I would like to offer a report of some of my experiences and my academic activities since my arrival at the Faculté Jean Calvin. The report comes in two parts. In the first part, I make some observations about how my family and I are adapting to this new context. In the second, I give a general outline of my first teaching responsibilities and experiences at the school.
Arrival and Integration
The process of transitioning between different cultures and countries naturally has many challenges, particularly when we have children.
My wife, Ana, has had to go through many adjustments in our move. As a graduate in Portuguese Language and Literature with postgraduate degrees in Theology and Religious Studies she was very active in Brazil, especially with writing and teaching (Portuguese at a school and seminars on Spirituality in various Churches). The move to Aix has been a serious change of pace for her. We are happy to report that in spite of the difficulties, she is doing well. She is currently spending much time studying French, which she did not know before our arrival. She has also had the opportunity to offer gratuitously some private lessons in Portuguese and is still actively writing in her personal blog in Portuguese, as well as producing literary texts. She is advancing in her French and has had many opportunities to develop new friendships here.
The good adaptation of our children (Gabriel, aged 11, and Nicole, aged 08) has naturally been a cause of concern for us. We are happy to report that their adaptation could not have been better. We believe that this is the result of the Lord’s blessing operating primarily through the wonderful Christian school they are enrolled in (La Nouvelle Alliance) and the local Church (Église Reformée Évangélique d’Aix-en- Provence at the Rue de La Masse). They have advanced quickly in their knowledge of French and are quickly settling well in school life. We have also made good friends in the neighborhood where we live.
For me, the biggest transition has been the adjustment to a different system of school administration, teaching, grading, etc. There are many differences in the work dynamics between my previous work setting – a university of 38,000 students (300 in the Theology faculty) and 1,400 professors (27 in the Theology faculty) located in Sao Paulo, the largest city of the Southern Hemisphere (3rd largest city of the world) – and my new setting in Aix-en-Provence.
I do believe that, in terms of my work, the change has been very positive, enabling me to know better each student individually, and to dedicate more fully to class preparation, research and writing that is directly connected to the Old Testament, my main area of teaching. I also perceive a greater need in this new setting, as we are aware of the many challenges that the church in Europe and other parts of the world represented by the student body faces today. I am very thankful to be able to offer my contribution.
Another positive aspect has been the reception I have received from all the staff and governing bodies of the FJC as well as from my fellow professors. Even though I am new in this school and still have much to learn and adjust, each of my colleagues makes me feel that I am an integral part of the group. I often have the feeling that I have been working here for many years because of the way my colleagues have integrated me.
I am also having the opportunity to develop some bonds beyond the Faculty, both in the ecclesiastical and academic context. I have already been invited to participate in a master’s defense at the Faculté Libre de Théologie Évangélique de Vaux-sur-Seine (near Paris) and have established contact with other academics and church leaders in France.
My two areas of teaching here at the FJC are Hebrew and Old Testament. I would like to offer a brief report on my activities in each area.
The teaching of Hebrew at the FJC covers all the essential knowledge of grammar and vocabulary that a student needs to be proficient in the reading of the Old Testament in its original language. There are three stages of learning: in the first semester (Heb 10.01) they learn the alphabet, morphology, syntax and the basic structure of the verbal system. In the second semester (Heb 10.02) they finish all the verbal system and elementary syntax. By the end of this second term they should have acquired proficiency in reading Hebrew equivalent to a student studying at a corresponding level in a modern European language. After the two core semesters, the students engage in courses of intensive Hebrew reading (Heb 10.03) in which they hone their skills and develop greater fluency in reading.
During my first semester, I taught the first Hebrew course (10.01). I will continue teaching the same group of students as they progress to Heb 10.02 and 10.03. This is a small but diverse and hardworking group. The size of the group is ideal for me to give more personalized attention to each student, helping them to move along according to their pace and style of learning. It is a group with good potential and I am confident that we will have some very competent francophone readers (and hopefully teachers) of Hebrew in the near future.
I have 16 years of experience as a student of Hebrew at the postgraduate level and 9 years as a professor in different countries and cultural contexts, teaching students of different nationalities and cultures. This experience is being very helpful as I also adapt the existing teaching material to more up to date and effective methodologies.
This first semester I shared the teaching of Old Testament with Professor Gert Kwakkel. I was in charge of teaching the books of Jeremiah and Jonah in the Biblical
Prophets course (AT 1.03) to students in their 2nd and 3rd years. In my teaching, my goal was to apply a methodology for the study and teaching of prophetic books that I have been developing over the years. The classroom exposition and supporting reading materials covered an introduction to each book, discussing its authorship, date, historical context, literary characteristics and contents, and theological significance. This is followed by a more in-depth reflection on different parts of each book. In the case of Jeremiah, much emphasis was placed primarily on two aspects: the significance of understanding the historical context of Jeremiah to understand its message and apply it today, and the importance of the concept of Covenant to achieve a solid comprehension of the book’s theology and relation to the entire context of divine revelation. In the case of Jonah, besides the aspects mentioned above the focus was on how the literary structure and elements of the book enable us to understand its message more deeply, and apply it in different situations today.
On the second semester, I will continue teaching the prophets in partnership with Gert Kwakkel, focusing especially on the book of Isaiah. There is a very generous course load on this book, so it will be possible to cover all its important elements as well as to emphasize its decisive importance for Christian theology. I will also teach a course on the Pentateuch in partnership with Professor Jay Sklar of Covenant Theological Seminary (Saint Louis, USA). This semester long course will emphasize all the key elements that are indispensable for understanding well the first five books of the Bible, which also lay the foundation for its entire message.
A note of thanks
I would like to thank all the friends of the FJC who continually support this ministry and who enable me to participate in it. I would like to express my special gratitude to you, Dr BANG and to Ms Jeong-Min KIM whose most generous gift is contributing to 50% of my salary for a three year period.
May the Lord continue to bless you as we partner in the work of his Kingdom.