Editor’s note: This article was in the works before the campus was closed for the semester due to COVID-19 concerns. Naturally, the Bible studies have been suspended.
“If you have the choice between being right and being kind, be kind,” said Kathy Harp as she looked toward the ceiling, carefully crafting a one-sentence summary of what she has learned over the course of her life.
Every Tuesday evening, Harp does just that—she chooses to be kind. For the past five years, Harp has opened her home’s doors to the student body, welcoming the women of AU to join her in a weekly Bible study, better known as a “Life Group.”
“We have done a life group every year since we came to AU five years ago,” Harp said.
Having attended AU from 1974-1978, Harp was excited about “coming home” when her husband, John S. Pistole (PJP), accepted the position as president of AU.
Upon Harp’s arrival to campus, Becca Palmer, director of spiritual formation, suggested that Harp begin a Bible study for the women on campus. With her background in teaching, Harp explained that she jumped at the opportunity to have a room full of students again.
“It’s a gift to me that this group comes on Tuesday nights,” she said. “These are women who are dedicated to their studies and dedicated to their community and dedicated to their floors if they’re RAs or DCs and they have just poured life into me in a way that I had never imagined.”
Harp explained that she uses the opportunity to get to know individual students on a personal level. Although she began the Life Group with a teaching mindset, Harp said that she believes she learns more than the students do.
“I get way more than I give is the way it feels,” said Harp. “It has hugely shaped my experience at AU.”
For the students that attend her Life Group, Harp offers more than fellowship with fellow Christians—every Tuesday evening, Harp prepares food for the dozens of students who go to her Bible study.
“I wasn’t much interested in cooking when we first came here or prior to that because our daughters didn’t like what I fixed,” she said. “They just liked a few things, so I wasn’t really in the habit of cooking for the family.”
According to Harp, her disinterest in preparing food has transformed into one of her favorite hobbies.
“I’ve been enjoying making soups,” she said. “I find so many different soup recipes for Tuesday night Life Group, because they come from 7-8, and a couple of them come after a full day of classwork. Maybe they had breakfast or lunch, but by 7 o’clock they’re hungry for dinner, so it’s been totally fun to have them try my soup and say, ‘Oh! This is good, too!’”
For her Life Group, Harp has continued stepping out of her comfort zone by making unfamiliar recipes and using allergy-friendly ingredients.
“I like to cook and I like to bake,” she said. “I make a lot of yeast breads. I’m more familiar with gluten, but I’m experimenting more and more because of the Life Group with dairy-free and gluten-free recipes.”
By building strong spiritual relationships with students over food, Harp explained that she desires to leave an impact on AU.
“I hope to be involved with small groups and Christian spiritual formation,” said Harp. “I hope to be hands-on and actively involved in issues like stewardship of the earth and change for impacting the world to try to turn the mess around that my generation has made.”