Friday, February 10, 2012

Their very present help

Sometime last year an academic at UPNG pointed out that aside from book reviews and literary criticism, storyboard could consider related topics surrounding the Bible and all the fellowship activity that goes with it.

And that storyboard found pleasantly challenging.

As seen innumerable times in our previous articles, and those of the window’s, the youth of any given community appears the more delicate – delicate because a strong concentration of it can be found at places like UPNG. It is this segment of our communities that needs concentrating on, because that is where much of the country’s potential leadership is. Those that take care of this particular segment of society have quite a task ahead of them. It is up to them to carry out the necessary grooming, pruning, shaping and moulding – whatever academic facade they are stationed at.

Of course our academic was not suggesting that some direct scriptural insertions should be observed in all programs offered for our youth within the academic communities, either at UPNG or elsewhere. That type of activity would be left to the talents and creativity of individual academics. But it would help a bit, and this we believe is our academic’s sincere suggestion, if some aspects of the wisdom from the Bible were included as ingredients of a good course offering, a good argument or thesis, even a whole scholarship program.

As storyboard writes this he feels somewhat amused by the thought that there are so many academics today who are shy about mentioning the Bible, even in a classroom environment. So much pressure placed on vigorous learning, extensive reading and research, and scrutinized debates during seminars and the like where one’s peers become the ultimate judge, can prove inhibiting to some. But we could, aside from being too vocal at times about our other social and personal preferences, be helping ourselves a bit if we said something about our spiritual selves, beings, egos, and so on. Moreover, if a lecturer similarly feels inhibited about his/her sense of spiritualism, then what of the student who is there to acquire knowledge and wisdom from his/her wise counsel and guidance? And what is an academic life if there is no spiritual sharing in it?

At home, within the family environment, there are women as mothers, grandmothers, aunts and relatives ever present and willing to give the necessary guidance for our youth. There, the advice and guidance given is usually Bible-based. Here, in a strictly academic environment the prospects of exercising one’s spiritual beliefs and habits can be a little isolated at times.

About a decade ago storyboard sat in his office and had a lengthy discussion on this very topic with a literature major who seemed to have been having problems of sorts herself. There were a few tears shed on the part of the student and storyboard felt it was his duty to cheer the young scholar up. One of the things storyboard remembers pointing out to the student then was that as academics and scholars there was “a tremendous absence of God in our lives.”

At which remark the student’s face lit up. Even to this day storyboard will never forget the bright smile accorded him.

It wasn’t till after the student had left that storyboard realized what all that meeting was about. The student was in fact praying for storyboard together with her other lecturers all those years that went by. When storyboard checked her records she had been gaining “C” grading and below and never once lodged an appeal which was her democratic right to do so.

Well-respected academics like Mrs Garua Peni, Coodinator of the Orientation Program, and her associates at the student counselling services might not entirely agree with our musings here. They will probably point out that for years all biblical fellowships, whether observed by staff or students of UPNG, were successfully observed one semester after another. Women members of the UPNG community will argue along the same lines. The spiritual lack in question, therefore, lies within an individual academic – and more precisely within a chosen lifestyle.

As we look around the campus grounds now, in preparation of the arrival of the 2012 student population, we see evidence of how much impact such fellowship gatherings have had not only on the campus itself but on the surrounding communities. At weekends these neighbouring communities come over to hire the university’s facilities such as its chapel, its lecture theatres and classrooms, for worship and fellowships. More and more from even as afar off as the Taurama campus and its surrounds are now requesting for space at the Waigani campus for similar activities.

This is a good sign. More so for the younger generation of children and youth who come and go. Not only do these come for fellowships but also visit other campus sites such as the Botanical Gardens for functions and recreation.  And then there is the clinic, a must for some of these children and youth who do so with joviality and much cheerfulness. Where rumours of malaria and other ailments abound these children and youth respond positively, getting malarial blood tests and supplies of tablets to take home with them.

When we see them thus, we know they are bracing to become part of the university community in the years to come. There is so much life, so much song of spiritualism in these little ones. The ear plugs that some of them wear to make them hum and sing and stroll about with cheerful smiles spell out what’s really written in their hearts.

And we hope Hillsong won't mind us quoting part of their ministry sharing here.

Whom have I in heaven but you?
There’s none I desire beside you
You have made me glad...

You are my shield
My strength
My portion
My shelter
Strong tower
My very present help in time of need

(Made Me Glad lyrics from Hillsong. Copyright © 2012 Apostle Studios.)