The Important Question
A Young Womens' Bible Study in San José, California
Field staff learn to expect the unexpected. Bible studies are peppered with interruptions, unanswerable questions, jaw-dropping stories of hardship, the Holy Spirit imparting supernatural wisdom, and occasional accounts of spiritual warfare. Unexpected digressions are varied and seemingly endless, continually moving staff deeper into the art of flexibility.
After completing their two-year Servant Partners internship, Cayla and Annika were inspired to start a Bible study together in their San Jose neighborhood for women between the ages of 18 and 25.
The young women in the study had varying degrees of comfort working with written materials, so Cayla and Annika reached out to the Servant Partners Research and Innovation Team for a Bible study curriculum that had been developed for illiterate adult women in South Asia. The material was exactly what they needed: a story-based Bible study curriculum that emphasized the life of Jesus and did not require any reading.
When the first day of Bible study rolled around, Annika and Cayla were excited for what might happen. Just as the group was getting into the discussion, one of the young ladies piped up, “I really want to learn about all this stuff, but I have one really important question.” All eyes glued on her, this young woman continued, “If I believe in Jesus and study the Bible, can I still smoke weed?” After brief silence from shock and some chuckles from the group, Cayla responded, “We could do a Bible study on that!” Satisfied with that answer, the young woman was then able to participate fully in the study.
A few weeks later, the young ladies were studying the book of Mark where Jesus entered the synagogue on a Sabbath and began to preach. Then came the unexpected interruption: a man with an unclean spirit started to shout. Jesus commanded the unclean spirit to come out, freeing the man from his oppression.
This story ignited a conversation about the various types of spiritual oppression that the women in the group experience. One woman shared that she was afraid to sleep at night because she would hear sounds like marbles rolling around inside her head. On occasion, she would wake with sleep paralysis, frightened and feeling as if she had no control.
Annika was stirred to pray for her. As the group prayed that any unclean spirit would leave this woman and that she would feel at peace before bed-time, the young woman began to fall asleep before their very eyes! After that Bible study, the young woman’s sleep improved, and Annika and Cayla promised to continue praying until this young woman could sleep without fear.
This Bible study group continues to host many important interruptions that keep Cayla and Annika on their toes as they lead. They and the young women in this study have found that these unexpected interruptions make space for God to demonstrate his love and power in unexpected ways.