Dr. Timothy Tennent: Around the World in 80 Days
The book (and film), Around the World in 80 Days, is one of my favorites. It is a classic Jules Verne story about an eccentric inventor named Phileas Fogg, who believes he can circle the world in 80 days. It is set in the year 1873. It sounded preposterous. He made a £20,000 bet that he could do it. The bet was made, and Phileas Fogg was off with his loyal companion Passepartout. One of the many twists in the story is that unbeknownst to Phileas, he became the lead suspect in a bank robbery and a detective, aptly named Detective Fix, was determined to chase him down and arrest him. So, the detective ends up following Phileas Fogg all the way around the world as well, at every turn trying to foil Fogg’s plans. But, somehow the journey continued. Fogg and Passepartout traveled on ships, on trains, on an elephant, and even a wind powered sledge, but alas after all their efforts, they arrived back on the 81st day and missed the bet. Then, in a final twist they remembered that they had crossed the International Date Line as they crossed the Pacific Ocean, and it was actually the 8oth day. They had made the bet! Fogg won the £20,000 bet, though the trip cost him £19,000 and he gave his companion £1,000 for his efforts, thus making it a “break even” event.
I felt a little bit like Phileas Fogg the last few months as I have visited our global partnerships and seen first-hand the work of our alumni. Between November 1st and January 26th (a bit more than 80 days), I visited almost every continent on earth, traversing the USA (N. America), Brazil (S. America), London (Europe), Tanzania (Africa), Taiwan and India (Asia). I saw dozens of our graduates serving Christ around the world. I was bursting with pride for each one. The sun never sets on Asbury alumni!
Asbury is about brothers in Christ like Bishop Carlos Lopes and Bishop Luis Palomo leading major church planting initiatives in southern Brazil and Costa Rica. I met several hundred Brazilian pastors and felt their passion for the gospel in a fresh way.
Asbury is about pastors in Europe working with post-modern skeptics in coffee shops and community centers, and discovering the power of using Alpha, which is proven to be the most effective tool in the world for introducing a western, post-Christian skeptic to the gospel.
Asbury is about evangelists in Africa preaching the gospel and praying for the sick. I was in a remote village in central Tanzania where our daughter has been living for the last nine years. I hiked up a mountain to find what they claimed was the “only Christian book in the whole area.” I was curious what book it was (our daughter is just now translating the Bible into their language). To my amazement it was a book by Craig Keener, one of our Asbury professors.
Asbury is also seen in the life of one of our alumni (Daniel Chen) who is the President of Holy Light Seminary in Taiwan. Asburians also helped to found the Wesley Research Center there. When I was in India, I was reunited with my good friends Prabhu and Sheeba Singh. Prabhu is one of our doctoral graduates and is currently the president of the South Asia Institute for Advanced Christian Studies (SAIACS) in Bangalore, India. Prabhu, along with three of his faculty, are Asbury graduates. I also spent time with another one of our graduates, Dr. P. C. Mathew who has founded a ministry known as India Urban Ministries, which is helping to strengthen families in India. I was blessed to get to know for the first time Cecil Clements, one of our graduates who has a vibrant ministry in Mumbai. As I traversed the globe, I kept meeting Asbury graduates. It was an extravagance of fruitfulness to witness this. I could share many, many stories. But, let me thank each and every one of you for your faithfulness to the gospel. We face many daunting challenges. But, the glorious flame of the gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be put out! It has, like Phileas Fogg, encircled the world against all odds, and all those who are aligned against us. I spent 80 days traveling, just like those great characters in the Jules Verne novel. I didn’t get to ride on an elephant, or be blown along by a wind sled. But, I did get to meet even more of the global Asbury tribe. It was an amazing experience.
In 1923, When H. C. Morrison founded what was then known as Asbury Theological Seminary of Asbury College, he only had three students. Yet, they had the audacity to establish as our founding motto: The Whole Bible for the Whole World. What a vision! Well, Dr. Morrison, I hope you can see from heaven what has happened to that seed you planted. It must have seemed as small as a mustard seed, but it has grown up, and its branches have stretched to every continent on earth. And, most importantly, it is bearing fruit, a lot of fruit. We have over 11,000 alumni all over the world. Thank you for being one of them! Thank you for your faithfulness to the gospel! Thanks be to God!!