From Karl Barth to Table Tennis …

21 January 2015

Making the most of every opportunity

A Langham Scholar in the Premier Division of a sports league in the country where they are studying?

Denni Boy Saragih from Indonesia is a Langham Scholar at New College in Edinburgh. Recently he was selected to play in the Premier Division of the Scottish Table Tennis League after his team from the Edinburgh International Table Tennis Club (EITTC) won the 2014 Scottish National Table Tennis League, Division Four competition!

Denni (far right) and team-mates after their 2014 Division Four win

Denni (far right) and team-mates after their 2014 Division Four win

So, while working towards completing his doctoral studies in the coming year, Denni will also compete with some of the best table tennis players in the country.

Denni and his wife, Desi, with their two children, Nicholas and Sophia, arrived in Edinburgh in 2012. Soon after, he joined EITTC. It has led to meaningful friendships with non-believing team-mates who know he studies theology (and that he will not play on a Sunday).

Denni started this hobby as an IFES staff worker in Indonesia. Knocking a little white ball across the table helped him relax. It also gave him opportunities to build friendships with students who did not yet know and love Jesus.

When he moved to Trinity Theological College in Singapore, he quickly became one of their top players. Denni was pleased with his own fast progress … forgetting that his opponents were all merely fellow theology students.

On completion of his Masters in Theology, he returned to North Sumatra to teach Ethics at a university. Comfortable as the table tennis champion of Trinity, Denni quickly joined the local club. But these were ‘real’ players. They soon indicated that he was wasting their time. Humbled, but not defeated, he asked if they would teach him. And they did.

Denni in Action

Denni in Action

Faithful practice and hard work slowly earned Denni their respect. He also became the club treasurer. As a Christian, the only one in the club, he became known as a trustworthy man and a person who would not tolerate corruption. The club got out of debt; they even had a surplus in the accounts! And Denni started winning tournaments.

At the same time, his photograph would appear on posters around the city, announcing he was to preach or teach at some Christian event.

Karl Barth once wrote: ‘The theologian who labours without joy is no theologian at all. Sulky faces, morose thoughts and boring ways of speaking are intolerable in this field.’

There’s no hiding Denni’s joyful testimony or the lively way he shares his faith: ‘making the most of every opportunity’ for the gospel … quoted from Church Dogmatics II.1, ‘The Doctrine of God’, p656

And proving himself a worthy Barth scholar? Denni’s thesis is entitled ‘Theology, Ontology and Ethics of Reading the Holy Scripture: An Essay in Karl Barth’s Hermeneutic and Exegesis’.

By Liz McGregor, the Care Coordinator for Langham Scholars in the UK