Monday, January 07, 2013


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.


  1. Love it! Very real thought processes of an 18 yr. old going on there! :)
    Oh, and I just thought I should ask where you keep the Polish pottery in case I ever get the chance to break into your house when Steven isn't there. The children here wondered what Steven would be able to do against 'mom'. Ha!
    -Renita Rhodes

  2. exactly my sentiments about SMBI. I did get there last Sept as I drove down with a Mom from my church who was taking her daughter (husband couldn't go) and so I had a quick glimpse of the place but we didn't even stay overnight.

    Mary Horst

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  4. Renita--well, Steven and I would both be very happy if you came to our house. Maybe even happy enough to GIVE you a piece of Polish pottery. :-)
    Mary--Isn't it fun to finally see a place you've heard so much about?

  5. Okay so my mouth has just dropped to the floor...

    I was going to comment - yes! and Amen to all SMBI and tell you I was a student there, back at the young age of 18-19 and - actually with Renita Rhodes herself... the above commenter. :)

    What a small world (again!) and nice surprise. I haven't seen or heard much of Renita (her husband Rick and sister Rachelle) since "back in those good ole SMBI days".

    I should go to a Reunion... I am from the East and don't have to fly. ;) By the way... you are amazing - Flying everywhere. Not me!

  6. If there was a "like" button for this post, I'd hit it. :)
    You've obviously been 18 once, I can tell!
    We were on the premises once, looking for a camper we used to own, but we couldn't find it. -PC in VA

  7. I rarely comment but I couldn't help myself on this one. I'm a lot nearer to that tender age of 18 than you but that incredible run-on sentence had me actually laughing :) Thanks for sharing some humor!

  8. This is an 18 yr old boy that happened to go to SMBI last term with Amy(and was at passion with her). My mom had me read this, I find this very interesting..

  9. Wow! They get to sit across from each other at the table??
    The Bible college I attended had a 'boy's side' and a 'girl's side' so we had to look quite a distance to see if anyone had stars in their eyes when they were looking at you.

  10. i, too, was laughing at the 18yr old sentence. LOL. so true.
    i've never attended SMBI, but we've had 2 family reunions there.
    i also have friends attending right now, and one is staff.

  11. laughing. I loved SMBI when I attended, but now I look back and realize how very immature I was at the time. It was a great experience for me, but oh my 18 is so young.

  12. On a completely different note, I blame you for a current addiction of mine. I just checked out #10 of the #1 Ladies Detective series from my on line library.