Russell and Duenes

Feeling Nostalgic – Ten Years at Redwood Christian – The Last Year – 2010-11

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This last school year was unique in that I was already seriously considering leaving before the year began. I took the LSAT in October, so obviously I was studying for it during the summer. I wasn’t sure I was going to leave; a lot of things had to fall in line, but I believed it was time for me to pursue the option. There were various reasons for my decision – some financial, some familial – but a major consideration was my desire to do something challenging and God-honoring outside of the explicitly Christian context I have been in for so long. Entering the legal profession seems to be such a challenge, and I enter it with a good bit of fear and trembling, excited about the unknown places where Christ might take me.

The first two months of this school year were difficult in that I was trying to do all of the things I needed to do for my students while also studying several nights a week and on weekends for the LSAT. Sometimes I think I might have done just as well on the exam had I not studied one iota, but it is what it is. Like many of my seniors, I began applying to schools in November and December – a tiresome process – and had heard back from most schools by February. Once all of the scholarship offers were made and such, I decided upon Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas. It seems an odd choice for me sometimes, and had anyone told me a year ago that I would choose to live in Topeka, I think I would have looked at them funny; five years ago and I would have guffawed. But God has His sovereign ways.

Washburn made sense because a) I got in, b) they have low tuition, and c) they offered me a sizeable scholarship. Those things by themselves almost clinched it, but it also turns out that the cost of living in Topeka is easily half or less what it is in NorCal, my wife has family in Kansas City, and my friend and colleague, Louise Magee, once lived in Topeka and recommended it as a city (so, yes, Louise, you are partially at fault!). Washburn seems to have a good regional reputation, the students I’ve talked to who went there speak glowingly of it, and hey, if it’s good enough for Bob Dole, it’s good enough for me.

But I digress. Teaching Greek this year was a total thrill, and I can’t say enough about how my students responded. Most of them were sophomores, though I had a few seniors. I would put them up against any group of seminarians taking Greek. They worked hard, plugged away, asked good questions, and by the end were translating out of 1 John. Language and grammar can be a bit tedious, and I’m sure that teaching it for the first time, I didn’t make it as interesting as it could be, but to think that some of our Redwood students can now begin to look at parts of the New Testament in their original inspired language is just awesome. Thank you, Father, for such a gracious work that you’ve done.

Once again I had juniors and seniors, plus a Basic Ed Bible course (my third year teaching that). I also taught a New Testament Greek course for the first time. I enjoyed the junior class a great deal. Like all classes they have their characters, quirks, and disappointments, but on the whole, I can say that I truly enjoyed them and I’m bummed I won’t get to be their senior Bible teacher. This year we did “Open Mind Fridays” throughout most of the year, and these often turned out to be some of the best discussions we had. Sometimes I blabbered on too much (give a guy a platform and he never shuts up), but I appreciated many of the students’ heartfelt questions, and it gave us the chance to address them. The junior boys have matured in some good ways. They are certainly very sharp intellectually (Sometimes they decide to actually prove it), and I have enjoyed the banter and jokes over the years. I was also one of the junior class advisors this year, for a class council that turned out to be all female. These girls did a great job, in the classroom as students and on the council in serving their classmates. They were a fun bunch to work with. I know they’ll have a great senior year.

As for the seniors, well, they are the only ones who had to put up with me three times during their Redwood years. I thank them for it and hope I haven’t damaged them too much. Jaymes Peddie was a sport and played catch with me with the football most days during the break between 7th and 8th periods. Joseph Giltner provided some humor with his constant melodrama, and Lindsay Munson was always quick to offer a retort in class. Jenna Badgett was always engaged in our class discussions, and never one to back down. Dressing up like Edgar Rivas for Spirit Week (along with the whole senior class) was also a highlight. It’s hard to think back through all of the day-to-day moments and pick out the significant ones. So many of them seemed significant, and in God’s view, there were probably many significant things going on each day that I wouldn’t think twice about.

Yet what really gives me satisfaction is the way I perceived Christ to be at work in the students’ lives. I think of Nick Constanzo, and the total regeneration that God has worked in him. In his first three years he was not serious about Christ and was making himself a nuisance, but when God got a hold of him this year, it was incredible. He was so focused on the things God was teaching him in class, and he was obviously trying to apply them outside of class. I was so fired up to learn that he, John Tounger, Alex Bae, David Luong, and perhaps others, were meeting together to read the Bible, share, and pray. Indeed, the senior girls followed suit, and some of them began to meet. I think of Steven Morrow sharing the gospel with Mark Ramos and Mark deciding to give his life to the Lord, or the conversations with Natalia Gonzalez-Navarro about Christ, the Scriptures, and the gospel. Over the last two years it was clear to see how God was moving in John Tounger, giving him a hunger for spiritual truth and for the cause of justice in the world. Jaymes Peddie’s and Jacque Nyssen’s questions in Apologetics class were evidence of God’s work. Landon Foxworthy showed immense courage through the loss of his father. Gavin Phillips made movements towards godly manhood and leadership. I loved the way my fourth period junior Bible class would often be so clearly locked in on what we were talking about on Open Mind Friday. Jason Elebiary showed great enthusiasm for Christ in his short time at Redwood so far. And I could go on. God was at work. He word does not go forth void.

I would be remiss if I did not say something about my Basic Ed Bible course that I’ve taught the last three years. This class presented many challenges, but my main recollection of it will be that it was one of the more spiritually honest classes I’ve been affiliated with. There were no airs to be put on. We had discussions in this class that had a no-nonsense quality to them. I know I’m remembering mostly the positives, and there were times when I wanted to start throwing furniture with this class, but that’s the point: I could tell them that I was about ready to start throwing furniture. We could dispense with the pleasantries and call a spade a spade. That’s the thing I appreciated about it. I don’t know how great a job of teaching I did, but I think the kids got more of me, the actual Michael Duenes, warts and all, and I hope that in getting that, they got more of the tangible “flesh and bones” expression of the gospel. And they in turn were willing to share their own lives with me in fresh and genuine ways as well. May you bless them in ways I couldn’t, O God, and would you make the important things in our discussions bear fruit in their lives.

Dear Lord, for these students, I pray you would give them a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ, that they may know what is the hope to which you have called them, what are the riches of the glory of their inheritance among the saint, and what is your immeasurably great power to them who believe. May they know your grace, Lord Jesus, your love, Father, and your fellowship, Holy Spirit. Teach them to sanctify Christ as Lord, to set their hopes on unseen things, to make the invisible visible with their lives, and to long for the pure milk of the Word of God, that they may have fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore in your presence. Amen.



Written by Michael Duenes

June 13, 2011 at 10:42 pm

Posted in Duenes, Nostalgia

One Response

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  1. I hope the legal studies are going well. I noticed your reference to Louise Magee, who was quite possibly the most influential teacher in my life. I would love to thank her. Do you happen to have contact information for her?

    Derek Simmons

    February 22, 2013 at 9:00 am

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