A newsletter for friends of the Global Mission Institute, Luther Seminary

Global Vision - Fall 2008

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Furthering Malaysian Connections: Fretheim Teaches at Seminary Where Three Alums Serve

by John Klawiter M.Div. Jr.

For Terence Fretheim, Elva B. Lovell professor of Old Testament, a January spent teaching at a premier Malaysian seminary brought not only the warmth of the Asian sun, but also a month of warm hospitality from the seminary community. Fretheim, who was joined on the trip by his wife, Faith (who assisted with the seminary's family ministry program) says, "Friendliness is a word that pops up quickly [when thinking about the people I met]. You could strike up a conversation with anybody."

Luther Seminary Connections

Fretheim's mission for going to Malaysia was to instruct students at the Sabah Theological Seminary (STS) in Kota Kinabalu during a one-month course.  His reward was what he gained from the faculty, administration and students of STS, which includes three graduates of Luther Seminary.

  • Rev. Dr. Thomas Tsen ('05, '07) is a part-time faculty member, following his recent election to bishop of the Basel Church
  • His wife, Laura Hindrianto ('05, '08) is the Dean of Students
  • Rev. Dr. Chung Song Mee, ('02) is the Dean of the faculty and professor of church history.

"Connections here are important," said Fretheim, noting that STS is a small and extremely hospitable community. Fretheim says he saw the Luther Seminary alums nearly every day. "These people are our alumni, and I think highly of the education they received. This connection is a good one."

Teaching at Sabah Theological Seminary

Located in eastern Malaysia, Kota Kinabalu is the capital of the province of Sabah, which is the northernmost section of the island of Borneo and is a cosmopolitan city with British influences. Christians make up about 35 percent of the population; Muslims account for approximately 50 percent and the rest are animist or other.

Sabah Theological Seminary is an interdenominational seminary established in 1988 by the Basel Christian Church of Malaysia on the site of a Bible training center. Situated on Signal Hill, it is in close proximity to the downtown area and has modern buildings and a view of Mount Kinabalu. Fretheim notes that STS is a "significant theological seminary" in this part of Asia.

One of the features of STS is the tri-lingual curriculum. Courses are offered in Malay (Sabah is the first Malaysian seminary to offer such courses), Chinese and English.

"[Of] the nearly 30 students in my classes, all were at least bilingual," said Fretheim. "[They] were attentive and eager to learn."

An Experience to Remember

Fretheim attributes the cross-cultural experience with the students as being something he won't forget. "I taught 14 hours a week and had this daily encounter with students from a culture not my own," he said.  "That's a grand thing to happen."

Fretheim hopes to find more opportunities to share his knowledge and to learn more about the world. "I like to share it out and about, rather than stay in one place." It appears a trip to Hong Kong may be on the horizon the next fall semester.

"The seminary is in very capable hands, with its principal Dr. Thu En Yu, staff, and over twenty faculty," said Fretheim. "If anyone is looking for an opportunity to support a growing seminary in Asia with a strong Lutheran presence, Sabah Theological Seminary should be carefully considered."

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For more information go to Sabah Theological Seminary