When 280 young people from all corners of the earth leave home to live, study, and work together for a year, they require a person who can be there for them and support them in their new daily routines.
By: Johanne Reiersrud – Photo: BCC
“Many of them seek information, reassurance, and assistance, especially in the beginning,” says Gershon Twilley, student adviser at the Bible School. “They need someone who cares that can help them with personal issues. For me, this is challenging, but extremely rewarding, work.”
Twilley (52) keeps busy teaching and counseling students who come to the Bible school. With nearly 300 new students arriving every fall for orientation, a variety of factors are considered. Many are new graduates from high school and have never lived away from home, and at the same time are getting introduced to new roommates, routines, and study plans.
After a year at the Bible School, students should be relatively familiar with the Norwegian language and culture, in addition to having been supplied with a great deal of knowledge about the church’s doctrine and the Bible. Most stay for a year, but in some cases students wish to stay longer.
Gershon Twilley has an important role as student advisor at the Bible School, and has many different conversations with young people in the year they spend here. Photo: BCC
“One of the most important things the students learn here, besides the curriculum, is to show care and respect for different people. They have to adjust to other cultures and nationalities, and actually learn to function together socially in various ways,” explains Twilley. “The main goal in it all is for students to make a personal choice in their lives, and that is what motivates me most with this job.”
-Those of us who teach and work at the school are responsible to find ways to get these young people to prosper with their peers. Students come from different backgrounds with different resources, and seeing their growth and success, both personally and in their Christian lives, is so unbelievably rewarding, he says enthusiastically. His smiling brown eyes glint occasionally, other times turn serious and thoughtful.
“The main goal in it all is for students to make a personal choice in their lives, and that is what motivates me most with this job”
From a class at the Bible School. Here students receive a thorough introduction to the Bible and the church`s doctrine. Photo: BCC
Gershon sees them
Kjersti Risnes, from the admissions office at YEP, works closely with Twilley to process applications to the Bible School. According to Kjersti, her colleague is a master at understanding the young and what they need.
“Gershon radiates security and sees what they require -whether it`s encouragement, or perhaps a little reprimand,” she says. “It is important for us that the environment is drug and alcohol-free, and positive and inclusive for everyone. His job in this regard is crucial.”
Kjersti Risnes works in YEP`s admissions office, which grants admission to the Bible School to nearly 300 young people every year. Photo: BCC
A solid foundation for their Christian lives
“Brunstad Bible School is actually an incredibly unique arena for missions, because youth from many cultures meet and are inspired by the same faith and the same teaching while they live, study, and work together,” says Twilley.
“It’s a significant interval of time for them, and I think that most think back on this period as both rewarding and relevant. In the duration of a year, many establish a solid foundation for their Christian lives, and are usually much more mindful of their own faith when they leave than they were when they came. Our goal mirrors that of the Great Commission; to make disciples of all nations. In order to make such a choice, they must first be taught the doctrine that Jesus brought to the earth,” he states.
Bjørn Nilsen and Gershon Twilley educate youth from the whole world at the Bible School, where they meet and are inspired by the same teaching. An incredible arena for missions, both men conclude. Photo: BCC
Bjørn Nilsen, principle of the school, agrees. “Brunstad Bible School, with its content and teaching plans, is in many ways a momentous part of what we view as our missionary work in BCC,” he says.
“Our ministry and mission profile has been to work to spread the gospel further from person to person, amongst the people we meet. Preparation for this begins here, because our goal with the Bible School is that a personal faith and connection to Jesus can be born in many of the young people who come. When they leave for home again, we see that many become valuable resources in their local churches and homelands, because they have become independent believers.”
“Gershon has an important function here at the school in safeguarding the students’ welfare, as well as their leisure time,” continues Nilsen. “He also has responsibility for our youth services, which are part of the school’s teaching plans. It’s important that everyone who teaches here can convey the spirit which is in the Gospel. In this respect Gershon is a good educator, he doesn’t just teach theories and dry facts, but conveys the spirit and the life,” Nilsen concludes.
Twilley has an ability to engage young people, and explain the gospel in a simple and practical way. Photo: BCC
Arming them for a future after Bible School
“In my job I spend a lot of time talking to students, and those who know me would probably say that I am rather honest,” says Twilley. “After all, these are young people who naturally face challenges and personal battles, so I have many different conversations in a years` time. When I talk with them, I always try to help them stick to the truth, and go from there. They can usually work through their problems if they maintain honesty in their situation.”
Twilley describes the year they spend at the Bible School as full of experiences; they develop strong bonds and a sense of community which holds them up in many ways.
“For some and for various reasons, it can be hard to go home to everyday life again, and at the end of the year he often talks to those who dread the challenges awaiting them at home. Many experience that they have to take a stand and choose what more they want out of their lives. My wish is to contribute in such a way that they sense a security in their faith in God, and feel that they are armed to meet those situations and choices which lay ahead.”
International milieu – youth from all over the world gather for a closing party, after completing one year at Brunstad Bible School. Photo: BCC
Youth and missionary work are nothing new in Gershon Twilley`s family. In the next article, we will delve into his background and what has made him the person he is today.