mentioned...and more.

    But I find God is sufficient in all circumstances and He sends many, many unexpected blessings to brighen and encourage my days.

    Love and appreciation...Lisa

  4. "I am absolutely pro-choice when it comes to abortion--as long as the victim is the one who gets to choose."
    jessica..what you said here says it all!
    i have never heard of such a great thing for being pro choice,,,so good..the victim has the last decision!...you are quite the lady!!!
    love terry

  5. I'm taking the liberty of posting a question a friend asked me by email about Multnomah in case she isn't the only one wondering:
    "I'm curious - you gave the facts about your studies at Multnomah - that you were limited in what you could take because they didn't want you qualified to preach - but you didn't state your feelings about that. Did it bother you, or are you on board with it?"
    I didn't mind because I agreed that the Bible does not authorize women preachers and because I wasn't interested in trying to be one.
    Another door they closed to me, though, surprised and disappointed me (although I could see their point when they explained it). I wanted to learn Mandarin Chinese and I found a Chinese student there willing to teach two or three of us. Multnomah powers-that-be told me I couldn't organize such a group because it would distract from the Bible we were there to learn.
    The secular colleges I had attended didn't claim any jurisdiction over a student's private life. It hadn't occurred to me to check with the school first. So even now all I can say in Chinese is "How are you?""I'm fine," and "I love you."

  6. dear jessica..that is way too bad about not learning chinese.
    there was near here a pilot training school where there were several chinese boys taking lessons..their teacher was a young fellow from our church. he invited them to gospel meetings and because of their interest, the teacher and his family went once a week in an evening and had bible study with them...as a result one chinese boy was saved and when his time in canada came to an end, he left for his home land and was determined to tell others the good news...this has i opened up many doors in china and the gospel is spreading!

    the church that we attend jessica doesn't have women preaching or talking in services either but i sure can tell you that they do a lot of praying and a lot of bringing their children up to fear the lord, eh?....love terry

  7. Be prepared to preach, pray, or die at a moment's notice - love it!

    amazing testimony there Jessica - waiting to hear the solo duet story