Following Her Calling, "One Small Step at a Time"

Associate Professor of Old Testament Alison Lo has spent much of her life traveling and giving back to the communities that she lived in. She hopes that her teaching will inspire her students to appreciate the Old Testament and bring that passion to their future churches.

By Anna Bernin '18, contributing writer

April 09, 2021 | 3 p.m.

Associate Professor of Old Testament Alison Lo

Associate Professor of Old Testament Alison Lo

Associate Professor of Old Testament Alison Lo didn’t plan on being a professor. Originally, she wanted to become a minister. Through a lifetime of traveling for her education, she discovered a passion for teaching herself—especially teaching about the Old Testament, through which she explains complicated theology and why those concepts are still relevant to her students. Wherever God placed her, Lo learned about herself and her calling, whether it was the farm she grew up on in Hong Kong or her current 45-minute walk to work in Minnesota. Today, the places and people she met along her journey inspire her to give back and share her love of the Old Testament with future ministers at Bethel Seminary.

Hong Kong

Lo's story begins in Hong Kong. When most people think of Hong Kong, they think of concrete jungles and busy traffic. However, Alison Lo grew up in Hong Kong on a farm. Her parents purchased the farm when they moved there from China to escape a famine.

Lo grew up with pets, animals, and a garden. As the only girl, she did the housework. She did a lot of hard work on the farm, but had a lot of fun running around with her 5 brothers. They would often walk to the nearby mountains behind their house to play.
Alison Lo's farm

Alison Lo grew up on a farm in Hong Kong that was close to the mountains.

She studied at a seminary in Hong Kong before deciding to continue her education. When her parents became ill, she deferred her studies to take care of them. They did not want her to continue her studies, and she decided that if they wanted her to stay, she would.

Both parents were suffering from cancer and died within 100 days of each other. Lo experienced the loss of her parents deeply, as she took sole responsibility for caring for them. This had a profound impact on Lo and led her to look into the book of Job. She wanted an answer to the question of why people suffer.

As Lo studied the book, she came to a realization: “When people read the book of Job, they ask the wrong question,” she says. “They ask ‘Why am I suffering?’ instead of, ‘Why do I believe in God?’ You believe in God because you love Him, regardless of good days or bad days. The book of Job is not just for those who suffer, but for everyone who believes in God.” This personal journey led her to write her dissertation on the book of Job. When her parents died, she was able to follow her dreams and continue her education.

"When people read the book of Job, they ask the wrong question. They ask 'Why am I suffering?' instead of, 'Why do I believe in God?' You believe in God because you love Him, regardless of good days or bad days. The book of Job is not just for those who suffer, but for everyone who believes in God."

— Associate Professor of Old Testament Alison Lo
Chicago, Illinois

Lo felt God calling her to continue her education and decided to attend Trinity International University in Deerfield, Ill. for her Masters in Divinity. She remembers one of her professors at the school fondly. When attending chapel, she sat next to an older man in his eighties every week. She thought he was a student. One day, she decided to talk to him. She didn’t ask for his name, and he didn’t ask for hers.

After their discussion, he handed her a business card, and his title was “Emeritus Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages.” She brought the business card back to her dorm, and her roommates told her that he knew 29 languages.

The professor asked if she was in the Masters of Divinity program and invited her to his office to teach her Biblical Greek and Hebrew, even though she didn’t have a class with him. If she ever needed help, he was more than willing to help her, even on short notice. She believed he was sent from God to her to teach her and inspired her to pursue the Old Testament for her Ph.D.

“When I think of America, I think of that professor.” He set an example for her as a professor. Lo says he was humble and treated her like his granddaughter. That is the type of professor Lo hopes to be for her students.

For her post-doctoral work, Lo decided to study modern Hebrew and do research in Israel. For the first year, she lived in a guest house in the Old City of Jerusalem. The guest house had a panoramic view of the entire Old City, which she found to be a blessing. Every Easter, the guest house would open and Christians from all over would be invited to celebrate with them. She attended a Messianic church, which celebrated both Jewish and Christian holidays. She learned songs in Hebrew and visited old churches, where she discovered the beauty and spirituality of Christianity.
Old City of Jerusalem

Lo stayed in a guesthouse in the Old City of Jerusalem while she studied there.

One Jewish holiday that Lo got to experience was Purim. During this celebration, the pastor would read the story of Esther out loud. “When Esther or Mordecai’s name was mentioned, they would throw candy and clap their hands. The kids would jump up to catch the candy,” Lo says. “When Haman’s name was mentioned, the congregation would drown out his name with noise-makers.” She shares this story with her students when she teaches on the book of Esther.

Lo decided to move out of the guest house in order to learn Hebrew because the people in the guest house spoke English. The second year she lived in Jerusalem, she lived with a Jewish family. They invited her to Passover, and she got to experience their daughter’s wedding. Her time in Jerusalem made her appreciate the Bible so much more because she could see the places that are talked about in the Bible. “Israel is a very small place, but it has everything,” Lo says. “There are mountain ranges, rivers, lakes, deserts, plains, and coastline on the Mediterranean Sea.” Living in Israel enriched her life both culturally and geographically.

"I just took one small step at a time. If God had told me right away what I would eventually do, I would have run away."

— Associate Professor of Old Testament Alison Lo
St. Paul, Minnesota

After teaching in higher education for some years, Lo felt called to return to the United States. She saw an ad for a job at Bethel Seminary and ignored it at first. She had no intention of applying, but she later did after being prompted by a friend. The application process included three rounds of interviews, and before the final interview, she practiced teaching by giving an hour and a half lecture to residents at an assisted living. She prepared four months in advance for the position. After practicing, she had her final interview at Bethel and didn’t feel nervous at all. Lo says she had never experienced that type of perfect peace before, which is how she knew that Bethel was the place for her.

Lo now teaches the Old Testament to Seminary students. “I noticed that churches only teach the Psalms or stories in the Old Testament, but not on difficult passages,” Lo says. “I felt called to conquer this mountain and share this passion with my students so that if they love it, they will bring the joy and the passion back to the church. I cannot change the church immediately, but I can change it through my students.”

Lo didn’t set out to be a professor. She originally planned to be a minister. As she prayed about it, she had a sense that God was calling her to do something she felt was more difficult than her original calling. “I just took one small step at a time,” Lo says. “If God had told me right away what I would eventually do, I would have run away.” She says she loves the Bethel community and her students and hopes that she will serve the community until her retirement.

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