HASTINGS, Neb. (BP)–When Kae Miller began leading Bible studies in her home in 1982, she had no idea that two decades later she would spend more than 60 hours a week helping others learn about God.
However, Miller, of Hastings, Neb., said if she has learned anything, it is that God uses ordinary people in extraordinary ways.
“All that I am and everything I do is by the grace of God because his Word is living in me,” Miller said. “I just pray I won’t hinder that flow.”
Miller’s life has not been easy. She has dealt with death, sickness, divorce and the blending of two families with 12 children and 26 grandchildren.
“Through everything that’s happened in my life, it was always God’s Word that got me through,” Miller said. “I just had such a hunger for it, and his answers were right there in front of me.”
Eventually, Miller began to crave a deeper look into the Bible than the topical studies offered at her church, First St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Hastings. Then, in 1996, a fellow church member invited her to a Beth Moore Bible study about the ministry of Paul, “To Live is Christ,” published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
She hasn’t been the same since.
“Beth’s studies are like sitting down and being with Christ personally,” said Miller, who has completed six Beth Moore studies, some several times.
Soon after completing the first study, Miller was approached by two acquaintances who asked her to lead a small group in her home. Miller agreed immediately and in her excitement ordered from LifeWay every Beth Moore leader book available.
“The Scripture, reflections and examples in Beth’s studies bring us face to face, heart to heart with Christ,” Miller said. “The guided introspection lets us see God in our past and present, which gives us a base of a deeper belief and faith.”
Since then, Miller has led study groups for six of Moore’s seven studies. She also traveled to Israel and Greece to participate in the videotaping of two of them — “Jesus, the One and Only” (Israel) and Moore’s seventh and newest study, “Beloved Disciple: The Life and Ministry of John,” released in December and videotaped in Greece.
In the years Miller has taught Moore’s Bible studies, her enthusiasm for them has not waned. She completed “A Heart Like His,” Moore’s study of David, five times.
Miller’s first group study spawned several others, and now she leads four studies a week.
“Each group is so different,” Miller said. “We come from different backgrounds, different denominations, and each lady has different needs. I just try to be flexible and understand how they learn best.”
The original group
Every other Tuesday the “original” group gathers at Miller’s home to study “A Heart Like His.” After meeting for nearly seven years, they feel comfortable sharing prayer requests and praises over hazelnut coffee and warm banana nut bread.
“Kae keeps us grounded,” said Shirley Harms, a retired home health worker and nurse. “She’s our stabilizing force. I can guarantee you, she doesn’t have any other groups like us!”
The original, four-woman group began meeting in 1996 when Carol Ott, assistant professor of nursing at the University of Nebraska, felt the need for a close, small group to gather and discuss the Bible. Ott invited three friends, and they met in Miller’s home each week.
“A few years after we started meeting, we found out that one of the ladies in the group had cancer,” Ott said. “It was such a difficult time, because we were losing our friend and one of our spiritual leaders.”
Ott, Harms and Betty Weston all had a background in healthcare, and the three took turns caring for their friend, who died after battling the disease for several years.
“One of the last things our friend told us before she died was to not let the group fall apart,” Ott said. “And we’ve kept that promise.”
Studying with a disabled friend
Two years later, Vicky Frerichs, another friend of Miller’s, asked if she would be willing to lead an additional study. Frerichs, who attends church with Miller, told her about Suzanne Farris, a woman with multiple sclerosis (MS). Frerichs said Farris was eager to be a part of a group, but MS made it difficult for her to travel.
So Miller and several others decided that if Farris could not make it to their Bible study, they would take it to her.
“We take the study a little more slowly and make adaptations,” Miller said. “God is doing so much through this time we spend together.”
Each Wednesday, the women gather in Farris’ mobile home around her dining room table and talk through the tough questions of pain, life, sin and death, while studying “Jesus: the One and Only,” Moore’s work about the life of Christ.
“Suzanne welcomed us from the beginning,” Miller said. “When I first met her, her eyes were dark and sad. She was lifeless. But now, there is light in her eyes. God has really revealed things to her through these studies.”
Farris, who was able to travel to Lincoln, Neb., recently to attend a Beth Moore Living Proof Live conference, said she now has to have someone help her with everything.
Although MS has ravaged Farris’ body, she has not let it overshadow the spiritual effects.
“When I had my health, I was totally independent,” she said. “I didn’t need help from anyone for anything.
“But now I have to have others read to me, take notes for me, even push my glasses up when they slide down my face. It’s been very hard, but I’ve learned about having to rely on other people. More importantly, I’m learning how to rely on God.”
A class of elders
On Thursday mornings, as Miller leads a class for women ages 70 to 95, most of the issues revolve around losing a spouse or dealing with children and grandchildren.
Though the topics of death and loss often bring on tears, the women also know how to celebrate. One Thursday, they threw a surprise birthday party for Nelda Coutre, who turned 95. “I made it,” she cried as she walked into the room, pumping her fist in the air.
“Nelda is such a testimony of joy,” Miller said. “She lives in a retirement community among so many people who have just given up hope. She says these studies keep her from getting old and prevent her heart from growing cold. Even though she’s known God for a very long time, these studies are helping her prepare to be joyful about what’s coming in heaven.”
Leading younger women
Miller’s newest group and final one each week takes place on Thursday evenings. Quite different from the others she leads, this group includes several women in their 20s.
“I love this new group because they’re so excited,” Miller said. “Each week one of them finds something in the Bible they didn’t know was there. Their passion renews me and spurs me on.”
During this study of Moore’s A Heart Like His, Miller often sits quietly, letting the conversation carry itself. Her flexibility in teaching style allows each group to learn in its own unique way.
“Each group has its own personality,” Miller said. “Some are quiet, others are loud. Some ask the hard questions, others would rather share prayer requests and fellowship together. No matter the differences, they each just want to learn more about the Word of God.”
Interestingly, Miller does not consider herself a teacher — she said she feels she doesn’t have the depth. Yet even after an exhausting week of leading Bible studies, when it would seem appropriate for Miller to relax, she rises near dawn and begins digging into the Word again.
“I just have such a hunger for God’s Word now,” Miller said. “On every page I am meeting Christ and getting to know him more each day. God’s Word is living and active. Every day I have a new realization of who God is.”
Beth Moore’s seventh study, “Beloved Disciple: The Life and Ministry of John,” is available at LifeWay Christian Stores and online at www.lifewaystores.com. (BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: ONE OF HER GROUPS and THE START OF IT ALL.