Cody Pelham is a teacher. He’s always been a teacher. First in the public schools in the suburbs of Chicago (after graduating from Evangel College in 1963); then as a graduate student at the University of Missouri where he pursued his PhD in History; then in Brussels, Belgium at Continental Bible College; and now finally, wonderfully, even miraculously, at Life Challenge.
Cody’s journey from Highland Park, Michigan to Life Challenge has been, as Bilbo Baggins so aptly put it in his memoirs There and Back Again, mostly unexpected. Along the way there has been some pain and disappointment to be sure, but also great joy and satisfaction. “God uses every scrap,” he says, “turning the shards of our lives into something of worth and value. This is what I try to teach the students at Life Challenge.” In the next breath he paraphrases C.S. Lewis, “ We have no doubt that God works for good in our lives. Our only question is how much pain will be involved.”
Cody will tell you that great students make great teachers. A love of learning is what sets them apart. When one loves to learn, one tends to become learned and Cody is nothing if not learned. In fact, he says without any hint of irony, graduating from Evangel was “the saddest day of my life.” It’s perhaps not surprising. In those early days of Evangel, a young student could rub shoulders with many giants of the faith, men like E. S. Williams, Ralph Riggs, Frank Boyd, J. Roswell Flower and Robert Cummings. These were founding fathers of the pentecostal movement and men of great learning in their own right. They imparted their wisdom to the next generation of God-fearing men and women who are now, in turn, “giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young” (Proverbs 1:4). Cody’s fellow dorm mate at Evangel is the current General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God, Dr. George Wood (Little known fact: Cody says that, as an 18 year-old student, during a late night, dorm room bull-session, George predicted that he would someday become General Superintendent. Cody stops short of calling it prophesy, but certainly it would show uncommon resolve in a teenager).
Cody came to teach at Life Challenge shortly after Education Director Dave Ytterock passed away. Rev. Ytterock had been a good friend and through their relationship, Cody came to appreciate the ministry in a very special way. Knowing how much Rev. Ytterock respected Jeff Bonzelaar, Cody felt honored to be asked by Jeff to carry on part of the teaching ministry at Life Challenge.
“The one thing that pleased me and, I must say, surprised me, is the level of academic quality that is maintained at Life Challenge. I now teach classes that are essentially no different than I would expect to teach at the University level.”
One of the classes that Cody teaches is Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. “To see the students come to understand that they have been chosen, adopted; that they are children of light” this, he says, is what he loves most about teaching. To be called to be an eyewitness to that light as it comes on, to see the students directly as they turn from darkness to the light of the glory of Christ, “that,” he says, “is my greatest satisfaction.” When it happens, Cody often repeats to his students Paul’s instruction to the Ephesians: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8). Cody is one among many God-fearing, wise and learned men and women who have been called to Life Challenge to be one of His “leading lights.” “What a precious privilege it is,” Cody says as he settles comfortably back in his chair.