Serving in Vanuatu | Interview with John Dekker
John was born in Tasmania, and felt called to be a pastor from a young age. He decided to gain some life experience as a high school maths and science teacher, before moving to Melbourne to train at the PTC. After graduation, John worked for several years in parish ministry before joining APWM. He now serves in the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu as a lecturer at the Talua Theological Training Institute.
What did you do before enrolling at the PTC?
I was born and bred in Tasmania, and I was a high school maths and science teacher before moving to Melbourne to study at PTC.
Why did you choose to study theology?
I had felt called to be a pastor when I was still a teenager, but I knew I had to mature some more and gain some life experience. I was not certain what God was calling me to do over the long-term – I had thought of Bible translation and university ministry – but I wanted to become a minister first.
The main reason I chose PTC was its commitment to exegesis and biblical languages. I was also impressed by the missionary experience of the faculty.
What have you done since leaving the PTC?
I graduated from PTC in 2007, and served as pastor of Aspendale Presbyterian Church, in south-eastern Melbourne, for six years. My wife and I were accepted as missionaries with Australian Presbyterian World Mission (APWM) in 2014, and appointed to serve with the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu, teaching at the Talua Ministry Training Centre (now the Talua Theological Training Institute). I started teaching there at the start of 2015, and teach Biblical Studies and Greek in Talua's Bachelor of Ministry programme.
I started a part-time doctoral degree in 2010, and finally submitted my thesis in 2017. I did it in Old Testament, looking at the portrayal of women in the Book of Samuel.
How did your time here equip and prepare you for mission and ministry?
Obviously, it equipped me in the content which I teach at Talua. More importantly, it trained me to read the Bible carefully. It is this process of studying, interpreting and applying Scripture that I wish to pass on to my students.
A highlight of my time at PTC was a college mission trip to Malawi and Zambia. This stimulated my interest in cross-cultural mission as well as helping me see that God had gifted me in teaching the Bible in a cross-cultural context.
What would you say to other men and women considering missionary work?
First of all, gain a solid grounding in understanding the Bible: its overall message and how to interpret individual passages. Second, get equipped in auxiliary learning areas, such as linguistics and general knowledge of human culture. Third, recognise mission opportunities where you are, and remember that you do not have to go overseas to serve the Lord Jesus Christ.