The snow crunched under my feet as I timidly approached the sprawling building of Elnora Bible Institute. “What on earth am I doing?” Every introverted bone in my body screamed at me that I was crazy to walk into a place where I hardly knew anyone and where I really didn’t know what to expect.
My thoughts went to the day before when I had traveled 12 hours with 2 people I didn’t know – I had survived that much, right? And I then spent the night at my friend’s parent’s house that was just a few doors up from the school – only they weren’t home and, unbeknownst to them, their heat wasn’t working. So I had spent the night alone in a cold house.
No, there really was no way I back out now. It was either back to the cold, empty house or pressing on into the unknown. I opened the door and was relieved that the first person I saw was one of the people I had traveled with the day before – at least it was a familiar face! I soon discovered that the staff and other students truly weren’t scary and was able to enjoy the 3 weeks I spent with them in that term.
Thus began my journey at Bible school. This may sound cliché, but Bible school was a very stretching and growing experience for me. I don’t think that anyone can spend weeks at a time concentrating on studying the Word of God and not come away changed. Yet, each person’s experience is unique.
I was enrolled as a student at Bible school for a total of 6 terms, though the length of the terms varied from 3 weeks to 15 weeks. Each term was a unique experience, containing new ways that God worked in my heart. Each term held its own hard times and challenges. But each term also held joys and good memories that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I made lasting friendships (some of which I still maintain contact with today) and encountered God in new ways through my time at Bible school.
For me, learning extended beyond the classroom. Yes, I learned a lot about the Bible, music, and Christian living through my classes. But I learned a lot of life lessons as well. As I think back on my time at Bible school and the many things I learned, several things stand out to me as the overarching areas of growth in my life.
- I learned a lot about relating to people – both those who are a lot like me and those who are very different. I encountered people who came from very different backgrounds and who have different beliefs and views than I do, and those relationships enriched my life.
I learned a lot about discerning where I stand on many different topics as I encountered beliefs that are different from what I learned growing up. I didn’t agree with everything I heard in class or in discussion with others, but sometimes the new concepts I heard did change my way of thinking. Overall it was good for me to have the opportunity think through those things for myself and not just rely on what my parents or my church teaches.
I learned a lot about stepping out of my shell and becoming more confident in who God created me to be. I am by nature a shy and quiet person, so it was good for me to get out of my circle of friends and build new relationships.
I learned a lot about walking through challenging things such as relationships, managing my studies, and wrestling with hard questions. And I learned a lot about going go God with those struggles and finding my strength in Him.
I learned a lot about the freedom that comes from facing my fears head on by doing what scares me. I tend to be a fearful person, but over and over God gave me opportunities to do the very things I feared, and to become a stronger person as I did them.
And as I returned home after Bible school I learned a lot about walking through the desert season that often comes after a season of a lot of growth. Shortly after returning from a term at Bible school, I wrote in my journal: “Coming back to VA is always a little hard because I come back to familiar surroundings as a different person.” But I also learned that the desert season is usually part of the growth process as well.
I’m sure that if one of my friends from Bible school were to write this list, some things would be the same, but many would be different. That is the neat thing about an experience like Bible school – God can use it to grow and shape each individual in unique ways.
So would I recommend Bible school to young people who are considering it? Absolutely! I would especially recommend checking out the 15 week fall term at EBI if any of you are interested in setting aside a good chunk of time for Bible school. That was easily my favorite term of all that I attended.
Do I think that everyone must go to Bible school for as long as I did or that everyone must go to Elnora Bible Institute like I did? Not at all. God leads different people to different places and experiences – that is part of His unique plan for each of us!
My challenge to any of you young people who have been considering going somewhere like Bible school – or even on a foreign mission trip – to take that step of faith and go! I think that it is invaluable for us as young people to step out of our comfort zone and encounter new people, places, and ideas. Whether that is at a Bible school, on a mission trip to a foreign country, doing voluntary service, going to college, or volunteering right in your home community, the important thing is that you are seeking the direction of our Heavenly Father and willingly obeying whatever He asks you to do – even when it contains things that are hard and messy.
As I think back on my experiences, such as attending Bible school, where I stepped out of my comfort zone in obedience to God, I see God’s faithfulness to me. I see many ways that He changed me and made me more like Himself. And I would do them all over again if given the chance.
|Ranita Reitz currently resides in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Northern Virginia. She has a burden for seeing young women find freedom in Christ as they learn to trust in His promises and apply the principles of God’s Word to everyday life. Some of the things she enjoys most are connecting with people, reading, baking, taking pictures of God’s beautiful creation, and traveling to new places.|