Archived Voice Articles
Bajema receives John Calvin Award
By Sally Jongsma
Like many before him, Dr. Duane Bajema feels some discomfort about receiving the John Calvin Award.
“What we do here is the work of a community of committed people, not the work of any individual person,” he says. The John Calvin Award is a privately-funded award presented annually to a faculty member. It’s goal is to recognize commitment to teaching from a Calvinistic perspective and for developing and transmitting reformational insight in a discipline.
Since the award is offered in memory of H. Henry Meeter, Bajema decided to reread Meeter’s book The Basic Ideas of Calvinism this summer. Even though he has been steeped in and surrounded by that vision, he says it was good to step back and reflect on how God’s sovereignty extends to everything around us—even those things we don’t understand. Quoting a recent comment by a colleague, he says, “A classroom is a ‘holy place’ where we help students understand how believing in God’s sovereignty affects how we live.” As a professor of agriculture, he needs to make that concrete for his students.
“We start with God as a sovereign creator,” he says, but adds that he, his students, and people in agriculture are called to think specifically about how they demonstrate gratitude and obedience to God so that our daily activities in agriculture bring honor and glory to God.
Profitability and efficiency are important if we are to feed ourselves and the world, he believes, but the number one priority is to honor God. People do that by caring for God’s creatures and creation in a way that reflects his care for his creation as a place where his creatures can live healthy lives. That means being concerned with the conditions in which animals live—temperature, humidity, dust, gases, cleanliness, and it means making sure that the land will continue to provide for future generations as it has provided for us.
“It’s easy for us to divorce our practice from our beliefs,” Bajema says. As they study such things as nutrition, reproduction, and management practices, he asks his students to answer the question “Who am I?” “Who do I serve?” and “How do I serve in agriculture?” Bajema believes farmers can serve God on both a 10,000-cow dairy and a thirty-cow dairy, but he challenges his students to ask those questions so that their faith will guide their actions each step of the way.
“Being on the ‘cutting edge’ and serving God need not be in opposition to one another,” he says. He urges his students to continue to talk with other Christians in agriculture once they leave college, to challenge each other and learn from each other as the Holy Spirit works through them.
Bajema sees himself as being as much a coach as a teacher. “I want to help students develop as whole people,” he says. “Teaching has to be more than telling; it only sticks if they can make it their own.” He tries to make sure there are opportunities for that to happen.
Bajema has been teaching agriculture at Dordt College since 1977. In addition to teaching courses in animal science, farm safety, swine science, ag marketing, and overseeing senior research projects, he is serving as interim division dean for half of the natural science division this year, while Dr. Charles Adams continues to recover from a serious automobile accident.