Bible School Days...
But now, O Jacob, listen to the LORD who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, "Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.
United Pentecostal Bible Institute
I started attending Bible College in the Fall of 1986. I'll never forget some wise words a minister said to me upon entering the college. He said; "Paula, Bible School will either make you or break you". By the time my stay was done, three years later, I would come to add to this phrase; "Bible School will either make you, break you, or ruin you if you let it".
Through certain events that I had laid out before God in prayer I felt certain this was the will and plan for my life. I always had a deep love for the things of God and His Word, so to me this was going to be exciting. There were just somethings I naively figured would be common to all, but would soon find out that, would not be the case.
My parents loaded up the car and we headed off for, what I thought, would be the most exciting time of my life, and for the most part it was. We arrived at the college and I was directed to my room. I was fortunate to be rooming with my cousin Karen that year. After all the hugs and the goodbyes were given, I began to settle in to Bible school life. It wasn't long when I met and made a new BFF ~ Marcia. As the weeks progressed I began to question the will of God. I was beginning to feel unsure whether I really should be there. This happened directly after an altercation with the lady's assistant dean. Nothing major; just what a group of us girls thought was funny, she did not think so.
One Saturday evening when I came home from being over town I went looking for Marcia, I needed someone to talk too. I couldn't find Marcia so I went looking for another girl, Denise. I was told that these girls, along with some others, were over at the chapel praying. I decided I would join them.
When I arrived at the chapel, which was right next door to the school, the girls were already engaged in prayer. I slipped into the back pew, but after a few minutes I knew I needed to get alone with God, so I went downstairs to the prayer room. Now this part of my story is important because it would come back to mind later on in my third year. I was in the prayer room when I was joined by four other girls. As we continued to pray the Lord spoke through one of the girls and I felt it was directed at me. I had been asking God to show me if I had truly heard from Him and was in His Will by being at school. This is what was spoken that night (to the best of my memory); God confirmed that I was in His Will, but this is the most important part, He also said that there would be rocky roads and valley ahead, but as long as I kept my hand in His He would see me through. I left that prayer meeting refreshed in my spirit and confident in the Lord.
I met my first serious boyfriend that year ~ Ted. He was amazing and we got along fine. We enjoyed each other's company. I made a lot of friends and today I continue to cherish some of those friendships. Everything was going fine until... It was after Christmas, sometime in January 1987, we were given the opportunity to choose what topics we wanted to debate for our debating class. It came down to three hot topics; Divorce and Remarriage, Abortion, and Interracial Marriages. We were advised by the teacher not to take our opinions outside of the classroom. But one person..
I have a bi-racial nephew ~ Vincent. At the time he was just a little guy of 7 and he had it in his mind, that when he grew up, he was going to go to Bible college just like his aunt. Well up until this debating class I had many girls come to our room and see the picture of Vince on my dresser and never once was there a comment made. But this one student, after being instructed not to take our opinions outside the classroom, decided he wanted to see what people really thought of interracial relationships. I was shocked at some of the opinions that some people had. Not too mention that now some of the girls would come to our room, pick up the photo of Vince, and ask if he was adopted. When I would tell them no, he was our flesh and blood, attitudes started changing towards me. My boyfriend at the time, Ted, broke up with me when he found out that my nephew was of our flesh and blood. When my opinions did not match up with some of the others, I was told that I was being prejudice against my own race. There were many hurtful words spoken and I began to question the Lord again about my being at school.
School would be coming to an end in April and I was considering quitting. I began to pray and ask God what I should do. I had so many folks looking up to me from my home church in Edmundston and the there was the old, wanting to making people happy feeling. Wanting to please...especially my mother. I felt like I was loosing a battle I could not win, and in the end, went back in the Fall of 1987 and started my second year.
My cousin Karen and I decided to room again with each other. Everything went smoothly our second year. There was a good group of young adults there and the Spirit of God was strong. We had good chapel times and even just good social times around the school. My two memories that stick out though were the following...
The first memory is of this one night, a bunch of us girls decided we were going to sneak out and connect with some of the guys and head over town for coffee. One of the girls had a small hatchback, so she parked her car on the other side of the chapel. It was sometime after midnight and about 12 or 13 of us snuck out the back door of the girls dorm and we made our way to the car. A small pillow was placed between the front bucket seats so there was three in the front, five in the back seat, and the rest of us were packed in the trunk. (yeah not the safest idea) We made our way down to the boys dorm where some of the guys were waiting and a couple of the girls that were in the back seat got in with them. We were making our way up Smyth Street when one of the girls had said that when a bunch of kids had done this the year before some of the staff were waiting at the coffee shop at the top of the hill, so right there, the driver pulled a 180 and we went for another spot. It may have been a dangerous stunt then but we often laugh about it now.
The second is another fun memory. It was a Monday morning. In the early hours we were awaken to the sound of a big bang. Most of the girls rushed out to see what was going on. And for some of the girls...well they had a much harder time getting out. It seemed that, sometime during the night, some girls decided to play some pranks. So here's what things looked like that morning; some doors had garbage bags taped over them, others were tied using pantyhose to tie around the door knob then tied around the railing just outside their doors, while others had some big plants set in front of them. And what was the big bang? There was this one girl who had a part-time job on Monday mornings. She was up and trying to be ever so quiet. But someone had managed to rig up an old wooden dutch shoe, so that when the door was opened the shoe swung back and hit the door. Well needless to say....everyone was up and wide awake. Overall, second year was a good year. To write about everything, would take longer than what I have, and so we'll now move on to my third and final year, which would turn out to be the most trying...
Third year started with some changes but nothing too drastic. It was rather interesting for me to say the least; I had my nephew and older sister in first year, and my niece and brother-in-law in second. Who would have thought back in 1967 that one day I'd be going to school with my older sister who was 19 years older that me. I bet ya she didn't see it coming....lol There was one big change though and that was to the spirituality of the school. Spiritually speaking, the school seemed to be on a decline. The Presence of God seemed to be a long way off. Now that doesn't mean He left, but the school was under attack. What that would look like no one could say. But there would be repercussions in the long term for so many people. The Bible says in Ephesians 6:12 (NKJV); For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. The Easy-to-Read Version of this verse says it like this; Our fight is not against people on earth. We are fighting against the rulers and authorities and the powers of this world’s darkness. We are fighting against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly places. There was a spiritual war that was being waged between God and the devil for the ruin of the student body. And like any war that is fought, sadly there would be some casualties. What I did not anticipate is that I would be one of the many casualties.
The Fall months were progressing and everyone was settling into the routine. Being that you were studying the Scriptures I found myself full of questions but not getting too many answers. What I was seeing in Scripture was not adding up to what I was being taught. And when I would ask questions it seemed that most of the time the teachers were trying to evade my question or would say that I was not reading the Scriptures properly. A lot of what I was beginning to question was the UPC dogma or "belief system". I soon learned that there were just some questions you didn't ask and so I formed like a mental box that I stored up all my questions in with the hopes that maybe some day I'd get some clear answers too.
We were approaching Christmas, and I was looking forward to going home for the holidays, when my world came to a crashing halt. The lady's dean was away, most of the girls were away on weekend passes to visit family or on ministry in some local church, so it was just a few of us and the lady's assistant dean. I will not go into detail but will say that on this particular weekend I was sexually assaulted. I was devastated, confused, and totally blind sited. I never thought that something of this nature would ever, could ever, happen within the walls of a Bible college. I remember having a shower one evening and crying out to God and asking Him "WHY"? Why did this happen again. Had I not done everything that was expected of me? Had I not dotted all my I's and crossed my T's when it came to following all the "rules" that were required of me. Had I not done all the He (God) had required of me? So why did this happen? My mind went back to my first year and that prayer meeting and I recalled what the Lord had said about going through valleys and walking upon rocky roads. I again cried out to Him letting Him know that He said valleys and rocky roads, He said nothing of a deep dark dungeon.
As the days progressed it was soon time for the Christmas break. I went home, and though I never once said anything to my parents, my mom had a feeling that something was wrong. It was hard attending church, a lot of the folks there were "huggy" type people. Again; they saw a change in me but most figured it was because graduation was just months away and I was trying to figure out what I was going to to. I was also dating and we had started talking about marriage, so that was on my plate as well. Christmas break came to an end and I was on a bus heading back to school. In a way I felt trapped. I couldn't say anything, because then I'd have to say what was really going on, and that just couldn't happen. My mum already knew about my childhood molestation, and she never wanted me to go to Bible School, so I just felt I couldn't say anything.
Once back at school we had some police officers come to the school. Apparently there had been a couple of attempted sexual assaults happen down by the bridge, so it was suggested that if any of us girls had to go out after six in the evening to go out in groups. Same with walking to church on Sunday mornings or evening. The boys from the school were encouraged to walk along side of us too. The Bible says in 2 Thessalonians that; "the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one". Sometimes even when we consider doing something stupid, and I was about to do something stupid, as I rationalized in my mind that it couldn't be any worse than what had happened within the walls of a religious school, God will still organize the situation so that in the end His protection is upon you.
It was a Monday evening and it was shortly after six pm. Everyone was settling in to do homework or just sitting around playing games, when I decided I was going to head out. It wasn't that I didn't care, I just figured that if anything happened while out for a walk that it couldn't be any worse and maybe, just maybe I could then be able to talk about it and not the other and too, maybe I could go home. I headed out and got maybe half way down the walk way when Sis Munn, the ladys dean, called to me and asked me where I was going. I told her I was going for a walk and no one was wanting to go with me, so I was going alone. She suggested I go back in and have a cup of hot tea and talk with her. I attempted the same again a couple of days later but this time just as I got half way again the phone rang and one of the girls called after me saying it was my mum on the phone. God's hand was protecting me. I didn't see it that way at the time, but somebody was praying and God was looking out for me.
Right about now you are no doubt wondering if I finally told anyone and the answer is no. Even when the principle of the school came to me on two separate occasions to ask me if there was anything wrong, the second time letting me know that there was a drop in my marks, not enough to fail, just enough that I dropped from the honor roll, no I did not even tell then. My answer was always the same; I was fine. But there were changes in me and I guess some people took notice; I wasn't out going, I wasn't participating in church services like I use too, and I just hung back and didn't get too involved with anything or anyone. There was a total personality change. I went from being an out going person to a quiet withdrawn person. In chapel, on Fridays when the whole student body would gather for chapel sometime the song leader would request to sing the chorus; Bind Us Together Lord, I hated this song. Why? Because when ever this song would be sung the leader would suggest that if there were those who maybe offended someone that week to go to that person and make things right. The one who had hurt me would use this time to whisper in my ear to make sure to keep silent. I got to the point that whenever this song was suggested I would head down to the safety of the girls washroom till the song was over.
I had three months to get through and I kept silent. I would sometimes cry myself to sleep, wishing that God would just take me while I slept. I was growing angry every day and sometimes that anger would slip out and I'd felt bad. But I kept silent. I was shutting down. I was building an invisible wall around my heart one that would soon be so thick and so tall that not even God could get through, or so I thought. However; I do remember one Sunday evening as I knelt down at my pew; I told the Lord then, that if I never felt His Presence in my life again, I would still continue to serve Him. I mean really what was the alternative.
I graduated from Bible College in April 1989. It was suppose to be the happiest time of my life. My family was all there, friends, cousins, but I was angry. Matter a fact I did tell my cousin Karen, that while this was suppose to be the happiest time of my life, I just wanted to knock people out. The day after graduation I left New Brunswick and I never looked back. I moved to Montreal Quebec where I started a new life, but the new life would still be haunted by the deep dark secrets I was carrying, and it wouldn't be long before those secrets would rear their ugly heads.
When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.
For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.