Teaching From Experience
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Teaching From Experience

Teaching From Experience

Teaching From Experience

Challenging students daily to live for Jesus, Gabe Estrada’s Bible classes are as pertinent to him as they are to his students. Sharing his personal experiences and encounters with the Lord in his daily life (where he is father of eight children!), Mr. Estrada’s Bible classes are filled with a unique depth of knowledge and insight, helping students navigate the current culture.

Spend a few moments with high school Bible teacher Mr. Gabe Estrada, and you’ll find he can’t help but impart little gems of wisdom during a conversation. While he doesn’t intentionally try to, the gems naturally appear. It’s a gift he has which is shared with his freshman and senior students on a daily basis. 

For someone who was terrified of public speaking, Mr. Estrada was far from thinking he’d become a teacher someday. “I was headed for a career in law enforcement when pastors and mentors at my church affirmed teaching/preaching as one of my spiritual gifts. They saw God doing something in me that I did not see,” he says sincerely. Now, after teaching for more than seven years, Mr. Estrada says he wouldn’t want it any other way. “I get so much joy and contentment from teaching,” he says. The contentment, he explains, comes from being able to have concentrated time in studying God’s Word as he prepares each class lesson. “It does something within me as I spend time in God’s Word, and it helps build relationships with my students as they see and feel what I’ve been seeing and feeling. Together, we both get to experience God that way.”

One of the special moments in the classroom is when students have asked about a spiritual topic and he has seen the transformative reaction take place in their reflective state.  “Recently, my students asked me about prayer. I love being able to inform them from scripture that is not only a textbook answer but one from experience. Students don’t seem to fully grasp the power of prayer as they share they don’t always see their prayers answered. From my life experiences, I’m able to give them examples. I love seeing in their faces the realization that this is not a God on paper—He can be known and desires to be known to us.”

Mr. Estrada began teaching at Woodcrest Christian in 2015, after which he took a position teaching at California Baptist University to pursue his Ph.D. in Biblical Studies. “While I was teaching at CBU, it was really neat to see former Woodcrest Christian students pursuing their degree at CBU and taking my classes there. It was neat to see their growth and walk with God and witness how the Holy Spirit was working in their lives.”  In 2021, the Lord called him back to Woodcrest Christian where he now teaches high school senior classes, Advanced and Honors Judeo-Christian Philosophy and a freshmen Bible class, Advanced Christian Living. 

As evident in Gabe’s ability to relate to and connect with young people, the Lord prepared him in significant ways. “Sometimes God makes himself known to us through tragedy,” he shares. From the divorce of his parents at age seven, to the unexpected passing of his older brother, Mr. Estrada says, “If you know the reality of our fallen world is true, then the answer to the problem must also be true.” During his senior year of high school, Mr. Estrada was faced with that very choice. “I remember I had just come home from football practice and a team from my church was there.  They shared the Gospel with me and clearly laid out the choice of either accepting or rejecting the Lord. That night, I fell on my knees. I asked the Lord if He was real to make Himself known to me. He did, in fact, in the way that I felt about the things of God. For instance, I eagerly wanted to attend church every Sunday—without the common probing and bribing of my parents! I strangely wanted to read the Bible every day and to pray. The first words of Jesus’ ministry were to repent, and our first moment towards God is in our hearts, not our minds. We can try to explain or justify the Bible, but factual knowledge is different than relational knowledge, and the Lord wants our heart.”

Sixteen years ago, Mr. Estrada married and now has eight kids ranging in age from 14 to one years old. With five girls and three boys, there is never a dull moment in the Estrada household. Mr. Estrada recognizes that this is where God continues to challenge him the most. “One of the biggest things that has shaped me is marriage and raising kids. You realize how selfish and what a sinner you are,” he says smiling. “You realize you’re not seeking the interest of the other person or other family members when you live in community daily. You realize your own vices and your need for forgiveness. It’s very humbling.”

It’s this same challenge that he poses to his students as well. As students interact daily in community with each other, Mr. Estrada says, “I want for them to learn and know the love of God that is expressed through a covenant community. It’s what Christ calls us to in John 13:34, ‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.’ If they can experience in the classroom the love of God, not only from me but from other students through their interactions working together, then the goal is accomplished. Christ has given us our circumstances (our families, our friends, our community) for our own sake…for our own sanctification in order to make us more like Him.”

Looking ahead, Mr. Estrada says it’s more important than ever that students understand who God is. “It’s foundational for them,” he says. “When I look back at my notes from teaching here in 2015, there were topics of discussion that came up including gender identity, homosexuality, etc. In just seven years, those topics have permeated and changed our culture. In my notes now, I’m addressing transhumanism, our sinful desire to be superhuman, connected through technology. The world continues to tell our young people that they’re not good enough as they are. I challenge them the same as I challenge myself: to daily renounce the world in our Christianity. I want them to remember Christ’s call to first repent and to attach ourselves to Christ and detach from the world. That’s my hope for my students.”

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