The Gospel Coalition like to talk about Theological Famine Relief. As far as I can tell this might well mean “sending English language resources to the third world”. Like a whole bunch of ESV Study bibles to Africa.
This is now the end of my third semester teaching here and I am beginning to understand how deep the dearth of theological resources really goes. My Greek students have had 3 semesters with me now, all exegetical subjects. They commonly hand in exegetical papers with zero references. If they do have references, it is 90% of the time a reference to about 5 books – one is a translation of Grudem’s Christian Doctrine (an abridged version of Systematic Theology), another is a Bible Dictionary, and a third is a Pentecostal study bible that I mostly remember for trying to argue that “wine” in the bible is “grape juice”.
Meanwhile, one of my second year students told me this week, handing in an essay on Ezra-Nehemiah, that he had never written an essay before.
It seems to me that there are two main issues.
One of these is that the Mongolian education system is, to be honest, not very good. I don’t even think this is just a ‘cultural’ thing. I mean there are many cultural factors, but the standards of education in this country are not high, students’ success is the teachers’ responsibility, cheating is rampant, critical thinking is non-existent, research is mythical, and as a result students who enter our Bible school are behind the learning curve of other comparable institutions from the very beginning.
I am not entirely sure how to address this first issue. I suspect that I need to change some of my teaching style as well as content. I need to teach my students how to think and how to write.
The second issue is there is just a dearth of quality materials in Mongolian. That is slowly changing, but at a glacial pace. In the first week of my church history course I gave out a syllabus which listed my own English language bibliography. Students asked if there was any reading in Mongolian. I had to answer that I was pretty sure there wasn't any suitable book in Mongolian and that the main content of their course was going to be my lectures. Let alone reading primary sources.
It takes both time and money to get good theological books translated and available. For all my reservations about Grudem, it’s a solid conservative systematic theology. There is also a copy of “Book by Book through the Bible”, which is great. But there is little in the way of commentaries. Students learn Greek and Hebrew via English-language textbooks. It is a great struggle for them.
Pray for the work here.
There is much to do, and sometimes it is like plowing a field with one’s hands.