Russell and Duenes

Feeling Nostalgic – Ten Years at Redwood Christian – 2003-04

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Today was the annual senior chapel and tea at school. I always enjoy this event, but today was particularly humbling. The seniors thanked me for my years at Redwood in a way I couldn’t deserve in a thousand lifetimes. I know, and the Lord knows even better, how much pride and arrogance remains in this heart of mine, but seeing how God has been at work and how he has blessed me in teaching the Scriptures these last ten years, I was blown away by the sentiments that one of my seniors expressed. Oh, how hard it is to leave. I have truly loved being involved with my students, and I pray that in some small way, God has used me as part of His redemptive tapestry in their lives. They gave me the honor of offering the benediction today, and here is what I prayed. May God answer all of it.

Holy and Righteous Father. Lord and Master of all things. Sovereign in all of history and in our lives here today. May your Word, O God, run and get the victory in their hearts. May they would know the immeasurable greatness of your power. May they know how high and wide and deep and broad is your love, and that they would be satisfied in that love. May you give them a hunger and thirst for you, and a longing to be holy and to honor you. May they be careful to obey you in all things, and may they put their confidence in your promises to do them good. May they, by your Spirit, shine as lights in the midst of a dark and corrupt generation. Give them courage and humility, constancy and resolve, faithfulness and virtue, fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore in Christ Jesus. Guide them down fruitful paths, O Lord. Keep them safe as they participate in their senior activities. Give them an enjoyable and honorable graduation ceremony. And may they go out into this world with radical, risk-taking faith, with hearts that turn away from sin, and with a longing to do your will, O Father. May you be exalted in their lives, and may they walk along the narrow road that leads to life, that they may enter fully into the eternal life that you purchased for them in Christ Jesus. We pray these things in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

My third year at Redwood felt more difficult from the start than the previous two. I was trying to do a lot, which tired me out, and I was spending too much time engaging in fruitless theological debates with an old acquaintance who had completely gone off the rails. I wasn’t aware in the fall how all this was affecting me, but looking back on it now, I see how I was wearing down and not appropriately guarding my heart and health.

I still enjoyed coaching baseball, and I had a number of players in my senior Bible class: Scott Dole, Jordan Burnett, and D’Andre Walker. Indeed, I just ran into D’Andre on campus the other day, and Scott Dole is now a cop in Alameda where I live. We were able to grab a cup of joe awhile back and catch up a bit. Speaking of these guys, we had some fun off the field as well. Jordan Burnett, Scott Dole, and several other senior guys were into the band “Thursday,” which is kind of a punk, scream-o band. “Thursday” was going to be in concert in SF, and these guys invited me to go, and so I did. I remember one of them remarking as we stood in line to get into the place: “Dude, we’re going to a concert with our Bible teacher.” I’m glad I went.

The freshmen class that year was also a challenge in many ways. I struggled with classroom discipline, which is to say that I didn’t do a very good job, and found myself losing heart a bit. I wish I could say that I turned it all up to the Lord, but I think I tried to fight through a lot of it in my own strength, and it began to show. That’s not to say that I felt no attachment to certain students. Morgan Borne was one of my freshmen, and when I think of him these days, a smile comes over my face and heart. He became “BORNEO”, thanks to Mr. Russell (and now his sister has to put up with the name). I’ve kept in touch with several of the freshman from that class: Rachel Green, Sally Dalton, MAXWELL SMART (actually, Maxwell Stuart), and Babes Ricker, Steve Enriquez come to mind.

This school year was also the year that Mr. Russell (or more accurately, his wife) had his first son, an event which brought untold joy to him, a joy which I share.

The 03-04 school year was also significant because it was in February of 2004 that I began writing to the woman who is now my wife, she at the time being in Central Asia. My friend Duke had been telling me for months that “there’s this woman over here that I think you should meet.” Sounded good, and there was no one better to recommend a woman to me than Duke, but they were on the other side of the planet, literally. Jenni and I met for the first time over the Memorial Day weekend, which would be seven years ago this weekend. What joys lay ahead for me, I did not know at the time, nor did I know of the trials. Indeed, that school year seems like a whole other lifetime, a period before “the troubles.” All in God’s time, for His sovereign purposes, which still remain unknown to me in many ways.

Thank you again, Lord, for the many lives you allowed me to touch and enjoy that year. Thank you for allowing me to see some of the fruit of what you’re doing in their lives today. Though I, with my natural eyes, didn’t consider it to be one of my better ones, may you continue to take it as an offering, and do all your good pleasure in those students’ lives, and even now bring some of them who have rejected you to repentance and faith. Amen.



Written by Michael Duenes

May 27, 2011 at 9:40 pm

Posted in Duenes, Nostalgia

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