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200-plus Union Univ. women gather weekly for Bible study, fellowship

JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–It all began with a question – “How can I grow in God as a woman?”

This question, posed to Union University junior Kristin Wicker by a freshman student, was the catalyst that set the wheels in motion to develop what has become the largest college women’s ministry in Union’s history.

“Each of us struggle with knowing who we are, especially women,” said Wicker, a Christian studies major, “and there’s a deep yearning in the heart to know who we are, because to know who we are is to know who we belong to. The young women that are coming want to know God.”

More than 200 young women are currently attending the weekly “Klemata” Bible studies, with more attending each week, at the Baptist-related college in Jackson, Tenn.

“‘Klemata’ is a Greek word for branches,” Wicker said. “It’s taken from John 15:5 which reads, ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.'”

After Wicker was approached with the question of growing in God, she and her roommates began a woman’s Bible study in their dorm room. They called it the “Blythe 5 Bible Study Buddies.”

“That’s really where the idea came for Klemata,” Wicker said. “Just this small group of girls searching for God’s will for our campus.”

Klemata is not only a Bible study, but also a time of encouragement, praise and prayer. After a brief time of Bible study and teaching, the group is divided into small groups for prayer, encouragement, accountability and “a shoulder to lean on.”

“It’s exciting to see how God is using Klemata to challenge me and help me grow in my relationship with him,” said Union student Lisa Bradfield from First Baptist Church in McKenzie, Tenn. “The small groups allow sisters in Christ to worship together as we desire to grow closer to him.”

The small groups are led by faculty and staff women or the wives of faculty and staff at Union who are called “Titus 2” women, derived from Titus 2 that teaches that the elder women are to “train the younger women.”

One of the Titus 2 women is Lanese Dockery, the wife of Union’s president, David S. Dockery.

“The girls who attend Klemata all have life experiences that they bring with them, not only from the Scriptures themselves but from their own homes and families,” Dockery said. “I’ve been real impressed with how they are accountable to each other and hold each other to the Scriptures.”

One of the reasons this Bible study is so important to these college-age young women, Dockery said, is that this is the time that permanent decisions are being made.

“They’re making life decisions about so many things like who they’ re going to marry and what profession they’re going to pursue,” she said.

“When they have God’s Word as their basis for making those choices and decisions, that’s going to affect their choices. They’ll be better selectors because of that.”

Dana James, whose husband is pastor of First Baptist Church in Bolivar, Tenn., is leading the study that is centered on the book, “Woman of Influence” by Janet Wicker. The book discusses and uses examples of women in the Bible and the leadership roles they held.

Said Dockery, “The goal from this study is to learn about being godly women today by learning from the holy women of the past.

“I think in the long run many of these young women will marry and some will be homemakers and they will be more satisfied in their roles because they know God has called them to do that,” Dockery said ” I think it’s crucial that this begins now. There are many women who attend women’s conferences like Women of Faith who are coming because they’ve already made some wrong choices and some bad mistakes. If these younger women can learn to make wise decisions early, those good decisions they make now can cancel out any future heartache because they’re trusting God to guide their choices.”

Dockery has enjoyed her experience so far as a Titus 2 woman. “It’s the most comforting thing for a woman to know that someone else has been in the same situation, and they’ve lived through it.”

Dockery also said the mentoring process has a chain-reaction effect. “You can pass on wisdom from one generation to the next,” she said. “Several girls who are in the Bible study are working in Disciple Now programs, and they’re also mentoring, even as a college student, to high school students and junior high students.”

Klemata women are doing this in a variety of ways. Lisa Sipes, a junior at Union, is the group’s community projects coordinator. A few of the projects include volunteering at the Care Center of Jackson, which gives an opportunity to lead Bible studies with the women at the shelter, provide meals, after-school tutoring and more. Another ministry is helping with Interpreting Services for the Deaf.

Said Sipes, “We have a unique opportunity to spread the gospel to those that may not be reached otherwise.”

Open to college-aged women all over the Jackson area, Klemata meets on Tuesday evenings at 7 p.m. in the Coburn Dining Hall at Union.

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  • Sara Horn