Spiritual growth flourishes with Bible study

Published 9:22 am Thursday, August 23, 2018

ADVANCE – Her name is Susan Utsey (pronounced yoot-see), 67, and she and her husband, Louis, call 299 Kingsmill Drive “home” alongside their pet cockatoo, Boo.

They are a family of two with no relatives in this state. He served the community as a pharmacist at the Kinderton Rite-Aid until his retirement in late July. He enjoys golf and yard work as he settles into this new season of life called retirement.

She was born in Orangeburg, S.C., and raised on her family farm. She appreciates the value of life, the preciousness of animals, and has deep respect for those who serve and have served the country in various ways.

He enjoyed small town life in St. George, S.C., where he grew up playing sports and his family owned a men’s clothing store.

Living in Hickory, for 20-plus years, Susan was a public school educator at the elementary and middle school levels. At age 44, she completed an Outward Bound wilderness course in the Linville Gorge with some of her eighth grade students. This led to a meaningful Outward Bound summer program at Harvard University, focusing on student-oriented service within a community.

A lifelong love for reading also propelled her to become a reading specialist, tutoring struggling students and watching them soar.

They had their senior years tentatively mapped out, but God showed them His better plan in 1997. He  was transferred to Advance with Eckerd Drugs, and they searched quickly for a new home here because their Hickory home sold for cash, in one day, without being on the market.

Scripture teaches that “From one man God made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth: and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live” (Acts 17:26, New International Version).

In November 1997 they settled into 299 Kingsmill Drive and they found great neighbors around them.

However, Susan’s professional career had changed significantly for, in 1994, while teaching eighth grade, she suffered a serious brain illness and was hospitalized during a 10-day coma. The diagnosis was viral encephalitis with the one known treatment drug flown in from the Center for Disease Control.

God restored her to a measure of good health, but she exited her fulltime teaching career a year later after much prayer. That is when, encouraged by Louis, she began studying and serving with BSF (Bible Study Fellowship International), an interdenominational Bible study with free classes in major cities worldwide.

Susan’s spiritual growth flourished in this morning class of 500 women.

A priority upon relocation was finding a Winston-Salem class. There was only an evening class for women, so she joined, marveling at the timing of Scripture that first week: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

“Advance” jumped off the page at her, and this verse remains specially marked in her Bible.

Susan was stunned to learn that for 18 years many women in Winston-Salem had been praying for a morning class to be established. In spring 1998 she was prayerfully asked to teach and provide leadership training for such a startup. What a massive step of faith as she had just become a Christian at age 42.

Yet God knew what He wanted done in this city, and she trusted Him. Following her extensive training in Texas, one of her first responsibilities was to find a local church willing to host the weekly Bible study for women and young children.

Flash backward a moment to Christmas Day 1997 when Louis and Susan  – new to the area and with no family here – opened up their dinner table to others who had nowhere to go. Louis invited a newly relocated Soviet couple he’d met while interviewing the wife for a work position. In conversation the husband asked what line of work Susan was in, and she simply mentioned the Bible study, seeking a place to hold classes.

Months passed. Her phone rang, the caller being pastor of a Moravian church who explained a visitor had asked him for time to speak openly in his church the past week. That man was Russian, eager to vocally thank God for an American couple who had welcomed them in their home on Christmas Day.

So the pastor concluded, “Susan, you welcomed them in. I am welcoming your Bible study group into our church.”

Amazed at the sheer power of God, that BSF class is still serving today, and Susan eagerly encourages everyone to learn more at bsfinternational.org.

Susan exited BSF due to health issues in 2011 but discovered that God has much more for her.

At age 62, she learned to swim. Now, six days a week, you will find her in an area pool enjoying warm water exercise through The Shepherds Center.

At age 64, through yet another God-given opportunity, she completed a two-year seminary program through Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary and now she teaches Bible retreats, conferences, and even breakfast gatherings.

She leads a weekly Bible study in her home on Thursdays, 4-5:15, free to all. Come and honor God and His Word.