by Maria Byler, Philadelphia Praise Center
In Matthew 17 Jesus tells the disciples that with faith the size of a mustard seed they could move mountains. But at Philadelphia Praise Center/Centro de Alabanza de Filadelfia, something else is being moved by faith: adults are going to school. And I, as site administrator, get to witness the miraculous results.
This fall, 15 members of PPC/CAF started the certificate program of the Anabaptist Biblical Institute (IBA), an adult Christian education program coordinated by the Mennonite Education Agency and the Hispanic Mennonite Church. It consists of eight 12-week courses. Students complete workbook lessons on their own and meet weekly in group tutoring sessions. Tutors are pastors Leticia Cortés and Fernando Loyola. With God’s help the first course, Introduction to Bible Study, was completed in early December.
Each student is in a very different place with their education. One student is completing postdoctoral work, one dropped out of elementary school over 20 years ago. Most have begun to know Jesus within the last five years. But their varied experiences with school and church were overcome by the strength of their faith and their desire to learn more about God.
At the first class when asked about the homework, most of the students raised their eyebrows and shook their heads sadly. “Me cuesta leer tanto,” – “It’s hard for me to read so much” “No entendí todas las preguntas,” “I didn’t understand all the questions.” We struggled through the literary genres in the Bible and the difference between figurative and literal. But we also had great conversations about Hebrew identity, Creation, and even vegetarianism. Week after week I left the class amazed at what God is doing with these humble but eager followers. And the students left the class feeling as though they had merely scratched the surface of knowledge, and ready to deepen their understanding.
More than what God is doing inside each student is what God is doing with us as a community. We are each (including me) growing so much more than if we just read the lessons individually. IBA has become a very human place where we learn from the reading and also from our sisters’ and brothers’ life views. This includes experiences of members of the community during the course. We have had to cancel or rearrange classes because of illness or other church events – and those happenings make it into the class conversation. Students often bring their children, who participate in their own way. It’s giving us all practice in being a community of sharing and support as we learn together how to walk this life as Christians.
At the beginning of the New Year we start on the second course: Anabaptist History and Theology. For more information on what we’re studying, check out the Mennonite Education Agency website. Or, if you’d rather, contact me – I love to talk about this exciting work that God is doing in the church!