Ervin & Coleen Starwalt
Starwalt Ministries Blog Articles

Why I Love Nigerians

Ervin loves to tell the story of his first MTh New Testament Exegesis class at the Theological College of Northern Nigeria (TCNN).

When we first arrived at TCNN to teach in 2010, Ervin was handed an “outline” of an Exegesis course he should, in this man’s opinion, teach the masters students, so as not to overwhelm them, I guess, with a full-fledged Exegesis course... Another man told Ervin just to do word studies. The students couldn’t handle anything more than that.

But Ervin’s response to these suggestions was and still is, “I’m from Missouri and of German descent, so I’m twice stubborn.” He was going to give the students his best, the training he himself received from Dallas Theological Seminary in the 1980s, and the students would get out what they were able of the course. He’d give them nothing less. Full stop.

Fast forward to the middle of that first semester

when one day the class leader stands up and speaking on behalf of his classmates says, “Professor, I have something to tell you. We want you to know that this course is the most difficult one we have ever taken, we are really struggling. We don’t know if we are going to make it.” And then he paused. “But Professor, we also want you to know that we understand that no one else will teach us these things. And so, we want to say, ‘Keep teaching us and we will keep struggling!’” And then he sat back down.

Yesterday, Ervin told this story again to Susan,

the woman who had originally agreed to be his dissertation advisor during his PhD studies, but took a new job up in Indiana before he had defended his proposal. He uses this story to illustrate that Nigerians are capable of much more than what some foreigners give them credit for. Over the years since we returned to the US permanently, we’ve heard from student after student from the very Exegesis class that struggled so hard and from other classes as well, that they have gone on to complete PhDs in New Testament and to thank him for believing in them. And for giving them his best. One of Ervin’s students even went to one of the most rigorous New Testament programs in Europe and received the highest honors possible at that university for his dissertation. He is now back at TCNN teaching the very courses that Ervin once taught.

When Ervin told Susan this story, my heart welled up with admiration for our Nigerian students and I exclaimed, “I really love Nigerians!” It’s true, I do. Just ask my mentees, Aku and Tong. I say this frequently. Why? Because of their hunger and thirst for better things. For their tenacity and perseverance through struggle. For recognizing sources of knowledge and wisdom and pursuing them. For catching the vision that they can in fact master “the more” and transmit it to the next generation.

What’s not to love about that?

Greek Geek Personal & Spiritual Growth