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Dr. O'Brien as Teacher

Dr. O’Brien as Teacher

by Molly Brummett ’10

One of the most monumental experiences I’ve ever had occurred at Agape Farms in South Africa.

Each night we sat in the living room of the Cape Town team house with Bible, text books, and notes in hand. We listened as Dr. O’Brien taught us about Job and expounded on the implications of suffering. During those hours of lecture, we read, pondered and discussed the text of Job. Dr. O’Brien led those sessions with thoughtful, transparent and challenging words to a group of privileged Americans.

With Job in mind, we finally headed out on the curvy mountain roads to Agape. There we immersed ourselves in what is called “the disability house” – a home to children plagued by infirmities and incurable diseases. We struggled with the realities of suffering, as well as with questions about theodicy that hung in our hearts and minds. But, as we played with those kids, divine love permeated the place. Despite their suffering, the children’s smiles presented glimpses of God’s love.

At the forefront of being an agent of God’s love to those kids was Dr. O’Brien. In the evening lectures, he had articulated that, despite suffering, God – who is love – is always present. At Agape Farms he practiced what he preached.

He was the presence of God in just playing a simple peg game with a boy. With every moved peg and every shared smile, I saw the love of God – a God who does not cause suffering, but who suffers alongside us, even during circumstances that seem Jobian.

Learning from Dr. O’Brien-the-president shaped me. But seeing him (my professor, mentor and friend) integrate Job’s lessons and be God’s loving presence … That changed me.

 

Molly Brummett is a second year divinity school student at Wake Forest University. She first traveled to South Africa in 2009 as a part of a study trip led by Dr. David Crutchley, dean of C-N School of Religion, and Dr. Randall O’Brien. The experience led Molly to spend her final three months as a C-N student in an independent study/service internship there.