In 2008, Matthew, myself and our friend Yi started a Sunday afternoon international bible study at our church. Yesterday our group met for the last time. We finished reading Acts, we celebrated Tao’s recent engagement, we prayed for each other and sent each other off to our new ministries.
After 5 years, almost 50 different people from at least 10 different countries and many, many books of the bible, our group finally reached the stage where it was time to shut down. There are now enough Mandarin speakers in the church to sustain two Chinese bible study groups (praise God!), and at present no-one else needing an ESL group (please, God, help us to welcome more people from other language communities!).
Finishing up was the right thing to do; it feels appropriate to free up our friends to lead others in their mother-tongue. But I also feel very sad. Sure, it was hard work. It was difficult to have people constantly coming and going, and the weeks that no-one turned up were the hardest of all. But even as people came and went I always enjoyed gathering around God’s word with people from around the world. I learned new and surprising things I had never considered before. I got to read the bible with people who had never opened it before. How devastating to think that it’s over now!
I praise God for all the people who helped us to get the group off the ground, supported us and helped us to lead it over the years: for Yi, Katrina, Toby, Brice, Jason, Dan, Leo, Ryan, Tao and Jan. And for all the others who came through and blessed us with their insights, company and friendship: for Juan, Sunny, Pablo, Jian, Michelle, Allen, Alice, Lulu, Lin, Forest, Irina, Jin, Emily, Andy, Deepak, Fifi, Adrian, Sashi, Benny, Cam, Jonathan, Julia, Ivy, Jennifer, Myung Sook, Vanessa, Oscar, Heyley, and many other friends of friends who dropped in for a week or two.