Women’s online Bible study based on the book Read the Bible For Life by George Guthrie, we are discussing week three in small groups this week. Join us as we discuss the how to read the stories of the Old Testament. Below is an update from Missionary Mom and Ministry Leader Stasis Nielsen as she shares her own experiences bringing the Bible to others. These are her words:
We rambled along in an outdated bus that spewed forth billowing black clouds of exhaust to the pedestrians jammed along the streets of Mexico City. The summer of 1986 the city was alive with excitement for the World Cup Soccer Tournament. It was truly amazing that the government desired to go ahead and host the Tournament after the worst earthquake in its history just a few months before. Not only was there a strong sense of pride that drew the people together to put their best foot forward, but it was also the government’s attempt to prove to the world that they had the disaster well in hand. Mexico was in the middle of a thrilling series of events and the eyes of the world seemed to shift in her direction.
We had been serving the Lord in a very rural and poor area after the horrific earthquake. We worked with a few local churches as well as a university where we started a group for the new Christians. We preached Christ wherever we went. With so many events happening, we had plenty of things to keep us occupied. On occasion we would just travel about in the world’s largest city sight-seeing and meeting new people wherever we went.
One day, we had some friends accompany us to visit some of the famous buildings. After three bus rides and a lot of walking we ended up at our desired destination. The Basilica de Guadalupe was built near a hill in Tepeyac where it is believed that the Virgin Mary (or Our Lady of Guadalupe) appeared to Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin on at least four separate occasions. Juan Diego’s first “apparition” as it is so called, happened in 1531 and a shrine was built soon thereafter. There is a long and fascinating history regarding Juan Diego, the Basilica and the pilgrimages that have been made there ever since that first encounter.
For more than 500 years the devoted have gone on pilgrimage to the Basilica. Millions of people come from all over the world each year to see Juan Diego’s tilma (cloak) on which the image of Guadalupe can still be seen. Since I have always been a lover of all things historical and being raised in a Catholic home, I wanted to visit this important place. What took place that day was forever etched into my mind.
Throngs of people were scattered about the entrance of the Basilica. Tourists clicked pictures and chatted excitedly. Families stood about eating “chilied” fruits and snacks. Crudely constructed frames held images of the saints and rosaries sold by vendors near by. Devoted pilgrims moved slowly yet with purpose carrying flowers or prayerfully fingering their long rosary beads. I stood with great respect as I knew full well that many were more devoted in their faith than I could ever hope to be.
Then we saw a young woman attempting to crawl on her knees toward the Basilica. We were told that we might see people actually crawl or “walk on their knees” as a sign of devotion however, I was still unprepared for it. This young woman was having great difficulty moving along, obviously from extreme pain. As she came closer toward where we stood, we were able to see she was being accompanied by an older woman, who held precious rosary beads and prayed as they moved along. The girl wept loudly and you could see that her jeans were torn beyond repair. Her bare knees marked each place where they had been with a tinge of blood. I just could not wrap my mind around the sight. Why, How, could anyone do this? What does it mean? I could not fathom it.
We discovered later that the young girl had come from her village many miles away to show her penitence to the Lord by walking the whole of the way from her village on her knees. They were amongst the indigenous tribes of the area, steeped in tradition and mysticism. This was their way, their beliefs, and something I simply was unable to comprehend.
Many times as we study the Old Testament, we are unable to wrap our minds around the customs, traditions and simple meanings of the text because they are so foreign to us. We need to know the principles behind the laws and customs in the Bible. Everything written in God’s Word has value and meaning for us, even the things we do not readily understand. As we study the Law and the Prophets we need to learn how to find and apply those principles and values in our lives.
“They (the books of the Old Testament) continue to reveal God to us, teach us about God’s character, help us to understand the life and death of Jesus Christ and also provide us with guidelines for righteous living.” Danny Hays
We shared the Lord with the young girl who was making her way to the Basilica on her knees. Her devotion touched my heart. It was with great love and respect that we prayed with her, gently reminding her of the freedom we have in Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” There is nothing we can do to earn something that has already been gifted to us.
Although some parts of the Bible may seem irrelevant to us in this day and age, the principles within those passages are timeless.
To read more articles about the work we are doing in the missionary field please visit www.StasiaNielsen.com
Assignment For The Week
- Read WEEK FOUR in your Read the Bible For Life workbook
- Download the Answers to the Viewer Guide when you click here
- Optional: Listen to the Read The Bible For Life podcasts or watch the video for week three
- If you are still waiting for your book to arrive, download week one from the workbook when you click here
Small Group Questions from the Read the Bible For Life workbook (Post your answers here or share them in a small group this week)
- Harold Goddard has written, “The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Explain why. (page 56)
- Have you ever know that God wanted you to do something but you were reluctant to do it? If so, how did God bring you to a point of commitment and obedience? (page 59)
- Who are two of your favorite Old Testament characters? What has each of them taught you about God? (page 62)
- Can you identify an event in your life that didn’t make sense at the time but later proved to be an important part of your story? (page 68)
- What is your favorite Bible study? What qualities about this story impact you? (page 70)