Mountain Manor ministry to women students
by Emily Grooms
CLEVELAND, Ga. (TMCNews) – Sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in the living room, 20 young women listen attentively to worship songs, each one declaring the intimate love of a Savior who satisfies the soul. In a few minutes, the weekly Bible study will begin as it has for the past three years.
This group of young women -- students at Truett-McConnell College -- spends two hours every Thursday evening for fellowship and Bible study. Their leader? Hana Caner, wife of TMC President Emir Caner.
"In order to have the right kind of relationship on earth, we must be fully satisfied in our relationship with God," Mrs. Caner tells the 20 girls gathered in her home, Mountain Manor.
The Roots of Ministry
"When we first came to Truett-McConnell, I knew God was calling me to start a young women's Bible study," Mrs. Caner said. "It seemed like every chapel sermon was on obedience, and I wasn't being obedient."
TMC's First Lady told TMCNews that she had a sense of inadequacy about leading the Bible study: "I thought, 'What could I teach them?'" she said.
That was eight semesters ago. Since then, Mrs. Caner has led this thriving ministry for young women based on the book by Martha Peace: "The Excellent Wife: a Biblical Perspective."
Realizing the importance of a godly marriage, Mrs. Caner saw a need. "There were so many young girls in serious, committed relationships on campus. God put it on my heart to start a Bible study where we could be open and discuss what God says a marital relationship should be."
"I've seen so many marriages where the wife becomes the boss and ruins her husband's ministry because she isn't willing to follow him where God leads," she said.
With her roots in Czechoslovakia, Mrs. Caner came to America with a different perspective about marriage. She met a couple in the States who demonstrated the wrong kind of marriage, she said. "I thought, 'If that's what marriage is, I didn't want it.'"
The couple's example led Mrs. Caner to help young women learn their role as a wife. "I've seen the Excellent Wife Bible study save marriages," she said.
During the first week of the Bible study, God began to work, Mrs. Caner stated.
Originally, Mrs. Caner intended the Bible study to be solely for girls in committed relationships; but God had a different plan. "I had single girls who wanted to come too, and I couldn't say 'no' to someone who is hungry to study God's Word. So, I opened it up for all girls."
"The numbers were never an issue. I didn't care if I had three or 20 girls. If it helped one, it was worth it," she said.
It took four semesters to go through the entire book, Mrs. Caner noted. "It took longer because the girls wanted to know more, and how can I complain about that?" she laughed.
The roots of this first group have continued to grow, sewing seeds of godly marriages in the lives of young women who made becoming a godly wife a priority. "I had a previous graduate, who is now married, communicate with me and say nothing has helped her more in her marriage than the lessons and discussions we had at the Excellent Wife Bible study," Mrs. Caner said.
Women of the Word
In keeping with the theme of the Excellent Wife Bible study, the women this semester are studying "True Woman 101: Divine Design: An Eight-Week Study on Biblical Womanhood" by Mary A. Kassian and Nancy Leigh DeMoss.
Mrs. Caner said the book "fell into her lap, literally" at a women's luncheon during the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans this summer.
"As I began flipping through the pages, it seemed like something I would want to study myself," she said. "I want the girls to understand and know who they are in Christ."
Mrs. Caner noted the student's desire to dig deeper into the material and move at a slower pace. "That's something every Bible teacher wants to hear," she said.
Sophomore Sarah Fitzsimons started attending the Bible study her freshman year. "It means a lot that the president's wife takes the time to pour into our spiritual lives, and that she desires for us to know and grow in the Lord."
Fitzsimons is grateful for the impact the Bible study has had on her life: "I have learned so much not only about the Lord's plan and design for marriage, but also about how that correlates to me and my relationship with the Lord. It has given me such a greater appreciation for the way God specifically made men and women, with unique and distinct roles for His glory and ultimately for the furtherance of His kingdom."
A ministry of the heart
Using wisdom from her past, Mrs. Caner, who earned a Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies, reminds herself of what it's like to be a college student. "I think about what I wished to have in college, and that's what I try to bring to these girls. I want them to see how their role as a godly woman and as a wife affects their individual relationships as well as their relationship with the Lord."
God has been faithful to Mrs. Caner, she says. "Every time I say to God, 'Lord, use me, I am your instrument,' He proves himself faithful, and for that I am so grateful."
Spending time with God each week, preparing to minister and discuss the Bible, Mrs. Caner is reminded she is merely a vessel being used by God: "I can't fulfill the needs in the students' lives, but God can," she said.
Accountability is another important aspect of the weekly gathering, Mrs. Caner said. "The girls keep me accountable each week and I love that. It puts me back on my knees because God is the one who gave me these girls to minister to and pray for."
Ultimately, Mrs. Caner wants her girls to understand what God is calling them to do.
"I want them to love the Lord more," she said, "and to have an intimate relationship with Him where they give 100 percent of themselves to God."
Loving Scripture and trusting in God's promises is also high priority for Mrs. Caner. "I've been where they are. I want them to learn that the Bible is the ultimate truth and they can stand on it wherever God takes them."
The girls have such willing hearts," she stated. "I love that I have time to do this with them."
A Legacy of Devotion
Mrs. Caner shared how her time with the ladies of Truett-McConnell has impacted her family, especially her children: "They see me studying the Bible and spending time with these girls," she said, "and for them to know that their mom is being obedient to God is so important."
In response to their mother's devotion, the Caner children selected a charm to give her on Mother's Day. The two girls liked the cross charm and her son liked the one with the Bible on it. With a two-thirds majority, the cross charm won.
"I asked my son later why he wanted to get me the Bible charm, and he said, 'Because of the girls and how you spend time teaching them the Bible. I think it's so cool.'"
Mrs. Caner smiled and said, "That's why I do it."
Emily Grooms is an English major at Truett-McConnell and a freelance writer for the college.