All posts by David Osielski

Faculty Voice – Plotting and Theming: Why I Became an English Major

Twenty-five years ago, the Wheaton Alumni magazine began a series of articles in which Wheaton faculty told about their thinking, their research, or their favorite books and people. Professor of English Emeritus Wayne Martindale (who taught at Wheaton from 1981-2011) was featured in the Winter 2011 issue.

Almost like a dare, students (and parents) often ask, “What can you do with an English major?” Because Philip Ryken was an English major, my answer could now be, “Serve as the eighth president of Wheaton College!”

Wayne Martindale, c2011

Actually, I do take this question seriously and often relay the vocations of former student teaching assistants. Statistics from the College help round out this list. Then, I get to the answer that has mattered most to me: Literature is about life and helps me understand it.

I didn’t come to an English major easily. My own undergraduate sojourn led through four majors: engineering, Bible, psychology, and English.

Looking back, I see that the hook was first set in my high school senior English class. We had to memorize 40 lines of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. I grumbled with the rest, but secretly, I loved it. For one thing, here in my previously unbookish life, was beauty. It was a beauty laced with the tragic sense that the future might be ugly or hurtful-or worse, count for nothing. “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow / Creeps in this petty pace from day to day / To the last syllable of recorded time.”

Shakespeare’s potent vision made me see that actions had consequences and could invite unnecessary pain; that unwashed guilt is living hell; that evil may and must be confronted.

I had found high seriousness. Choices mattered. Despite Macbeth’s claim that life was “a tale told by an idiot,” all lives had themes. There was a pattern of meaning we readers could see, even when the characters could not. They were all born for something noble, even if they missed it.

From Shakespeare to Dickens and Dostoevsky, there were many books filled with “seeings.” I discovered the truth of T.S. Eliot’s dictum that we come back from imaginative explorations to “where we start…And know the place for the first time.” In the plots of our lives, the sequence of events might seem random and the patterns fraught with apparent trivia- I sleep, I eat, I wash the dishes-over and over. Yet, even amidst the messy clutter of life, our experience is always suggesting some goodness and beauty and meaning beyond “ordinary” living. A literary plot skips the clutter and stages the patterns of life. As Lewis says, successful writers “throw off irrelevancies” and usher us into “whole classes of experience” closed to us before, and thus, “instead of ‘commenting on life,’ can add to it.”

But even plots and poetic images must move through time and space. What we really want is to connect with something that transcends both. That’s where the theme comes in: it is the meaning bigger than the sum of the parts. The author, like an interior designer, has come in and permanently rearranged the furniture of our minds.

It’s an easy step for the Christian reader to see that the teeming plot of human history is everywhere pregnant with the theme of the necessity of salvation and the reality of reconciliation.

The plots of our lives move through time and space, not randomly, but crafted by a Divine Author into a meaning beyond the sequence of events to fit an eternal theme. All stories are God’s story.

Billy Graham’s Class of ’43 celebrates 75th reunion

This year marks the the 75th reunion for the class of ’43 which includes it’s most famous alumnus, Billy Graham.  Twenty-five years ago, the famed evangelist gave the commencement address during his 50th reunion weekend.  Below is a transcript of his address to the class of 1993 taken from the Wheaton Alumni Magazine, Autumn 1993.

Today’s Investment, Tomorrow’s Return

Returning alumnus and renowned evangelist, this undergraduate commencement speaker urges graduates to use God-given time wisely.

 by Billy Graham, ’43, Litt.D . ’56

In a few minutes, you’ll walk out the door of Edman Chapel with a diploma in your hand and a life of uncertain length ahead of you. For some, it will be a long life. For others, it will be a surprisingly short life. And if you reach my age, you’ll wonder where the time has gone. It passes so quickly. A student at a university once asked me what was the greatest surprise of my life. I replied, “The brevity of life.”

Time is a nonrenewable resource that moves inevitably toward total depletion, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. Time is our investment capital. Our choice is to use it or lose it, either invest it or let it dribble away like sand through our fingers.

Jesus told the story, in Luke 19, of a nobleman who, before going on a journey, commanded his stewards to invest his money carefully. The Lord expects us to use what he has given us–whether it’s money, time, or talents–in profitable ways. And he promises his personal audit of our lives when he returns.

Time is an equal opportunity employer. Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes every day: 1440 minutes, adding up to 168 hours per week.

In Psalm 90:10, the Bible indicates that our allotted time span on earth may be 70 years, or possibly an extension to 80 years. The psalmist goes on to say, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

Let’s think about the numbers in a typical lifetime. The first 15 years are in childhood and adolescence. We spend a total of 20 years sleeping. So we have only 30 years left, and part of that time must be spent eating meals, building family and social relationships, working at our jobs, and figuring out our income tax.

Rich people cannot buy more hours than the rest of us. Scientists cannot invent new minutes. Each day, we each have 86,400 seconds to invest. Time allows no balances, no overdrafts. If we fail to use each day’s deposit, our loss cannot be recovered. It’s not like putting savings in a bank and getting interest. We cannot hoard time to spend on another day.

Paul tells the Ephesians to redeem the time, because the days are evil. Redeem is a word from the business world, and in this context, it means to buy the time. Redeeming the time means making the most of every opportunity that you have, every minute, every second.

Our natural tendency is to count the days, but God tells us, make every day count.

Time is the capital God has given us to invest wisely. So the question is, “Where do we invest it?” God calls us to invest our time capital, our very lives, primarily in people. Not in projects; not in possessions. God invested his only begotten Son in us, as sinners–not because we were prime prospects to give him a good payoff, but because his heart is overflowing with love for us.

When I was your age, I said to people, “There’s one thing I don’t ever want to be. I don’t want to be an undertaker or a preacher.” And I put them in the same category.

But one night, 55 years ago, I said with tears at the 18th hole of a golf course, “Oh God, I’ll go where you want me to go and be what you want me to be.” I never dreamed what he had planned for the future.

God’s will, first and foremost, for all of us, is that you love him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Then God’s will for you is that you live a holy life, to become like his Son in your attitudes and actions, in your thoughts and words. To be and behave like Jesus did, which means delighting in doing His will and serving others.

Jesus said, “I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day. The night is coming, when no man can work.” What was the work of Jesus? Simply to do the work of his Father and finish the work that had been assigned to him. He lived and died for others–for his friends and enemies alike. Jesus told his disciples, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Invest in heaven.

What are those treasures or investments? They are people who need to know God. I’ve seen these people all over the world. I’ve seen them in every kind of situation, every kind of culture. I know that what they’re searching for can only be found in a relationship with God.

Time is the capital that God has given us to invest. People are the stocks in which we are to invest our time, whether they’re blue chips or penny stocks, or even junk bonds.

Jesus was willing to take a risk with twelve diverse disciples. And he took a great risk with us. But when we talk of investments, everyone asks, “What return will I get?” A meaningful, fulfilled life that will count for God is the dividend that we receive for putting our trust in Christ and our time into people.

From my more than 50 years of experience, may I say to you young people today, as you face careers and the uncertainties of life, the best of all investments you can make is to help people come to the Giver of eternal life and peace, the Lord Jesus Christ.

You can’t count your days–but with Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, you can make your days count. You can invest whatever time is yours for a high-yield return in the lives of people whom you introduce to Christ. Right now, you can decide to invest your life in such a way that someday, you will hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come and share in your master’s happiness.”

So I would say to you today, don’t just graduate.  Commence.

Senator Mark Hatfield Advocates “Power of Love”

Over four decades ago in February 1974, Senator Mark O. Hatfield spoke on Wheaton’s campus during the height of the Watergate scandal and merely six months prior to the resignation of President Nixon.  Although having visited campus before as governor and later as senator, the Oregon Republican stirred strong feelings from students and administrators alike due to his opposition to America’s involvement in Vietnam, as well as his support for politically liberal students whom some on campus characterized as “anti-war, anti-capitalist, anti-American.”

The following article from the Wheaton Record, 2/15/1974 (vol.96, no.14) contains excerpts from a floor statement given by Senator Hatfield.  The speech was given during a discussion on the Military Procurement Bill, but the underlying issues are particularly relevant even in a predominantly civilian liberal arts college and amazingly trenchant nearly a half-century later.  His death in 2011 was marked by tributes by both Special Collections, Buswell Library and the Billy Graham Center Archives.

U.S. Senator Mark O. Hatfield, c1967

There is no doubt that people feel threatened today, and feel insecure.  But the threats they feel are not those that are supposedly met by our military power.

People feel that their liberty is threatened, but not from any invading foreign army.  Rather, that liberty is seen threatened by our own domestic institutions, and even by our government.

I can think of no more fundamental threat to our security today than the cumulative loss of confidence in our government felt by the people.  The truth is that our citizens are no longer believing that our government and its representatives actually function as their servants.  Government has become an institution of domination, losing the trust of those who are to be governed.

There is nothing more fundamental to our “security” that that.  Yet we continue to believe that the most fundamental threats to that security come somehow from the outside.

We are misled, we are deluded to believe so.

When people’s confidence in their government is lost, when people’s human needs are going unmet, and when the nation’s life-supporting environment is in deterioration, then our nation is utterly insecure and will remain so regardless of how many billions we may spend elsewhere.  The place to start in building a true security is with these internal needs, not with a continued obsession about the readiness to fight any foe any place around the globe.

We must recognize how victimized we are by our whole national psychology about our power.

We believe, first of all that our power is always good, and only used for righteous purposes.  The belief is that if the good guys have the power, then that power is justifiable.  And of course, we inevitably look at ourselves as the good guys in virtually any situation.

Power tends to make individuals, or a nation, self-righteous.  That is an axiom that holds true as much for us as for any other people.

We suppose that our security comes through an inherent belief in our nation’s self-righteousness.  So we create a civil religion that baptizes our established powers of government and creates an idolatry of the Presidency, and forget the truth that power corrupts.

In a very real way, restoring the strength of our people can only begin with a spirit of repentance.  It is only by recognizing our errors, our wrongs, and our false gods that we can come to a proper understanding of ourselves.  That is the beginning of any true security.

In the end, it will not be the power of our military might that will usher in greater reconciliation between the people of the world.  Rather, that will only come from the power of spiritual love.

Such spiritual love must take root first in each one of us — and then extend out to our neighbor, to our communities, through our nation, and to the world — even to our enemies.

That is our only hope for security.

As the words of the prophet say, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of Hosts.”

Ronald Reagan visits Wheaton

Ronald Reagan at Wheaton College, 1980

On October 8, 1980, Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan came to Wheaton College at the invitation of the campus Republicans.  His visit  came after receiving his party’s nomination during the fall campaign season and was covered in the Record student newspaper.  Edman Chapel was filled early in the afternoon by students and area residents eager to see and hear the former California governor.  State and county political figures, including Illinois governor James Thompson, filled the platform and spoke at some length when Reagan failed to appear at the scheduled time.  A busy day of campaigning, which had begun in Youngstown, Ohio, delayed his arrival by one hour.

The governor’s whistle-stop visit was accompanied by numerous religious references within the first few sentences of his speech.  He spoke of deliverance, rebirth and C.S. Lewis–words that were well-chosen and that resonated with the audience.  Candidate Reagan’s address centered not on war or the proliferation of nuclear arms, but on education.

This work of educational excellence and missionary work is truly in the tradition of the biblical injunction: ‘Go ye, therefore and teach all nations.’

Only if the people closest to the problems of education — teachers, parents, school boards, and boards of governors — are allowed to make the basic educational decisions, will the quality of education improve.

He praised Wheaton as a school with a mission.  Reagan promised, if elected, to form a task force to analyze federal educational programs.  He expressed support for tuition tax credits for parents sending children to non-public schools.

What we want is so simple, so elementary.  All we want is to live in freedom and in peace, to see to it that our nation’s legitimate interests are protected and promoted.  We want to worship God in our own way, lead our own lives, take care of our families and live in our own style, in our own community, without hurting anyone or anyone hurting us…We want the kind of personal security human beings can reasonably expect in a system of economic freedom and democratic self-government.

At the conclusion of his address Reagan laughed when presented with a stuffed mascot-sized replica of Perry Mastodon by Brad Bright, president of the campus Republicans.  Obligated to hurry off to his next campaign stop, the visitor had no opportunity to tour the campus or chat informally with students.

Reagan would defeat Southern Baptist Jimmy Carter the following month in the general election. President Carter himself came to campus twelve years later to give the  Pfund Lecture.

Irina Ratushinskaya (1954-2017)

Irina Ratushinskaya in 1987

This past summer on July 5, Irina Ratushinskaya, former Russian poet and novelist who survived four years in a Soviet prison camp, died in Moscow.

Her heroic story captured the attention of the West after being arrested in 1983 for anti-Soviet propaganda.  She composed hundreds of poems while in prison and smuggled them on cigarette paper through her husband.  She was released before the Iceland summit meeting between Mikhail Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan in 1986 and would later meet the U.S. President in Washington, D.C. after securing her freedom.

The papers of Irina Ratushinskaya came to Special Collections, Buswell Library, beginning in the summer of 1992 through contacts of Associate Professor of Communication Emerita, Myrna Grant.  They include works of poetry, correspondence, articles, audio and artwork.  As well, they include a memoir of her time in prison, entitled Grey Is The Color Of Hope.  The largest portion of the collection is devoted to secondary material about Ms. Ratushinskaya while she was imprisoned and as human rights individuals advocated for her release.

One of her poems speaks to the harsh labor conditions and her periodic hunger strikes at the prison camp:

And I will tell of the first beauty I saw in captivity.
A frost-covered window! No spy-holes, nor walls,
Nor cell-bars, nor the long endured pain —
Only a blue radiance on a tiny pane of glass.

In April 1987, Irina spoke at Wheaton College while she and her husband, Igor Gerashchenko, were guests of Northwestern University in nearby Evanston, Illinois.

On This Day in Wheaton History

Ruth Mellis
Ruth Mellis c1931

On this day in history (April 19), Wheaton alumna Ruth Margaret Mellis was born in 1907 in St. Louis, Missouri to Charles J. and Selina M. (Vollmer) Mellis.  She attended Ritenour High School (Overland, MO) and graduated from Wheaton College in 1931 with a B.S. in Elementary Education. She was a member of the Philalethean Literary Society, and volunteered with the Y.M.C.A.

In 1945 she left the city school system to volunteer to teach missionaries’ children in Africa as a non-professional at the Empress School in Ethiopia. During this 3 year short-term she assisted in the formation of the Wheaton Alumni Association of Ethiopia where many grads worked in that country.

In August 1954 she sailed to Greece to be a teacher where she served alongside Worldwide Prayer and Missionary Union as an independent missionary ministering to grown orphans around Athens. In a 1967 prayer letter she began to direct funds to ELWA Greek programs with Sudan Interior Mission. The ELWA Ministries Association traces its roots back to 1952 when SIM (then known as the Sudan Interior Mission) joined with the West Africa Broadcasting Association that was attempting to start the first Christian radio station in Africa.

Radio ELWA (Eternal Love Winning Africa), located in the Paynesville area east of central Monrovia, started to broadcast in January 1954. By 1973 she had moved to Puebla, Mexico with the Central Ameican Mission as a church planter among internationals. In 1977 she “retired” after 33 years of foreign service to St. Louis. For many years afterward she made many short-term trips to Mexico and Greece. She died on January 15, 2007 in Saint Ann, MO, three months prior to her 100th birthday.  Her college memorabilia and scrapbooks are held in Special Collections and her personal papers are held in the Billy Graham Center Archives.

Why Do Some Nations Prosper?

Twenty-five years ago, the Wheaton Alumni magazine began a series of articles entitled “On My Mind” in which Wheaton faculty wrote about their thinking, research, or favorite books and people. Dr. Peter (P.J.) Hill, Professor of Economics Emeritus, was featured in the Winter 2009 issue. Dr. Hill served as the George F. Bennett Professor of Economics at Wheaton from 1986-2011.

Peter (P.J.) Hill

Some countries languish in no-growth mode while others flourish.  A new economic school of thought provides insights into economic disparity

My discipline has long been termed the dismal science, a description given to economics by historian Thomas Carlyle in the nineteenth century. Indeed, much economic analysis has taken the form of throwing cold water on reforms that will supposedly improve human well-being, arguing that good intentions are not enough and that one needs to carefully think through the incentive effects of any policy change.

More recently, however, one sub-discipline in economics, the New Institutional Economics, has given a positive response to an important question: Why the great differences in income and wealth across societies?

In 1800 the richest countries of the world had per capita incomes about three times that of poor countries. By 2005 this gap had widened so significantly that the per capita incomes of the richest countries were sixty times that of the poor countries.

Almost all of this growing difference is not because of exploitation of the poor by the rich. Instead, the vast gap has arisen because of varied abilities to produce wealth. In other words, some parts of the world have discovered the engine of economic growth, while such growth has bypassed other parts.

Economists have tried numerous explanations for such differences in growth, varying from natural resources to infrastructure to education. All of these have been found to be lacking, especially when embodied in foreign aid programs.

The fundamental cause of economic growth is found in the institutional structure of an economy. The rule of lax protection of property rights, openness to trade, enforcement of contracts, and a stable money supply are all-important for rewarding the individual endeavor that produces increases in economic well-being.

That doesn’t mean other efforts are futile. Microfinance—the making of small loans to individual entrepreneurs—has been successful in numerous settings. A new movement, Business as Mission, also shows real promise. In this endeavor Christians start businesses to glorify God by both creating wealth for all stakeholders and exemplifying biblical principles. Both of these efforts, however, are more likely to thrive in a good institutional environment.

If it is as simple as getting the right institutions in place, why have some countries remained in the no- or slow- growth mode? Usually this is because the elites, or those in control, don’t find such an institutional environment to their advantage. Indeed, when one examines institutions in less developed nations, one often finds that things like property rights and contract enforcement are not easily available to the poor and marginalized.

Therefore, Christians concerned with poverty should work toward a well functioning set of rules, and those rules should give those at the bottom the same access to a fair judicial system and protection of their property as those at the top of the economic order.


[The following statement was included at the time of publication — Wheaton Magazine, Winter 2009]  Dr. Peter (P.J.) Hill, the George F. Bennett Professor of Economics at Wheaton, is a Senior Fellow at Property and Environment Research Center in Bozeman, Montana. He is a coauthor of Growth and Welfare in the American Past; The Birth of a Transfer Society; and The Not So Wild, Wild West: Property Rights on the Frontier. He has also written numerous articles on the theory of property rights and institutional change and has edited six books on environmental economics. He is a graduate of Montana State and the University of Chicago. P.J. also owns and operates a ranch in western Montana.

God’s Hand in History

Why the secular notion of luck should not replace providence.

While conducting doctoral work at the University of St. Andrews, I was challenged to ponder the factors that influenced the church’s theological and institutional development within a secular history department. During that time, I observed that while the cause of historical events was primarily attributed to human action, the mysterious role of fortunate circumstances or “luck” also factored into historical explanations on occasion.

I first became aware of this rationale when grading a freshman history paper, which claimed that Cortez’s conquest of the Incas was successful due to luck. This explanation surprised me, particularly in a culture supposedly moving toward the disenchantment of the world, or Entzauberung, as scholars of secularism purport.

With new eyes, I began to see the offhand comments about luck in all manner of sources. It soon occurred to me that “luck” had become the “providence” of secular culture: that force beyond human comprehension, which could not be ignored, bringing about opportune circumstances for some and not for others at particular moments.

If Tertullian were alive today, he might ask, “What do Christians have to do with luck?” For a believer and an historian of the church and theology, luck is not the ultimate explanation.

I am reminded of a powerful scene in the 1982 movie Gandhi in which Gandhi and a clergyman were walking on the sidewalk together. According to the custom in India at the time, Gandhi was expected to walk in the street. Despite the presence of threatening men, he refused. When the confrontation did not lead to violence, the clergyman—clearly shaken—turned to Gandhi and exclaimed, “Well, that was lucky!” To that, Gandhi pointedly replied, “Ah, but I thought you were a man of God.”

At Wheaton College, we have the precious freedom to integrate faith and learning in the classroom. In my discipline, there are ways to do this responsibly. While we cannot determine God’s will with ease—particularly when considering issues of theodicy—we can be confident in God’s mysterious providence at work in our world and in the course of history without resorting to the secular rhetoric of “luck.”

Moreover, human history reveals many remarkable events from our past, but none can compare to the singular event of Christ’s incarnation in our world. Napoleon’s remarks on the unique power of Christ are worth reflecting upon:

“Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne and myself have founded great empires, but on what did those creations of our genius rest? Upon force . . . . But Jesus Christ by some mysterious influence, even through the lapse of 18 centuries, so draws the hearts of men towards him that thousands at a word would rush through fire and flood for him, not counting their lives dear to themselves.”

Understanding the ongoing “mysterious influence” of Christ in our world is not a search for luck, but for God’s hand in history.

Dr. Jennifer Powell McNutt, Assistant Professor of Theology and History of Christianity — Wheaton Magazine, Spring 2009

Rebuilding on a Solid Foundation

Article excerpted from Wheaton Magazine, Wheaton (IL) College, Spring 2008.

Numbers aside, one of Wheaton’s most well loved math professors looks at the solutions the new campaign will provide.

Although Wheaton’s state-of-the-art science center will be pleasant, it is not the comfort of new offices and the expectation of attractive student space that capture my imagination— rather, it is the possibility of renewing Wheaton’s mathematical and scientific enterprise for the next generations of Wheaton students.

pict0Our existing science and mathematics facilities in Breyer and Armerding Halls have their roots in the technologies and perspectives of the 1950s and ’60s. Over the last half century the content and methods of these disciplines have grown enormously—new sub-disciplines in math and science have emerged, different interdisciplinary relationships have evolved, and new departmental interdependencies have been established. Computational chemistry, mathematical models for dynamical physical systems, environmental science, computer-based simulation and visualization, and many, many other new mathematical and scientific domains now play crucial roles in helping us to better understand important processes within God’s creation.

In my dream for a new science building, I see students vigorously engaged in mathematics and science without the discouraging limitations imposed by two old buildings. The math and computer science department will finally have student project and research rooms, an improved seminar room, enlarged and well-lit student study rooms…and all of these in immediate proximity to our departmental faculty offices.These offices will even be large enough to help three or four students all at once—without having to search for a frequently nonexistent empty classroom. We will be freed to do science and mathematics; our classrooms will have the flexibility to be reconfigured for group work, media-based presentation, traditional lecture instruction, or seminar-style meetings. Departments will be arrayed in proximity to a central core to enable easy connection and collaboration.

As of now, the obsolescence of our old facilities along with the constraints that they impose upon learning, research, and teaching threaten to utterly compromise mathematics and science at Wheaton. I find it personally unsettling to know that we are already losing strong students who would become salt and light as cutting-edge scientists, health professionals, mathematicians, or computer scientists. Wheaton’s contribution to these disciplines stands to be diminished.

The prospect of a markedly improved teaching and learning environment with resources better configured for student engagement, practice, interaction, and collaboration really stirs my enthusiasm for The Promise of Wheaton. The new science building will create and dramatically enhance numerous possibilities for contemporary research, for more effective student mentoring and collaboration, for sophisticated interactive instruction, and for developing a renewed stream of Christian mathematicians and scientists who will not be left behind by these advancing disciplines.

Dr. Terry Perciante, Chair of Mathematics and Computer Science

Rediscovering Our Christian Heritage

Clipboard01Last summer I had the chance of a lifetime—a six-week trip to exotic places, all expenses paid. The catch: take 30 students with me.

Because these were Wheaton students, the job was easy and delightful, but personally challenging nonetheless. I expected physical and intellectual hurdles as we traveled through Israel, Istanbul, Greece, and Rome, but was unprepared for the richness of spiritual enlightenment as I journeyed through places of religious turmoil, encountering Jews and Muslims, as well as Orthodox, Protestant, and Catholic Christians.

Often exhausted, sweaty, hot, and dusty after our lengthy hikes, I gained a clearer picture of Jesus’ tired frame slumping by Jacob’s well as he appealed to the Samaritan woman for a drink. Exploring Philippi, I caught whispering echoes of the Apostle Paul proclaiming the gospel to Lydia at the river, the water still flowing over the same rocks that witnessed the gospel’s entrance into Europe. From the magnificent heights of the Parthenon, I looked over the ancient Athenian agora (market) and marveled at the rich extravagance ascribed to the ancient gods and goddesses. (Little wonder many scoffed at Paul’s claims about a simple Jew being the Savior of the world.) In Rome, the still impressive Forum and Coliseum are now a crumbling reminder of the empire’s former strength and cruelty.

The physical stresses and intellectual challenges prepared me for the most trying contest-delving deeply into questions surrounding Christian unity and charity. For the first time, I engaged with Orthodox Christians and their worship. The holy sites in Bethlehem and Jerusalem are perfumed with the incense of centuries of devotion—a piety totally unfamiliar to my Evangelical Free Church upbringing.

In Istanbul, our group was granted rare privileges: an audience both with the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, and with the Armenian Patriarch, Mesrob II. The latter was a jovial conversationalist who entertained our direct questions for an hour. Having studied in the United States, he contrasted the American situation with that of his flock, for whom simply confessing oneself a Christian in public was bold indeed. He added that serving both Muslims and Christians in their church-operated hospital spoke volumes to the wider public. His All Holiness Bartholomew I granted a formal audience where he stressed his unity-building work with Muslims in Turkey as well as his concerted efforts to protect the environment.

Perhaps nothing so poignantly symbolizes the tensions and aspirations for peace between faiths as the Hagia Sophia, built as the grandest church in Christendom, and later converted to a mosque. Currently Christian frescos and Islamic medallions compete for a visitor’s attention. Scaffolding rising from the center, 20-stories high, epitomizes the rebuilding hopes of Christians seeking peace with their Muslim neighbors.

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Dr. Lynn Cohick, Associate Professor of New Testament, is interested in how average Jews and Christians lived out their faith in the ancient setting of Hellenism and the Roman Empire. Prior to coming to Wheaton, she taught overseas at the Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology in Kenya for three years. She enjoys riding horses, reading mysteries, and jogging with her husband, Jim. (The above statement was included at the time of publication — Wheaton Magazine, Autumn 2008)