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Seattle Pacific University
Spring 2007 | Volume 30, Number 1 | Features

Out of a Spiritual Desert

Bible Study Fellowship refreshes calling of alumni

Kitty and Robert Magee
Kitty Upton Magee and Robert McGee

One of Kitty Upton Magee’s most vivid memories of childhood is the half-hour every day when “my mother would shut her bedroom door for her special time with God. Once I peeked, and saw her on her knees with her Bible open, just talking to her Father. That view of her had a powerful influence on my life.”

Indeed. The 1953 Seattle Pacific College graduate and her husband, Robert Magee ’58, became Free Methodist missionaries in Africa and later established and directed the African Division of Bible Study Fellowship (BSF). But it took the combined intervention of BSF and the image of her kneeling mother to fan the passion for the word of God in Kitty Magee’s life.

“I was a teacher in the Lundi Mission Bible School in what is now Zimbabwe, engaged in what most Christians would consider a spiritual calling,” says Magee, an SPU Alumni Board member for the past three years. “But I was in my own spiritual desert. I felt like a dead stick.”
While in that dry place, Magee received letters from three family members about a program called Bible Study Fellowship that was changing their lives. No matter what it took, she decided, she would investigate BSF on their next home furlough to the United States.

When she returned home, she found that everything about BSF — from the hymn singing to the in-depth study — “was a fountain of water for my personal wasteland.”

She and her husband became discussion leaders in their respective groups, and they were eventually asked to join the staff at BSF headquarters in Oakland, California. Six years later, the couple agreed to plant BSF in Africa and the Middle East.

Bible study quenches a thirst in their souls, say the Magees, and knowledge of the Scriptures supplies wisdom needed for everyday
living. They point to Psalm 19:7: “The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul … .”

For Kitty Magee, one blessing while the family lived in Africa was having no television. “We read to our children and learned the joys of personal solitude,” she says. “American culture isn’t conducive to either solitude or biblical meditation, so if we’re to become reasonably literate in the Word, we have to make some hard choices.”

She has come to believe that the best form of Bible study is to simply read the Bible and meditate upon it: “My husband reads through the Scriptures year after year. I like to take a different translation for a period of time. I am now enjoying The Message.”

Another practical help, she says, is to find a person or group with whom to discuss Bible readings, gain other viewpoints, and ask questions. One of several systems of such structured Bible study, BSF holds nearly 1,000 classes in more than 30 nations, with 800 in the United States alone.

When she was a child, Magee’s parents began every day at home with 10 minutes of Bible reading and prayer. Her family lived up the street from Seattle Pacific, and Magee attended first grade on campus. Later, after three years at Bible school, she attended Seattle Pacific College, met her husband, a microbiology major, and took more Bible classes. “I still have my notes,” she says, “and have used them ever since when teaching the Minor Prophets.”

In Africa, Magee was impressed with the sacrifices African women made to learn the Bible. To provide their children with a pre-college education required that most mothers work away from home, yet no matter how long their days, they eagerly attended BSF meetings and completed assignments.

“They weep when their BSF class breaks from June to September,” says Magee. Her first class in 1986 welcomed 51 women. Today, there are thousands of BSF students in Nairobi alone (with a waiting list of hundreds).

“Those who hunger and thirst after righteousness are being filled,” explains Magee.

— By Clint Kelly []
— Photo by Fritz Liedtke

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