Our First Love - by Rob Shoaff

Mar 15, 2018

Hello everyone!  My name is Rob Shoaff (I’m the “Rob” that goes with the beautiful and famous First Grade teacher, Mme. Rob!).  I have had the great privilege of being a professor at Sonlight Bible College for the past 5 years here in Port de Paix, Haiti.  I LOVE teaching the college students!  My daily experience is quite different from those who teach at the Academy.  In the evenings, my wife and I like to share about the day and compare life with First Graders (affectionately known as “Firsties”) and life with the College students.  I can honestly say that I’d rather drink sand than do what she does!!!  I really enjoy all those cute, energetic, sticky handed, can’t-yet-tie-their-own-shoe, 6 year olds…….in VERY. Short. Small. Doses.  Give me the adults, please!


SBC is a four-year undergraduate school that offers degrees in Theology, English Language, and Computer Technology.  Our Bible College students come from various ages and backgrounds (and can tie their own shoes!).  They are men and women who work and study as pastors, teachers, lawyers, doctors, future church planters, and community leaders.  One thing that we value very strongly at SBC is discipleship.  We want to not only teach discipleship to our students, but personally model discipleship to our students with hopes that, they too, will also make disciples. 


This year has been particularly rewarding, yet particularly challenging.  In our desire to make disciples, we have begun to transition from being an American directed university to being completely Haitian directed.  We believe that THIS is one way towards long-term sustainability and empowerment of Kingdom people.  History has shown in this country that long-term change does not come from the outside, but it is the Haitian people, led by God’s Sovereign hand, that leads to change.  Disciple making is essentially working yourself out of a job by teaching and empowering someone else to do what you do.  So, I have been on a new leadership team that has been navigating this process until we can be completely Haitian led (we’re shooting for 2020).  It has been rewarding but it has not been easy on many levels.  It takes time.  It is relational – and relationships are, well…messy.  There are cultural differences, language differences, differences in the way we think, and then there’s that lurking-in-the-shadows dynamic of foreign presence in Haiti that has not always been so positive.  The process has been good, but it has been challenging.


I am currently mentoring an Academy and SBC graduate to teach my English classes.  He is a brilliant, Christian young man…but he doesn’t teach like me, he doesn’t speak like me, he does things differently than I do, he has a different mentality than I do – and it’s hard.  It’s hard for me to turn over the reigns to him, and as I already said, I LOVE what I do.  If I were honest, I’d rather just continue to do what I LOVE doing all by myself.  It is definitely much easier that way.  It’s a lot less frustrating that way.  I could just focus on the job that I love doing, the courses that I love teaching, and concentrating on my students that I love developing.


I recently read a post that was written by a brilliant friend, leader and mentor.  In it, she referenced a passage in the Book of Revelation that was so timely for me that I need to share it with you.  In Revelation chapter 2, the writer commends the church saying (my paraphrase):  “I see you have right behavior and I see you have right beliefs.  BUT…(we know that “buts” telegraph something is coming)…BUT, I have this against you: you have lost your first love.”  When I read this it was like a donkey-kick to the chest.  Especially within the Christian realm (and definitely on the mission field), we can justify all of our tireless work and all sorts of things for the Kingdom - things we LOVE doing - BUT (there’s another “but”)…BUT, if I am focused on how much I love teaching but forget that it is a method of getting to KNOW and EMPOWER my students in a way that they may know Christ more deeply – if our attention isn’t focused on being like Christ so that we can show others how to be like him too - we have lost our first love.  All effective ministry extends from our identity.  In other words, who we are is much more important that what we do.  The problem that gets in the way is, sometimes we love what we do more than we love whose we are.  What I really desire to do is to motivate my students and my neighbors to be like Jesus.  I want to be a conduit of leadership that produces lovers of Jesus and not just lovers of academics and knowledge.  Leadership is ultimately a portrait of a desired destination to be like Jesus.


I want to encourage you to reflectively consider Revelation 2.  Who is being manifested within your life and leadership?  What is the tension you personally experience as you juggle family, work, and everything else we have on our plates – those things we love to do - with focusing on Jesus?   What practical ways might you recalibrate your focus and demonstrate Christ within your sphere of influence?  As we consider these things together, may we continue our journey of being disciples as we “make disciples of all nations.”