Up close and candid with Ken Guenter
How did you come to know the Lord?
When I was a little kid out in Africa—my parents were missionaries. When I was three, I felt convicted of my sin and my need for a Savior. I prayed with my mom, so I don’t even remember not being a believer.
Were you born in Africa?
I was born in Chilliwack, BC. My parents went out to Africa when I was two-and-a-half.
And did you spend most of your growing up years there?
Yes. Grades 1-8, except for furloughs when my parents came home. And then in grade nine, I came to Caronport High School.
Have you been at Briercrest since then?
Almost, but not entirely. I did high school and Bible school—so seven years—and then went to the U of S and did a BA and a year of education. Henry Budd offered me a job; I never applied. It was really cool because when I was a kid in high school, I chose a verse for my life from Psalm 37, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” I never ever even thought of coming to teach here, but one Saturday night in the spring, Briercrest had an alumni banquet in Saskatoon and we went. After dinner, Henry Budd asked me if I’d be like to be interim athletic director for two years. And so I asked Judy what she thought and she said, “Sure.” So on Saturday night, we agreed, and I never imagined how much I would enjoy my work here. The Lord has really given me what I didn’t know I would enjoy.
So how many years have you actually been teaching here?
I think 44—something like that. I came in ’72.
What is it that you enjoy about teaching?
There are lots of things. I enjoy studying the Bible on its own. And I enjoy teaching it. I find the challenge of trying to communicate it well to students is really engaging, and I love being around students. How many old people get to hang around 19-20-year-olds for the most significant part of their work day? It’s really good.
Do you remember your first day of teaching?
My first two years as athletic director—they were a blur because I was teaching 19 hours a week. I was the athletic director, and I was the Cougar football coach, and the Clipper hockey coach. And I took care of the rink and the gym. But back then, that’s just how things were, and we made a go of it as best as we could. So, no, I don’t remember it.
What’s kept you here all these years?
It’s interesting that when I least expect it, I get notes from students telling me how much they really appreciate what I’m doing. And it’s not only when I least expect it, but when I most need it. It’s been very confirming in that way. And we like it here. I really believe in what Briercrest is about. We’ve also enjoyed having great friendships here over the years and our kids loved growing up here.
If you had to teach a different discipline, what would you teach and why?
I’ve never thought of teaching anything else. Because I taught art for over 32 years and I’ve taught history on and off for over 40 years, and I’ve taught Bible for about 40 years. There’s one discipline that isn’t technically offered and if I could teach that, it would be Old Testament biblical theology—which I sneak into my Bible Synthesis course.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to every graduating student?
The first thing that comes to mind is to remind them to keep reading their Bibles for the rest of their lives. And to keep praying. Those two go together. And they’re the foundation of our spiritual lives.
Is there one thing that has been significant for you in persevering in your faith?
I started off an as athletic director, and then became a history teacher. Henry Budd asked me to teach ancient history, so I went off and got a degree in it. When I came back, he asked me to teach Old Testament. And they gave me so many classes to teach that all I had time to do was read the Bible, in terms of class prep. I remember just trying to put together a class on five chapters of Isaiah and five chapters in the Pentateuch, day after day. Ultimately, it ended up that we just read the Bible, and talked about it, and read it, and talked about it. And if you do that with Pentateuch OT historical books, and the Prophets, year after year, at least once for 30 years, you get to know them. And that’s what happened to me. So all that reading that we did—and especially reading together out loud in class. There’s really something powerful about that. Because when you do that, you pay more closer ttention to the text, and you know the students are going to ask you about what you just read. You learn so much. And because I had to teach all of these diverse courses… each class was like prep for the other classes. It was crazy, but it worked. And the other thing is that the power of reading the Bible out loud is more significant than the great wisdom we have as instructors. We tend to forget that. That’s what really made my first 30 years here work. Lately, I’ve had a lot more time to do class prep.
What role has your family, or Judy specifically, played in your career as far as sustaining you?
Well Judy made us all look good. And she took really good care of us. She really dedicated herself to raising our four boys. That’s been by far the biggest factor in supporting me here.
What does semi-retirement look like for you? What do you hope to do in your future?
I’m trying to come in for a long, slow landing. I teach two classes every semester now. If I can teach [my four one-and-a-half-year-old grandchildren] as freshman—I’ll be pushing 90, but I’d love to do it. Then I could die happily like Job, you know what I mean?
It’s really nice not to be horribly busy, which I’ve been all of my career. I feel guilty if I sleep in to 8:00 and don’t get to work until 9:30, because all these years I’ve just been flying and working so hard. It’s really a nice time of life where financially it’s easier for us; we have fewer expenses, and we have more time to travel to visit our kids and grandkids. And I spend more time doing pottery in my free time, which I really enjoy.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I still coach football in the high school and I really love it. I hope I can keep doing that for a bit yet. It’s great to have relationships with high school kids still. Every once in a while, I drop by the art room—kids are working away at the wheels and it’s fun to help them. So I’ve had a really good life. If you go back to Psalm 37, I really have had a better life than I could’ve planned.