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Little Rock Connections: The Good News for Today
April 2019

Bible Institute St. John's Center
 

Bible Institute Transforms Lives
Nancy Carole Stuart

Yet just as from the heavens

the rain and snow come down

And do not return there

till they have watered the earth,

making it fertile and fruitful,

Giving seed to the one who sows

and bread to the one who eats,

So shall my word be

that goes forth from my mouth;

It shall not return to me empty,

but shall do what pleases me,

achieving the end for which I sent it.
          Isaiah 55:10-11

Bible Institute has been a life-giving rain of grace for me in my journey through the deserts of life. The weekend has been a touchstone for me to reflect on the Word and to discover God’s work in my life. Attending Bible Institute changed the course of my life and continues to nourish my soul year after year.

I first came to Bible Institute in 1994 through the call of Nancy Lee Walters at LRSS, who knew that I had just graduated from college in Dallas and had moved back home to Little Rock. I was unemployed and trying to figure out my next step when Nancy Lee asked if I would help be a hostess and set up and clean up during the weekend. As a bonus I could attend the sessions. That year was Women of Faith presented by Sr. Irene Nowell, OSB. Hearing about Esther, Judith, and Ruth inspired me.

Wherever you go I will go,

wherever you lodge I will lodge.

Your people shall be my people

and your God, my God.
          Ruth 1:16

Ruth, in her openness to accompanying Naomi, not knowing what the future might hold, echoed my sentiments of wanting to go wherever God was going to lead me. I just had no idea where that might be. Rather than despairing that I was clueless about my future, the session on the story of Ruth at the Bible Institute gave me the courage to open myself up to whatever God might offer in each day. The weekend gave me the hope that God was present with me and would lead me in his direction.

By the next year, 1995, when Sr. Camilla Burns, SNDdeN presented Tree of Life: The Wisdom Tradition, I was working for the Arkansas Catholic newspaper and covering the Bible Institute as part of my job. Fr. Leslie Hoppe, OFM presented Illuminating the Bible: The Story of Biblical Archaeology in 1996. Going to Bible Institute changed the course of my life that year when I met my future husband there.  At the end of the weekend, Cackie Upchurch, the director of LRSS, passed my phone number to Jonathan when I missed my chance. I don’t remember much about the lectures that year!

During the years of our courtship, engagement and early marriage, we continued to attend until we moved to Laughlin AFB in Del Rio, TX, where Jonathan was stationed. Our son David Paul was born in May 2002, and Benjamin Thomas was born in January 2004 (it was no coincidence that we chose Biblical names). 

In November 2004, following a routine surgery, Benjamin coded after having his breathing tube removed, and was without oxygen while the doctors struggled to reintubate him. He was in the PICU and rehabilitation hospital in San Antonio for two months. Twice during that time, we met with doctors who tried to prepare us for the worst and talked about the possibility of brain death if Ben did not improve.  Through the grace of God, Benjamin survived. He suffered brain damage that rendered him quadriplegic and unable to eat by mouth, sit up on his own, or care for his own bodily needs.

During that period of my life, the true fruits of the Word and the wisdom I had gained at Bible Institute came to life. Jonathan and I prayed the Psalms of Lament over Benjamin as we cried. The words of Revelation 21:1-4, gave us hope in our own personal apocalypse. Isaiah 35 spoke to us about looking beyond the present trials. Job and Lamentations taught us that we were not alone in sufferings and questioning why. We were experiencing our own desert wilderness and Garden of Gethsemane as we came to realize that our lives would never be the same.

By 2012, we had been settled back home in Little Rock for seven years, and Benjamin was stable enough for me to attend Bible Institute again, and I have been attending each year that I am able ever since. I cherish the weekend even more than before. After having experienced a small taste of both the Cross and the Resurrection, I can appreciate the beauty and wisdom of the Scriptures as well as the Spirit dwelling within the community gathered around the Word. Every year I look forward to having a weekend where I can lay aside the stresses and anxieties of being a mom and rest, reflect, learn, and share time with old friends as well as new ones from around the United States. Jonathan, David Paul, Benjamin, and my parents attend the Mass on Sunday morning with me, and we can all celebrate how Bible Institute has helped form and nourish our family. I can look into Jonathan’s eyes, and feel my heart race as it did in 1996.

The words of Ruth to Naomi still resonate today as I try to follow God wherever he calls me. Through Bible Institute, I have grown to see that my life is not only a journey of me trying to follow God; even more so it is the reality of God pursuing me, reassuring me, making me aware of his presence in my life, and calling me to reach out and share with others. Bible Institute has been and continues to be an instrument of God’s overflowing love in my life.

Nancy Carole Stuart is a native Arkansan, a graduate of the University of Dallas, and a full-time mom who is devoted to her family and her faith.

Announcements:

Now is the time to register for our annual Bible Institute in Little Rock. Download the brochure and make plans to join us June 21-23, 2019 as we explore the Parables of Jesus with Fr. George Smiga from Cleveland, Ohio. Registration deadline is Friday, June 7.

Our new series of monthly articles, Lessons from Luke, is available on our website in both English and Spanish. Feel free to download the articles, share them with friends, stuff them in parish bulletins, or provide the link on your parish website. It’s a great way to heighten interest in the Gospel of Luke among parishioners in this liturgical year.

Finding Peace, Letting Go of Stress and WorryIt's April, so that must mean it's time for a new volume of Alive in the Word. Writer Amy Ekeh has given us a wonderful way to pray and reflect on Finding Peace: Letting Go of Stress and Worry in this latest volume.

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