The woman who founded Disciplers Bible Studies was an amazing godly woman and I will never forget the first time I met her. I had flown into the San Antonio airport from Hawaii, sent by my Bible Study Fellowship class to train as substitute teaching leader. I was thousands of miles away from anyone I knew -- alone and scared. How would I find the woman who was supposed to meet me? What if she didn’t show up? As I made my way off the plane and into the area where people were smiling, waving, and waiting eagerly for their loved ones, I wanted to turn around and go home. But then I spotted a face -- the kindest face I had ever seen, with a sweet hint of a smile, and beautiful soft eyes that reflected the love of Jesus. She didn’t say a word, just walked straight toward me and put her arms around me in a warm, welcoming hug. I knew this had to be Pearl Hamilton, the woman who had been sent to pick me up. All I knew about her was that she had worked closely with Miss Johnson, founder of BSF, for many years in Oakland, California. But when BSF was offered a large piece of property for a beautiful new headquarters in San Antonio, Miss Johnson retired and named a Texas woman as the new Director of BSF. Pearl had moved to Texas to become Deputy Director.
Pearl’s credentials were intimidating. She was a U. C. Berkeley graduate and had studied at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts and L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland. I had barely a year of BSF to my credit! But I had little time to feel intimidated. Pearl received me graciously and my apprehensions disappeared. Then, as we drove off in her Texas sized car, she had me holding onto my seat as we sped through San Antonio. That week I learned that besides being a fast and skillful driver, Pearl was a knowledgeable and charismatic Bible teacher with a delightful sense of humor. She had high expectations for everyone, but failures were always met with encouragement rather than criticism. She could also make a piano come alive with praise music!
During that week in San Antonio, we had many wonderful instructors, but Pearl is the one who inspired me to want to be my best -- not just in things pertaining to my duties in BSF but in everything I did. To Pearl, teaching and sharing God’s truth was not just something to be done in class, it was something that involved your whole life -- every action and every choice. I returned home wanting to be the best wife I could be, reflecting Jesus and pouring out His love on my husband. I wanted to be the best mom, modeling for my children how to put Jesus first, showing by example what is important in this life. I wanted to be the best servant I could be to the BSF women in Hawaii. Pearl taught us that as leaders in a Bible study, we were to be servants. She defined a servant’s heart as one that desires to make someone else successful. She instilled in me a longing to make our teaching leader successful and to make each one of the ladies in our BSF group successful as followers of Christ and students of God’s word. Pearl inspired me to serve Jesus Christ with joy and thankfulness where He had put me.
Back at home, time passed but I did not forget Pearl. I longed to see her again and learn more from her. Then my family moved to Southern California. We had lived in the area when our children were small and we went back to the same church we had attended as new believers. Then one day I learned that our church had called Pearl Hamilton to be Director of Women’s Ministries. I sat down and wept. I felt that God had answered my unspoken selfish prayer to be near Pearl. When she arrived and started a Bible study class, writing questions and study lessons each week, I was at the first class. I never missed unless it was totally unavoidable. Nobody wanted to miss her classes. We had too much to learn from her. Pearl wrote lessons and taught our Disciplers class for five and a half years. When she was diagnosed with leukemia, I prayed harder and longer than I had ever prayed in my life. Her health, her presence, her wisdom and example were something I needed as much as air to breathe and food to eat. But God’s will was to have her with Him. I couldn’t blame Him. Pearl lived her last days the way she did everything else, according to her favorite saying, “Not somehow, but triumphantly.”
Disciplers has carried on. Pearl’s lessons continue to teach and inspire many. Her life and her legacy are still making a profound impact in individual lives around the world. I hope yours is one of those. My prayer of gratitude for years spent with Pearl ascends every day. I thank God for the privilege of knowing her and serving under her. I am determined to be faithful to all that Pearl desired for this ministry -- to serve as she did, with joy, with Christ’s love, with compassion, commitment, caring, and with prayers even in the middle of the night. That was our Pearl.
I hope I have helped you to know a bit about Pearl. Without her there would be no Disciplers. She started this ministry and wrote the lessons for you -- you who are faithful to study and keep your eyes on the goal. May you be blessed mightily through her faithful commitment to God’s call in sharing herself through the ministry of Disciplers.
With fond remembrance
“Faithfulness can make up for many shortcomings.” Those are the words I heard in a sermon many years ago -- words that have stuck with me and made a profound difference in my life. When I heard those words, I related to them immediately. I knew for sure I had many shortcomings, and was excited to learn I could make up for them.
I was well aware that I was impatient, critical, demanding, indecisive, tactless, and often self-centered, ungrateful, anxious, and lacking in courage. I still struggle with some of those things. Plus, there are many things I cannot do well or cause me to quake in my boots when I attempt them, such as going to church alone, speaking in front of a crowd, sharing my faith, correcting others, or kindly confronting someone who has wronged me. Sometimes I find it difficult to forgive or pray consistently. I am not a gifted speaker, a natural leader, a salesperson, an initiator, an extrovert, or a person who comes up with fantastic ideas. My sense of humor is pretty good, but I always think of what I could have said long after the opportune moment. Actually, as I reveal this list, I am thinking that I must have more than my share of shortcomings. Have you ever made a list of yours? The good news is that now I know there is something you and I CAN do to make up for our shortcomings. When we make the effort, pray, and yield to the Holy Spirit, we CAN be faithful.
I can be faithful to pray when I’ve promised to do so. I can be faithfully available to family and friends when they need me -- not just when it’s convenient. I can be faithful to give a smile to everyone I meet and a heartfelt “thank you” when someone does even a small thing for me. I can be faithful to keep my house tidy and welcoming for my family and whoever may stop by. I can be faithful to read my Bible every day. I can make God the first priority in my life and yield to the daily “interruptions” He brings. None of these things take talent, a high IQ, or a charismatic personality. All they call for is a commitment to faithfulness.
Over the years I have learned to faithfully do what God has called me to do. I have learned that when God calls me to a task, it must take priority over personal pleasures, pastimes, and passions. My husband set an example for me. He was a football player when he was in school and after he graduated from college, he continued to immerse himself in football. He hardly ever missed a game on T.V. He read every football article in the newspaper and loved talking about football. Then God called him to teach a men’s Bible study at church. As he studied God’s word and developed a love and concern for the men in his group, his priorities began to change. Instead of being faithful to football, he became faithful to the task and the men God had given him. No longer was every Sunday afternoon and Monday evening spent in front of the T.V. Barry could be found at the dining room table with his Bible and study books spread out in front of him -- or on the phone with someone who needed a listening ear. During this time, I was changing too and both of us were discovering that life is not about “us” but about being faithful to God and to others.
Life changes when faithfulness becomes a priority. At first it can be hard to turn your back on the things that give you instant gratification or fulfill a need for something you are sure you cannot live without. But you know what? All of those things are fleeting. They are things that can be shaken and they will not remain (Hebrews 12:26-27). What will remain and be remembered in the end are not the good times, the way we pampered ourselves, or the extra things we owned. What will be remembered is the faithfulness.
I often picture in my mind the apostle Paul, standing in glory before the Lord on judgment day. It is a day he looked forward to with joy because he knew he had faithfully run the race of life on this earth. He knew that his life had glorified God and that God’s glory would shine through him for eternity (2 Thessalonians 1:10). Paul always let his faithfulness shine. In what ways is God calling you to let your faithfulness shine? When will you begin to let it happen?
P.S. Someone asked me recently why I continue to write this blog on an “obscure” (her word) website where hardly anyone reads it. My answer was, “faithfulness”. God has called me to write, so I will write. He will draw those who need to hear.
I have been involved in Disciplers since 1987, as a discussion leader, teacher, writer, and now as director. I am profoundly committed to the stewardship of this ministry which God has entrusted to me for a time. God’s word is the chief joy of my life. I cherish my personal time in the word, and I am filled with gratitude to be able to share His word with you, my fellow disciples in Christ.