Life changing, is probably understating the effects on my life of taking two years out to attend a Bible school. It was held in the Faith Centre Church, Wellington, where I had already enjoyed visiting their services a few times and was familiar with the Pastor.
On our first day, our tutor requested each of us new students to get up front on a stage and introduce ourselves, forcing me to confront my fear of public speaking. Looking out at a room full of stranger faces, I just fell apart.
My mind went right back to, schooldays’ feelings of being inadequate and completely shut down. In my nervousness, I was unable to recall my own name for what seemed ages, before it returned and I stumbled through.
School followed a pattern of, opening songs, prayers and a short message that everyone was expected to take a turn at leading. Most of our time was taken up studying in depth the teachings of Jesus and Paul contained in the books, characters and themes of the bible, with our tutors.
We also had classes with a speech lady on all aspects of public speaking that helped grow our confidence. A few of her tips before going in front of an audience, I remember, were, not to stand in the, ‘fig leaf’ position, (hands crossed over the front), check the mirror for spinach stuck on the teeth, and for men, make sure zips were up. Goal setting and time management was another important course we took.
It was a very busy time in our life, getting assignments completed around family commitments, and sadly, after only ten months my new husband and I separated. I realized too late, in hindsight, I was not ready to be married. Making ends meet was a struggle, so I sold my Wairarapa house to free up some money for fees and living expenses and a place to live.
I was surprised, how well our field trips to prisons and other places to share our faith through songs, skits, and the stories of how God was making a difference in our lives, by following the words in his bible, were received.
Being able to pray for people downtrodden by life, that God would touch them in their situations and change things around was very moving. I was reminded of the words, ‘there but for the grace of God go you or I’.
The biggest highlight of my bible school time, was an overseas trip to some churches in the Philippines, to share our faith. I had to sell my car to pay for the airfares so it was ‘Shank’s Pony’ and public transport for us for a while but well worth the sacrifice.
Stepping outside at the Manila airport, the humid heat after air conditioning, incredible noise, from traffic and shouting, pushing cab drivers, jostling to get your fare, was an assault on the senses. Two miles from the airport our taxi got a flat tire and we had to change cars. The way everyone drove was crazy, there seemed to be no traffic rules or speed limits.
All the people we met were lovely, very friendly and happy, going out of their way to welcome us into their homes and churches and though obviously very poor, sharing their food with us. There was a strong love for God, and their singing in harmonies with clapping patterns I had never heard before, gave their music a heavenly quality.
We also had a lot of gatherings in little countryside barrios where the singing caused everyone to experience the presence of God fall on them. One night I prayed for a young girl crying, because her father was in the hospital needing an operation and the family had no money.
The next night they returned telling of a record fishing catch they had made from the sea and sold, that covered the father’s hospital needs. Everyone was excited at this answer to prayer from God.