Interested in materials for fall study? Click here to purchase the 2017 Bible Study Guide Live Your Call, written by Anna Liechty Sawatzky.
How did you, working full-time and the mother of four active sons, make time to write Live Your Call?
A lot of my writing and thinking was done in dribs and drabs, here and there. I do a lot of driving for my job so early in the writing process I got John’s Gospel on CD from the library.I listened to that while I was driving and contemplating the theme of mission. After I had selected scriptures and themes, I worked on one text at a time, reading it over and over and then pondering it while driving. The devoted time I spent sitting down to work was much less than the time I spent writing in my head. I find that this is how I work best anyway. I like to work on something for a little while and then give it time to percolate. When I come back to it, thoughts have formed more clearly in my mind. Toward the end of my writing time, I had to have some more devoted time to sit down and write.
What is your experience with Bible study guides?
I don’t have a lot of experience specifically with Bible study guides. What inspired me more was conversations, talks, books, and articles over the years that have given me what I call a “clarifying concept”. I love it when someone gives me a framework or a concept to understand something. A very important example is the one I use in the BSG, the concept of mission as “ministry in the dimension of difference.” The author, Titus Presler, gave me words to understand something and un-muddied the waters for me. I have had many other similar experiences over the years, sometimes in unexpected places. It was this sense of clarity with deep study of scripture that I wanted to bring to the guide.
How does studying the Bible empower women?
One of the things that I loved when working in South Africa was how the Bible was what everyone had in common. We worked with a Bible school for leaders of African Initiated Churches and the majority of the students were women. We came together seven times a year to study the Bible. You didn’t have to have other books, you didn’t need to know what the scholars said, you didn’t even need to be able to read, you just had to be open to reading or hearing deeply to understand what God had for you. It was amazing what understanding we could form when we were all working together on a text. The other thing I love about the Bible is that there is always new meaning to be unearthed. You can read a story over and over again and always get something more from it. This process is open to anyone and can be very empowering.
Why focus on mission and service? How can mission and service be applied to home?
Mission is who we are as the church. As soon as we stop caring about those outside our doors, we have lost ourselves. We are all called to reach outside ourselves with the Good News, but for each of us the call will look different. I wanted the lessons in this guide to equally applicable to those who are called to service as those who are called to evangelism. And there are endless ways of doing mission within each of these broader categories.
Mission can be applied at home. The definition of mission I work with is that it is “ministry in the dimension of difference.” Ministry is that which we do for our own and it is important. When we cross some kind of barrier or wall to offer the Good News, we are doing mission. These barriers are all around us and can be found at home as well as far away.
What is one of your favorite sessions from Live Your Call? Why?
Each of the lessons came out of experience I have had with finding new understanding of scripture and life. I organized the chapters in pairs because our faith is so deeply rooted in paradox—Jesus is the servant leader who died that we might have new life. And so it is equally true that we are called to give as to receive, to engage as to retreat. The other reason it is hard to choose a favorite is that as soon as I was done, I could think of things I would add or do differently. I have already had several invitations to meet with groups and I welcome these opportunities because they help to make the study more dynamic for me. I am sure that in another year, conversations with others will have helped me to grow and I would construct the guide slightly differently. I do pray that through the guide, women will connect more with God and with each other in a way that emboldens them to live the call that God has for them.
Anna Liechty Sawatzky is a home visitor with a child abuse prevention program. She and her husband, Joe, served as missionaries in South Africa with Mennonite Mission Network. Anna, Joe and their four sons currently live in Goshen, Indiana.