We have had a Bible study with students from a university-level school that trains flight controllers, meteorologists, and others involved in the field of aviation. The average time we have these students in our group is a year and a half; some shorter than that, some longer, depending on their program.
We have enjoyed every group we've had ... we started this Bible study in 2012 when one of the students who attended our church asked if anybody in the church could host a Bible study. Since we live near the school, we volunteered and we've never regretted it. Sure there have been weeks when John barely had time to prepare or when we were so tired we would have liked to have had a quiet evening to ourselves. But then the students would come, and we'd be glad we had opened our home and prepared a study.
The latest group just graduated. Several of them have said that when they came here where the majority religion is not Christian, they never expected to grow so much in their faith. Another said that what she learned in 14 months was like what she would learn in 14 years. It wasn't just our Bible study, so don't give us all the credit! They were very involved in church, in studies and groups on campus, and with each other. I am convinced more than ever that a good community contributes to spiritual growth! (Of course, the reverse can also be true.)
Not only did the group learn a lot and grow spiritually while here, but they taught me or reminded me of some important lessons.
1. Sing with joy and with all your heart. Dance, too! And who cares if you're off key. You're not singing to entertain, you're singing to worship.
2. I am not a touchy person and physical touch is probably way down on my love language list. But the girls in the group hugged and kissed me every time they saw me. It was very special and I became very comfortable with their "holy kiss". Show people that they are loved even if it takes you out of your comfort zone.
3. When you are struggling with something in your life, ask for help. This takes humility and a great deal of courage to admit your struggles, but you can't get help if you don't ask. It's also part of living in community.
4. All aspects of your life are affected by your spiritual health. When the Spirit works in your heart, you will change how you live. That change can be painful, though. Surround yourself with people who will support you.
5. Prayer is about praying for your exams and your health, but it's also about asking prayer for your spiritual health and for God to do deeper things in your heart. It's supporting each other when you're vulnerable in asking for prayer. It's praising God when you see Him at work in your life.
6. Be hungry for the Word of God. Surround yourself with good Bible teaching. Ask questions. Attend church regularly and get involved in a cell group if your church has them.
7. Being involved in counseling, mentoring, even giving advice is stretching. When approached to do any of these, ask God for wisdom and pray much for that person, but don't be afraid to get involved and walk with that person.
8. You don't know what pain a person may be privately bearing. Be kind to all and encourage each one.
9. Opening your home takes time and effort, but it is worth it.
10. We have had some difficult times at our church since November, but in December we had some weekend seminars to help during that time. Several of the students mark that time as the beginning of a deeper spiritual journey. God does indeed work all things together for good. It wasn't a fun time, but God was at work in spite of it all.
11. I still have a hard time following French when people start talking fast! And these students could sure talk fast when they got going! Whew, language learning is a never-ending process.