Smells Like Arson

“What does arson smell like?” a student once asked during my lesson.

“That’s just smoke!” one of his peers shouted in disbelief.

Years later, many of the students from that legendary G period class will still laugh at some of the hilarious quotes from that section of Bible 11. There are two in particular who I keep up with more regularly, and I love when they talk to me about what they are learning in their relationship with God. One of them actually attends church with me and we were both invited to lunch at a friend’s house after service today. Last week I listened to my former student articulate some ways her faith plays out in her daily life, and I love the vibrancy and ownership I see in her. Today, we had a different gathering at the lunch table, and we laughed as someone asked me about the curriculum I teach, and Lissy could have just as easily recited the rundown of my course.

Later in the conversation, our host was asking the five TeachBeyond members some probing questions about transformation education. How do you know when someone has been transformed anyways?

The other guests offered specific examples from their contexts in Greece and Moldova. I thought of Lissy and that comment about arson. It actually was fresh in my mind because Caroline’s Pentecost sermon was using the wordplay of the Holy Spirit’s fire in us. Lissy is the one who said, “That’s just smoke!” in my class years ago. She also has been transformed by her educational experience, and while she had struggles in her share of classes, she’s also shared that my teaching has had a positive impact on her faith and life journey. In the best possible way, Lissy is the fruit of my educational career. Is transformational education happening? Am I effective in it? I direct you to Lissy. By the grace of God, I have a handful of other students who I see actively growing who have generously indicated I played a positive role in their lives.

Caroline’s sermon was an encouragement to be excited about the transformative power of the Holy Spirit, and as I talked about transformational education, I thought about how much I love seeing the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the young people I work with. Some of them have a slow burn while others are blazing fast, but I smell this smoke of the fires I’m trying to light in class or at my table or in video calls years after graduation.

As our lunch group chatted about when helping hurts and how to best do humanitarian work, I thought about how I don’t want to be idle, but I want to be humbly redirected. After ten years teaching, I have the joy of seeing my former students as influential young adults in various fields; some of them still burning slow, some of them still blazing fast. Three of my former students are currently support raising for commitments as full time missionaries, and I love watching their faith take them into new fields of service. I pray for them to be humbly directed by the Lord in all their service. I pray that while I’m ten plus years older, I will also still be humbly directed by the Lord in all my service. As I listened to one student this past week, I thought about how I didn’t have any good answers for them, but I could pray and encourage them to keep seeking answers in the Bible and hopefully fan a tiny spark into a raging fire.

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