Russell and Duenes

Feeling Nostalgic – Ten Years at Redwood Christian – 2002-03

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My second year at Redwood took on a much different tenor than my first. My Junior High softball team looked to be a juggernaut, and proved to be just that, as we won the championship with an undefeated season. This will always be my coaching highlight. In addition, I got to be the third base coach for the varsity baseball team that year (which is much harder than it looks).

I was keen on trying to find a connection with my seniors, and God provided it in the form of the film Fight Club. I had never seen the movie, but several of the senior boys were obsessed with it. So I watched it carefully and wrote a 4-page review of it and gave it to each of them. This gave me a bit of “juice” with them, and I immediately found a burst of motivation to display before them the glory of life in the gospel. This second year seemed to be my movie-watching-to-bond-with-my-students year. Not only did I watch Fight Club, but I also watched Never Been Kissed because several of the senior girls kept making reference to Mr. Coolson.

I particularly enjoyed my freshman class this second year as well. They were an eager group, and proved to be one of my best classes (They also excelled as seniors three years later). Our discussion of the Sermon on the Mount was particularly intriguing. I borrowed heavily from Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy, and the kids really seemed to engage with Jesus’ teaching. The freshman class was so large that year that I had to teach four sections of freshman Bible. That was really the peak for us in terms of enrollment during my ten years. I still stay in touch with a good number of students from this freshman class, and I’ve had a several of their siblings as students as well, which brings me great joy and satisfaction.

This year was also a difficult one in some respects. One of the seniors, Paul Sharp, was killed over Easter Break while climbing in Yosemite. Obviously this cast a pall over the rest of the year. In addition, one of our dear neighbors down in L.A. was diagnosed with cancer in January and was dead by March. We were stunned, to say the least. Further, I had worked so hard during my first year-and-a-half at Redwood that my emotional and physical resilience was starting to wane. By the time the second semester rolled around, I could feel a discernible difference in my mood and outlook. I felt a certain emotional numbness creeping in, and I began wrestling more with my own thoughts and motivations. This trend would continue on and grow more difficult over the next couple of years.

One the whole, my recollections of that year are mostly happy ones. Even though I found what I perceived to be an unwillingness to pursue true manhood by some of the guys in the senior class who should have known better, I can still say that I enjoyed that senior class as much as any I’ve had in my time at Redwood. And the same would be true for the freshman class. I remember sitting out in the quad on campus at the end of the year, signing yearbooks, and feeling a deep sense of gratitude at the privilege of being a member of the Bible Department. I respected the different and valuable gifts that God had given to each of us, and felt that we all worked well together to accomplish God’s purposes in teaching His Word. I still feel that way today.

Oh, and one final postscript. Being a huge Dodgers fan, I suffer no loss of love for the SF Giants. I loathe them. Of course there were many Giants fans on campus, and one of them on the baseball team was particularly outspoken. So it was sweet joy to see the Giants, and Barry Bonds, on the brink of winning a championship, only to have the Angels snatch it away in dramatic fashion. Fabulous. Of course my comeuppance came this past year, but at least back then, I had staved off any Giants fans gloating.

Father, I thank you again for the joy I had in teaching these students. You were so kind and generous with me. I pray for them, that many of the guys in that class would mature into godly, Christlike men, full of courage and humility in this world. I pray that you would continue to bear fruit from the seeds that were planted that year. And may your word run and get the victory in their lives, even now. Amen.



Written by Michael Duenes

May 26, 2011 at 9:08 pm

Posted in Duenes, Nostalgia

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