My home just became quiet. A few minutes ago, some of our Bible school students filled my living room. They were participating in class, not from the classroom, but from my couch. In fact, all of our students were sitting in apartments around the city in front of their computers. At first this might sound like such a disappointing scene due to quarantine regulations, but actually it’s an opportunity we wouldn’t have seen before.
In spring of 2020, Equip Bible School was half way through its second year of existence. Within a three day period, we went from “stock up on food supplies because stores are closing” to “pack your bags because the island is locking down and the last flight off the island leaves this weekend.” The remainder of the year was spent online and many of the students never got to say good bye to the community that had embraced them on the island. Fast forward to the fall. Our class size was limited due to regulations and the start was delayed waiting to hear if we would even be able to bring students from different countries to Cyprus. We were constantly grateful for every chance we had together after being so close to having no school at all. Some weeks were in the classroom, some weeks were in their apartments with teachers on zoom. The most intense was the 10 day period when the whole school was isolated, not being able to even interact with people in the same apartment.
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8
It was in these seasons that I learned the most from our students. They seized every moment that they could. When regulations lessened, they were overjoyed to see everything they could. When regulations became strict, they celebrated that they lived in community and didn’t have to face things alone. Through all of it, they said over and over that while this was the most difficult season of their lives it was also the best because they learned to rely on God.
Before this season, we wouldn’t have considered planning school in apartments. School belongs in the classroom right? Suddenly, the classroom stretched out into the community and the world like never before. We are grateful for guest teachers that can travel, but also amazed that a teacher in South Carolina can start at 5am there, just in time for our students to return from lunch break here.
It also means that every Friday I get to open my own home for class. Every time I have moved to a new home, my prayer has been for it to be a home for many. Truthfully speaking, it feels the most like home when it is full of people. For the students that spend 9 months away from their families (especially in this season of unknowns), my home is the place for comfort. It’s where they come to bake in my kitchen, for the best cup of coffee or hot chocolate, they come for sleepovers (lining my living room with ALL my mattresses), for movie marathons, to take naps on my couch, for puppy cuddles and play time, to learn weird board games, and talk about life. Especially in this time of Covid when the places to go became limited, my home has been a safe spot for many.
Every time they come, I am refreshed in why I love my job. We often hear them say, “I came to Bible school to ‘give a year to God’.” When the time came for them to decide what to do with the next year of life, they wanted to do something meaningful for their faith. When the world was saying “stay home,” they took steps to go out. The funny thing is, they often learn that giving a year is just the beginning of giving a life. They don’t return home forgetting about what they have learned, instead they are equipped for a life of pursuing God in all they do. Some of that discovery happens in the classroom and some of it happens while sitting on my couch.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 8:38-39
Health regulations tell us many things we are not allowed to do, but this year with the Bible school students shows me that nothing can keep us from a life with God.