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RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Hugs and tears marked the end of this year’s Bible studies for women Nov. 24 at the corporate offices of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia in suburban Richmond.

What started as a “gentle nudging” became an “overwhelming sense of obedience that I had done what the Lord wanted,” said Sandi Lawrence, who initiated the Bible study. Lawrence is administrative assistant to the SBCV’s executive director-treasurer, Doyle Chauncey.

“Every time I walked the hallways of our office building and saw people, I became more convinced the Lord brought me to the SBC of Virginia for more than just a secretarial position,” Lawrence said.

Collaborating with Sue Sawyer, the SBCV’s women’s ministry and missions consultant, Lawrence made plans to reach out to women working in the building. After engaging someone to lead the Bible study and planning a free lunch menu, Lawrence and co-worker Angela Dilmore, the SBCV’s receptionist, distributed flyers inviting women to the Bible study.

Since last March, the nine women have met almost every Wednesday for fellowship through Bible study and a meal.

The women who attended were glad to have the Bible study, Lawrence said. “Some would say they couldn’t always get to their mid-week evening church services, and they were happy we provided such an opportunity for their lives.”

Through the summer and fall, the women used two video series by Beth Moore, noted Christian speaker, author and teacher: “A Heart Like His,” a study based on the life of King David, and “Breaking Free,” which teaches how to recognize and escape various bondages through liberty in Jesus Christ. Lawrence said both series helped in personal discipleship, as well as drew the group closer together.

Yvonne Hooper, an employee in the building, said she enjoyed the fellowship, noting, “It really helps to know that others understand what you are going through. I have also enjoyed the warmth and compassion.”

Tonya Newton, meanwhile, said she found herself “wishing every day was Wednesday so I can feel refreshed.” Newton said she was facing some very difficult times in her life. “I couldn’t have gotten through them without all of you,” she said, referring to the SBCV women staffers, who also included Sharon Chauncey, financial secretary. On several occasions, several of the women in the Bible study would come to Sharon’s office on other days to pray with her.

“This Bible study allowed me to fellowship with people who differ from those in my regular service,” said Diana Phillips. She and three others in the Bible study are African Americans.

“I thank God for letting me see that it’s all about God and his Son, Jesus Christ, and not religion,” Phillips said.

Such a Bible study “could be happening in any office building or neighborhood,” Sawyer said. “It doesn’t have to be inside church walls.

“God has placed his people in a secular environment. And Christians ought to be reaching the people God puts in our paths. We are surrounded by people who have unique needs and are hurting,” Sawyer said.

But the kind of hurting in the hugs and tears shared by the women in the SBCV Bible study represented, to some extent, sadness. The SBCV’s lease was not renewed for the year 2000, so the corporate headquarters will be moving to an adjacent building.

All of the women expressed a “we can’t stop now” kind of attitude, Lawrence said. So plans are under way to begin another Bible study in the SBCV’s new headquarters, which after Jan. 1 will be 4101 Cox Road, Suite 100, Glen Allen, VA, 23060.

There is even the possibility that the Bible study started by the SBCV women will continue in its current setting under the leadership of one of the women who attended it, Lawrence said.

“That would make it even more successful,” Sawyer said, “because that’s what Christianity is all about — duplicating ourselves.”

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  • Norm Miller