by Robert Menzies
The scent of hibiscus and a dozen other flowers wafted through the air. A thousand cicadas burst into song and then just as suddenly fell silent. The night air was remarkably cool in the mountains of Northern Luzon. Strangely, it all felt very familiar. It felt like home. We had returned to the place where our journey in missions started over 30 years ago, Asia Pacific Theological Seminary (APTS) in The Philippines.
The APTS campus is without question one of the most beautiful seminary campuses in the world, but I found the students to be even more impressive. The intensive block course that I taught was a delight. My students came from thePhilippines,Indonesia,Myanmar, Fiji, and China. They were eager to learn more about the rich theological heritage we have as Pentecostals. Several will return to Bible schools in their own countries and pass on the lessons learned to their students back home; all were dedicated and sharp, a privilege to teach.
This trip to APTS, however, was more than simply a time to teach bright, young students. It was also a family reunion. Three families from our Bible school in China now study at APTS, so this was a wonderful opportunity to connect with them. We shared rich fellowship with our Chinese friends and, as we did, our appreciation for APTS grew. We discovered that our families have been greatly blessed through their time of study at APTS. In my mind, several aspects of their experience at APTS were especially significant.
First, our students’ vision for the church and ministry was significantly broadened. APTS students come from over twenty different countries so our students naturally developed friendships with dynamic Christian leaders from diverse settings. As they heard their friends’ testimonies, worshipped together, and studied the Bible together, their understanding of God’s great mission was broadened and deepened. Through these new relationships and experiences, their vision for ministry and what the church might look like was also clarified and enlarged. Old prejudices were at times discarded, replaced by a fresh awareness of our own cultural biases. Above all, our students gained a fresh sense of the richness of the body of Christ.
Secondly, our students’ understanding of and appreciation for their Pentecostal heritage was deepened. Studying and worshipping together with leaders from Pentecostal churches throughout Asia proved to be a life-changing experience. Our students gained a fresh understanding of their own origins, their own theological roots, and a glimpse of the global character of this dynamic movement.
Finally, our students developed and strengthened their relationships with one another. A special bonding takes place when you study, worship, and pray together. Although our Chinese friends experience this to a certain degree at our Bible school in China, at APTS they experienced this in a new and particularly intense way with a small group of their ministry colleagues. The result was a new sense of partnership in the gospel. They are clearly members of a team that shares a common purpose. We thank the Lord for the impact that APTS has had and continues to have on our Chinese co-workers. As a result of their time at APTS they are more open, more confident, and more eager than ever to serve the cause of Christ in China.