Adjunct Dr. Jeanene Coleson
Serving the Lord Teaching from Puerto Rico
My grandmother left her spiritual imprint on all my family. She was orphaned at thirteen after she completed fourth grade and began to earn her living. Her life’s path was frequently rocky, but her confidence in God continued to grow. She was instrumental in evangelizing her neighborhood in Michigan where I was born and for a time, was a self-educated and beloved lay pastor when no male pastors wanted to minister to the small congregation because the salary was so low. She inspired both her children and the next generations to take their spiritual life and educational opportunities seriously.
Like many young people when I was growing up, that legacy was not as meaningful as it should have been while I shared with my peers and absorbed ideas during my youth. However, unlike my faith in Santa, with time, I have found her faith to be trustworthy both in tough and good times. After completing two master’s degrees, I have worked most of my professional life in Puerto Rico, usually with religious institutions. Cultural adjustments are always necessary when you live in another culture, but the experience has also been enriching. I have been learning together with international students from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East, as well as the Americas.
With God’s and friends’ help, I was able to complete my Ph.D. in Latin American history at the Universidad de Puerto Rico, with several investigative essays on ecclesiastical history. My dissertation is about the Puertorriquenization of Protestantism here on the Island of Enchantment. Completing that goal opened the doors to teach and design both history and theological courses at Inter American University.
My studies in history and religion have opened my understanding of our world and I have become more convinced that learning about the past can help us understand the interactive relationship between God and his creation. Further studies of John Wesley’s times and teachings can give us hope for a better future, if we are willing to accept Jesus’ offer. Like the Apostle Peter, I would say: “who else has answers for our times.” (Jn. 6:68-69)
As for personal interests and pastimes, I feel like a “dinosaur in danger of extinction” many days. So few still enjoy reading and serious intellectual interchange, it seems. However, for me, the day seems sad if there is no time to read in one of several venues. I also like gardening in the early mornings when I can watch the hummingbirds get nectar from the hibiscus bush. Listening to the nightly serenade of the coquí’s (a small toad) is a good way to relax at the end of the day, especially when it rains, as we can listen to the soothing sound of raindrops and the excited coquí together. Travel is a third satisfying pastime, although it is not always possible as often as one wishes. There are many beautiful beaches here, some of which are still almost crystal-clear for snorkeling. The rain forest is not only a place to discover tropical life, but also a place to cool off in shady pools. We are also close to other Caribbean Islands with varied cultures, languages and environment. For example, in the Dominican Republic, you will find more traditional courtesies and foods like mangú, as well as mountain areas that are cool enough to grow some northern fruits. It is probably an island you would enjoy in February when it is cool.
Dr. Jeanene Coleson has been teaching for NBC since 2017.