The Eulogy Offered by Rev. Dr. Tarris (Terry) Rosell, Professor of Pastoral Theology—Ethics & Ministry Praxis, Central Baptist Theological Seminary, on the Occasion of Dr. Gam’s Celebration of Life and Home-Going Service
Reverend Mariann, Reverend Tu Lu Lamung, Reverend Dai Hkawng Mahkaw, pastors and church family, the Shae family and all who loved the Reverend Dr. Gam Seng Shae—I bring you greetings and condolences from Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas. It is a place where our elder brother served with distinction as a Professor of New Testament from 1983-87.
Dr. Gam (as we called him) overcame many obstacles so as to obtain a quality education. This culminated in a PhD, which is the highest degree awarded in his chosen field of biblical studies, with a concentration on the New Testament. He subsequently and simultaneously was a scholar and a professor and a pastor and a missionary and a translator and a consultant and a leader and a mentor. Dr. Gam traveled the world and continued to fulfill his ministry vocation even after losing much of his vision, and with significant healthcare issues. He was an inspiration to us all.
While serving at Central Seminary, Reverends Gam and Alice were members of Prairie Baptist Church, where Alice served as Minister of Asian Outreach. In 1987, they left Kansas for missionary service with International Ministries of the American Baptist Churches. The next year, 1988, my wife Ruth and I moved to Kansas and Prairie Baptist Church so as to take over the refugee resettlement and church planting ministry that Alice Shae had begun there.
A few months later, in early 1989, we visited Gam and Alice in Singapore where they were living and where my parents-in-law were missionaries, also. Ruth and I had many questions for the Shaes, asking their advice. They served as mentors to us during that time—and again a decade later when they stayed on campus at Central Seminary for a few months while back in the States. We have felt indebted ever since to the Shaes. To speak words of eulogy at Dr. Gam’s funeral service is an honor, a privilege—one that I do not deserve.
One of Dr. Gam’s contributions as a New Testament translation scholar was published in a paper titled, “The Portrait of Jesus in the Burmese Gospels” (The Bible Translator Vol 53, No 2 (April 2002): 202ff). Gam wrote about having encountered a translation problem in the Burmese New Testament, Adoniram Judson’s translation of 1835. It unintentionally and mistakenly portrayed Jesus as talking down to people, as being arrogant. It was, Dr. Gam recognized, a serious problem of translation, one that he did not encounter when reading the Jinghpaw or English translations of the Gospels. Dr. Gam was an excellent scholar and teacher. We all are indebted.
I informed my seminary colleagues and former colleagues of Dr. Gam’s passing and received from several of them their own memories and words of respect for our elder brother.
Dr. Richard Olson was Senior Pastor of Prairie Baptist Church and taught at Central Seminary. He writes:
Gam and Alice were dear friends and good colleagues, and I treasure my memories of them. Gam was loved as a Bible scholar and professor during his time at Central. I remember students speaking of his kindness and gentleness as a professor.
In the 1990’s, I wanted to spend my sabbatical in Southeast Asia with International Ministries. When trying to plan that trip, I couldn’t seem to get anything done, so I asked Gam and Alice for their help. They made calls or wrote letters to friends, and in a matter 2 of days, they had a fascinating three months arranged for me, mostly in Myanmar, but including two weeks in Thailand with the Shaes. It was a wonderful gift.
Dr. Heather Entrekin later became the Senior Pastor at Prairie Baptist, and also taught with us at Central Seminary for several years. Years earlier, she was Dr. Gam’s student at Central. Dr. Entrekin writes:
I first got to know Dr. Gam in one of my earliest classes at Central, Introduction to New Testament. His reputation had preceded him; people spoke of him with great admiration and respect. I knew something of the Shaes’ ground-breaking accomplishments on the mission field, in the denomination, and at Prairie Baptist Church. I was prepared to be awed and perhaps a little intimidated; but here he was: kind, gentle, soft-spoken, and utterly committed to his discipline and the students he was teaching.
Dr. Gam was a superb teacher, an outstanding scholar, a gifted communicator who brought a compelling global perspective to the classroom. I will always remember the tender, and effective, way he did that. I shall be forever grateful to Gam for an exceptional introduction to the New Testament that laid a solid foundation for my theological education; but more importantly, I learned to love and trust the sacred writings and faith community that reached so deeply into his own life and, through him, into ours. Dr. Gam was one of Central’s best gifts to me.
Years later, my husband and I enjoyed the Shaes’ hospitality in Malaysia during winter break while we were teaching in China. Gam made sure to introduce us to durian, the fruit whose thorny exterior can lacerate your skin and whose flesh can trigger nausea. I recall a lot of giggling. We also learned that he had climbed Mt Kinabalu, one of the highest mountains in SE Asia—climbed it in his flip flops. The Shaes arranged for us to have an opportunity to climb the mountain also—but not in our flip flops!
Such a dear soul. What a privilege to know Dr. Gam Shae.
And Dr. Robert E. Johnson, Provost and Dean of the Faculty at Central Seminary, writes:
I first met Gam during the academic year 1998-99. He and Alice lived on campus during a period when they were back home from Southeast Asia. Gam took a genuine interest in me and my work at Central. Then and through subsequent years Gam expressed a deep and abiding love for Central and always had tremendous appreciation for this school and the role it had played in his own life. Gam had a big heart and gave himself freely for the benefit of those around him. I shall always remember his infectious spirit, his faith, and his never-ending life of service. His was a life many others hoped they might find the capacity to emulate. He has left the world a much better place.
And so he has. I am grateful, we all are grateful, for the life of the Reverend Doctor Gam Seng Shae. As our Jewish friends say, “May his memory be for a blessing.” So be it. Amen.