I sit here alone in my friend’s home in North Dakota waiting to head to the airport. Just outside there are piles of snow. A downy woodpecker is enjoying breakfast at one of the many bird feeders near the windows.
I am grateful.
Four days ago I flew from Wichita Falls to Dallas to Chicago to Fargo where my friend Amy picked me up. We hadn’t seen each other in years, not since their family PCS’ed from Shepherd Air Force Base. Her smile upon my arrive was a indication of things to come. We drove ninety minutes to Grand Forks, chatting the whole way.
I love how my military friends can pick up a friendship after years as if we had seen each other yesterday.
Amy dropped me at Casey’s home where I was welcomed as an honored guest. Casey even had my favorite snack waiting for me – apples and peanut butter! Casey and I stayed up way too late catching up, as if we hadn’t talked on the phone and texted a zillion times in the past year.
Casey even gifted me with a new water bottle!
Friday we went to the base chapel to set up for the women’s ministry conference. I wasn’t sure what to expect; I should have known it would be great. A young airman, just commissioned in May, had begun decorating. Country BBQ was the decor theme. Amy brought red and white checked fabric, and Mac brought baskets and pencils holders and other things to make the place look great. They incorporated the tin buckets and bandannas I’d sent from my attic clean up. You can see what it looked like in my post from Friday.
Friday evening arrived. Time to welcome the wives of airmen and many women who are themselves airmen. All wanting to learn truth together from God’s Word.
A few ladies had practiced worship songs. They led us in song to open the event. Immediately the women joined in and began to worship our Creator. This was encouraging to me! We didn’t start with ice breaker games. Most of these women knew one another and we were here for a purpose and that is what we focused on: Honoring our God and Savior, and learning truth for ourselves directly from God’s Word.
Casey took about twenty minutes to quickly introduce me and then to explain the basics of Inductive Bible Study.
I stepped up to the podium and we opened our books – Living a Life of True Worship. I read the introduction and then had the ladies pick up their pencils. We read a passage from Genesis 22. The Story of God testing Abraham. We marked with a purple triangle the key word “God” and pronouns referring to God in verses 1-10. Then I asked, “What do you learn about God in this passage?” One gal answered, her eyes open wide, “There’s a lot of communication going on here! God is talking to Abraham and Abraham is answering! He heard and answered!”
We were off and running!
They jumped in and told me everything happening in the passage. We read through it again and this time marked “Abraham” in blue pencil. We discussed his reactions to God’s instructions. They saw his complete obedience and trust, his faith that God would provide.
We read through the passage a third time, marking “burnt offering” with a squiggle. The discussion continued.
Then we read the rest of that story in verses 11-14. How God stopped Abraham. The ram in the thicket. Naming that place The Lord Will Provide.
When I asked them about Abraham’s response to the angel’s words, one gal noticed Abraham had “raised his eyes” and saw the ram instead of looking down or back. Another lady immediately said, “And back in verse four he had raised his eyes to see the land God was going to show him!”
They were seeing new things in a familiar passage of scripture.
Slowing down and taking time to read carefully and mark key words – even reading multiple times to mark different words – then discussing what the passage says about those key words meant these women were learning truth they hadn’t seen before. I wasn’t teaching them anything. I wasn’t lecturing. I was simply asking questions to help them articulate the truth they they were learning for themselves directly from God’s Word. It was beautiful!
We completed lesson one Friday evening then had an hour of hanging out together. I watched as women met those they hadn’t met before. They talked about kids, units, and prior base assignment. There was food and coffee and laughter. New friends were met and old friends hugged.
One woman who has two children and whose husband is deployed asked me where she can get these studies. She told me she is Mexican and works with other Hispanic families. She’s starting next week to go through the Bible with a new couple. They just came to know the Lord and want to know more. She and her husband do this together when he’s home. They had been “just winging it.” She was so excited to know about the 40-Minute Studiesfrom Precept.org! Knowing these studies are solid and totally based on scripture is exciting to her! Plus she would have a book to hand her students! So they could learn for themselves as the three of them discussed the passages. She especially excited to learn they come in Spanish!
Another young woman, an airman, came up and quietly told me that though she’s been a Christian a long time she has never in her life done a Bible study. She was loving the fact that she understood the passages we studied in that first lesson! She wants more. A lot more. She especially excited about the possibility of doing one of these studies with her husband.
When we finally got everyone out the door with their children and coats and gloves, I was wiped out. It had been a long day, starting at nine that morning. We got back to Casey’s about ten Friday night. I was tired, but it was the best kind of tired. I was looking forward to what God was going to do Saturday.
We started with bagels and fruits for breakfast. Lots of chitchat and laughter. Children were herded to rooms where they would be playing all day.
Then we had a time of singing before we dug into lesson two. Between songs, the chaplain’s wife read scripture. Each passage she read was from our study, passages we would be looking at that day. I loved that she was giving the women a taste of what was to come. I also loved how these passages fit beautifully with the songs we were singing, even though the women who chose the songs did not have access to the study ahead of time.
Throughout Saturday we examined passages from Exodus 40. We read. We marked key words. I asked questions. The women discussed what they learned. We looked at the design and layout of tabernacle Moses made at God’s command. We looked at the door, the bronze altar, the laver, the lamp, the showbread, and the veil. We also read passages from the New Testament which told us all of this was a pattern, a copy of the true tabernacle in heaven.
In the later lessons we read how Jesus is the door, the only way to the Father. He became the perfect, spotless lamb, sacrificed for our sin. He washes us, cleanses us with His Word. He is the Light and the Bread of Life. We learned how everything the priests had to do each year to make atonement for themselves and for the people was done once for all by Christ.
In the last lesson we talked about what this means for us. How do we live a life a of true worship knowing all we had studied? Again, the women did most of the talking. They were learning who God is, what He did/does for us, what He promises and requires of us, and they were pondering and discussing what our response to this truth must be. Many times during that lesson we sat in silence as we thought about the heaviness of the truths we had read. Were we going through the motions? Offering traditions of men to an empty temple build by human hands? Or were we worshiping the living God in spirit and in truth? What does it mean to worship in spirit and in truth? How can I do this in my life? Do I even want to?
We had a time of singing just after lesson six. We sang songs that spoke of truths we had just read. There was a solemness in the place as we each let the Holy Spirit show us things we needed to confess and change in our lives. It was a sweet, beautiful time.
After dinner Saturday I shared some of my story, the story of how God’s grace arrived me through storms. I shared how knowing truth from His Word helped me trust God as I grieved. I encouraged these women to not stop with this weekend but to get plugged in to this local body and to join Bible studies being offered this spring.
We had another social time, allowing women to share what they’d experienced or to simply chat with friends Saturday evening.
Each meal throughout the conference I sat at a different table. I met women who were in their first year in the military. I met women ready to retire after serving more than twenty years. Some of these gals were married, others divorced. A few did not have children; others had four or five. The husbands of a couple of the women were deployed. Some were married to officers, enlisted, or men no longer a part of military. A variety of units, ranks, and associations. All gathered for the weekend to learn truth directly from God’s Word.
I was grateful to be invited to teach these women how to study the Bible and to encourage them to be a part of this local body. I was honored to be here. I was thrilled when so many expressed interest in continuing to study after I leave. Three new studies start next week. All are now full to overflowing with women excited to study truth together.
Sunday morning we attended service at the chapel.
At the end of the service the chaplain surprised me by calling me up to the front. He introduced me to the congregation thanked me for coming. Then he did something I never expected: he gave me a USAF Chaplain Corps Coin.
Being coined by a member of the military is a huge honor, one rarely given to civilians. Officers, wing commanders, and high ranking personnel have coins. Each coin design is unique to the unit or commander. They bestow a coin as a way of showing honor and saying, “You are one of us now.”
I was coined.
Not only are these women my sisters in Christ, I am now forever linked with the Warriors of the North. I am honored to carry the coin from Air Force Chaplains Corps, Grand Forks Air Force Base.
I am grateful for a wonderful weekend. New friends. Old friends. Sisters in Christ. Sharing God’s Word. Teaching them to learn truth for themselves directly from God’s Word.
It was a wonderful weekend in North Dakota.