Home away from home

When the Rev. Dr. Ron Mudge, associate professor of theology and pre-seminary director at Mequon-based Concordia University Wisconsin, ventured more than 5,700 miles to Togo, West Africa, in May, he almost felt like he was returning home.

Mudge, who has been a faculty member at Concordia for the last six years, previously spent 10 years as a missionary in West Africa with his wife, Lisa, and three of their five children.

During his 10-day trip in May, he led a handful of African seminary students through a study of the Book of Hebrews from the New Testament at a school in the city of Dapaong, where he served three of his years as a missionary.

“It was, in a sense, good to go back home,” Mudge said.

His trip back, proposed by African professors he has known since his missionary days, stretched him to simplify many of the standard teaching methods he relies on at Concordia.

While the professor often uses PowerPoint presentations, laser pointers, and online tools in the classroom at Concordia, his resources at Le Centre Luthérien d’Etudes Théologiques in Dapaong were stripped down to an old-fashioned blackboard with white chalk, Bibles and a textbook with supplementary commentary. His courses, conducted in French for about six hours each day, were held in buildings made of concrete blocks that featured few amenities beyond electricity.

“In a way it was a challenge for me, but it was also kind of intimate where we spent a lot of time conversing about the Bible and how it applies to our lives, which is exactly what we were supposed to be doing,” Mudge said.

Mudge’s recent travels also brought him to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa in July to teach at a pastors’ conference for continuing education.

The kindness and hospitality of the Africans he met this summer moved him nearly to tears, Mudge said, and the gratitude of his students in Togo was evident in their work ethic.

“It’s good to be helpful,” Mudge said. “I have a lot of respect for the African professors who teach at the seminary there and for the students who study there and who serve as pastors in Africa. It’s challenging work. It’s a challenging life. So I was glad to be able to help out.”

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