By Helen Tiong
Former student of Eastern College Australia
Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies
Do you remember the name of the person who prayed for Saul of Tarsus after he was blinded? Well you won’t find his name in the list of heroes of faith nor read about his missionary exploits. In fact you won’t hear of him anywhere else in the Bible. But I thought of him recently at an Alumni brunch as I listened admiringly to testimonies of the experiences of some wonderful past students. I began to imagine how he would fit into a similar context.
What great topics were discussed, to feel inspired and awed at how God moves. Peter preached to a massive crowd and 3000 people were baptised. Seven positions for deacon were filled in Jerusalem. Philip preached in Samaria and to an Ethiopian.
‘Ananias, what’s been happening in your life?’
‘Well this week I prayed for someone: I wasn’t sure that God knew what was going on, so I tried to explain things to him and then I reluctantly and a bit nervously went and prayed for the man anyway.’
Bit of an anti-climax! But Ananias had heard God speaking and because of his obedience God was able to use him, so perhaps, he could take some credit for Paul’s later ministry. What a comfort, because in the presence of people obviously used by God I had felt quite underwhelmed by my ‘achievements’. Over the years, there have been many occasions and opportunities where I believe God has led me and used me. But I’m still on the journey and even if my life doesn’t seem as dramatic as others I know that’s okay. I’m still making mistakes and still learning.
The Alumni brunch was for Eastern College. When I started back in mid-1993 as a mature age student it was known as Tabor, with reference to the transfiguration- witnesses of his majesty. I liked the sound of that.
I had read Paul’s words in my bible to ‘study to show yourself approved unto God’, and that was my main purpose for Bible college. I gave myself a way out if it was too difficult- I could easily go back to being a dumb housewife. But I really wanted to do well and so without even having passed year 12 in the distant past, I signed up for a Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies.
When I started I didn’t even know what a bibliography was and had to ask my kids, who were doing much better at school than I expected to do here. I learnt a lot at Tabor though. Some classes were more memorable than others. I have an enriched understanding of the Bible after three years of Exegesis but I mostly remember that my own walk with God grew through all the challenges of combining family life and study. After graduating from Tabor, I found it hard to leave and so undertook part-time shifts as a volunteer librarian at Tabor St Albans campus. That went on my resume when I later applied for a job in a bookshop.
Tabor study and research skills have stood me in good stead over the years. I have managed to accrue subsequent qualifications: I’ve done Pastoral Care at Peter MacCallum and completed my Master of Teaching at University of Melbourne; I obtained a certificate in teaching English to adults at RMIT, where I also met another Tabor student adding to his post-grad skills. As well as state schools and private students, I have taught a class of South Koreans who were in Melbourne for their summer language school. While there are obvious limitations for open witnessing, I try to instil Biblical principles in my students where possible, by what I say and how I live.
I have worked in a Christian bookstore and although official policy was no individual witnessing or counselling, when asked specific questions, I was equipped academically and spiritually and gave specific answers. At two different stores I was put in charge of the reference section because my knowledge gained at Tabor had been recognised.
At my previous church I even taught an ‘Intro to biblical languages’ course using some of my Greek notes from Tabor. At my current church, I am involved in kitchen duties and writing devotional articles for the Church bulletin. With the sound foundations developed during my time at Tabor, whatever I do and wherever I am, my desire is found in the words of a Children’s Church song:
“Let me be a to Jesus,
Let me be a mirror to reflect the saviour’s love,
Let me be a fountain of blessings to those around me,
Fill me Holy Spirit with God’s love.”