I love teaching. Growing up, when my cousin and I would “play school,” I always wanted to be the teacher. I started tutoring kids when I was in the 6th grade, mostly in math, and I really never stopped through high school, college, and beyond. Since earning my Master of Divinity from Winebrenner in 2010, I’ve taught Biblical Hebrew (and some Greek) on an individual basis and have tutored as well. I’ve been preaching through pulpit supply opportunities since 2005, and I’ve spoken at a few conferences too.
But even with all that teaching experience, teaching at Marion Correctional Institution (MCI) is different and unique. The biggest challenge for me is being disconnected. No electronics are allowed inside. I always use my iPad as my Bible and for teaching notes. And it’s handy to have the Internet at my fingertips. I’m part of an online-focused ministry called Worldview Warriors, and I’m accustomed to telling people to check out a blog post, website, etc. That is not the case here.
But, that may be why teaching at MCI is such a rewarding experience. The students don’t have the distraction of the Internet, and they are so hungry to gain knowledge! They truly desire to learn everything they can about God’s Word and how to live it out in their daily lives – which admittedly look very different from those “on the outside.” Anyone who teaches knows that it’s much more fulfilling when the students are eager and excited to be there, and that is fully true with the MCI cohort.
Before my first day of teaching at MCI, I had friends tell me how worried they were for my safety. I have never once felt in danger around these gentlemen. Dr. Kola and Rev. Smith, the chaplains, have made us feel most welcome, and the students themselves are wonderfully polite and respectful. They clearly value this opportunity in the highest regard! They could be discouraged because of their circumstances, but instead, each one I have talked to has a wonderful attitude about living out their Christian faith and learning more of God’s Word. They have asked great questions as well. Their hunger for the Word is a great example for all of us.
I often say that this experience is “both exciting and terrifying” for me. I love people and I love teaching, but the environmental factors and the responsibility I feel to do well are somewhat intimidating. I’m embracing this God-given opportunity to get out of my comfort zone, and I believe others are blessed through it. Recently, as I taught through Joshua, Judges, and Ruth, I shared this with the students: “O=B and D=C,” which stands for Obey=Blessed and Disobey=Cursed. In being obedient to God through this amazing opportunity, I am truly being blessed!