I’ve heard about SMBI for like, forever.
A guy from my home church was the first person I knew who
attended, some time after I left home, and a slightly-cynical young person told
me later that folks in church thought he was qualified --paraphrasing here--to teach, to preach, to
instruct in righteousness, to reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering
and doctrine because –they would breathe
in reverent tones—“He went to SMBI.”
Now, I find that reaction interesting, seeing as how it was
something new and different –a CHANGE, no less in a place not comfortable with
change—and they were so positive about it.
For good reason, I found in the years since.
Sharon Mennonite Bible Institute is a college-level Bible
school in the hills of central Pennsylvania that offers four or five 6-week
terms each year. It's not quite the exalted place that the old home folks thought, but a good place where good things happen. I have known dozens of
young people who were funneled through its doors and out into missions,
voluntary service, and serving back at their home churches.
Watching these young folks, I developed a positive
impression of the school as a place that gave young people a spiritual anchor
and also an impetus for going out and making a difference in the world.
And of course, I have seen a gazillion SMBI photos online—on
Xanga when that was fashionable, and now on Facebook.
Emily’s dream of attending was attained in 2009, when she
took in a 6-week term, and Amy attended the following year for two terms and is
now back for more.
Both girls raved about their SMBI experiences—the classes,
the friends, the spiritual growth, the traditions, and the staff who took an
interest in who they were and what they could become.
But I had never been there myself.
Until we decided that I would drive Amy’s car the second
week of our Eastern Trip while she went to Passion in Atlanta, and then after
the ladies’ retreat in Reading I would drive the car to SMBI and she would take
me to the airport.
So here I am, in the hallowed halls of SMBI. I have seen that long flat front brick wall
that always looks so imposing in photos.
I’ve sat in the public lounge that I’ve seen in a hundred laughing
photos—often with one shy person at the edge that I felt sorry for. I’ve seen the dining hall and the coffee-cup
rack and The Great Divide. I’ve met the
administrator and his wife and the secretary* and the deans.
*Amy thought I should blog about her. Her name is Bethany, and she is fun, helpful, professional, insightful, efficient, and cute. And single.
And I wish I were 18 again.
I would come here and study hard and make friends and laugh at inside
jokes and face my own fears and have intense conversations and be inspired to
do great things with my life.
Well, knowing me at 18, I would also make very heavy weather
of which guy happened to sit across from me at the dinner table and hope it’s
the one who asked the blessing on the food beforehand because oh my stars isn’t
he just so SPIRITUAL which of course means he wouldn’t have the time of day for
a sinner like me and then I’d go mull this over in the prayer closet and ask
God for a sign like if we both volunteer to do dishes tomorrow morning it means
it’s ok if I like him and then we both do but the whole time he jokes around
with this fashionable little gal from Indiana with the new wire-rimmed glasses who
makes me feel frumpy and old and he accidentally sprays a shot of water at her
from the dish-sprayer and she shrieks and he looks pleased and I am done with
asking for signs. For good. Until next time.
Ok. Never mind. I’ll stick with visiting SMBI at age 50 and
not attending at 18.
But like I said, this is a good place, and good things happen here.