By: Kerbi Smith
As my husband began the West Institute last August, I was a bit skeptical. I was unsure of what my role would be and how this 1 year program would affect our lives. Coming from 6 years on the mission field, we were both tired, burned out, and spiritually depleted. I honestly just wanted rest and to be left alone during our year back in the States. It only took a very short time after we began the program for me to realize that I actually really needed this Christian community that God has placed us into.
We began the year with a week-long program orientation up at the lodge, where we had the opportunity to get to know the other students, directors, and their families. Little did I know at the time, but these very people, who in August felt like strangers, would become more than friends, they would become our family. I am so thankful that God led me into unfamiliar territory, a place where I didn’t want to be, so that He could bless me and my husband immeasurably through the West Institute and Laramie Valley Chapel community. Throughout the year, I found that as a spouse, I could be as involved as I wanted to be. I realized that this year was a unique time for us to devote ourselves to growing individually in our walks with God as well as growing as a couple in our marriage.
I made an effort to be a part of as much as possible, going on camping trips, rock climbs, mountain biking, backpacking, skiing, whatever it may be, even though I wasn’t necessarily experienced in those outdoor activities. One of the best parts about the West is the opportunity to be able to learn from others who have more experience than you, working together to build one another up, encourage each other, and have fun. Even though I wasn’t a student, I was able to participate in any and all of those opportunities and am so grateful and better for having done so! I also participated in the Bible Institute, which was such an incredible way to read through the entire bible, cover to cover, under the teaching of Clayton and Jimmy. For the first time, I felt like I was able to really study the Word, and go deeper than the superficial bible studies that I had participated in before.
I also took advantage of the spouse discount, and was able to travel to Rome and Israel with the students for their study trip. It was honestly one of the most unforgettable trips I have, and will ever, be on! A small group of us traveled around the Italian coast, then met up with the rest of the group in Rome where we studied Church History. This time really gave us a great framework and lens for the rest of our trip to Israel. I learned so much traveling with the group, seeing the geography of the bible first-hand, and experiencing the people, places, and cultural backdrop of God’s Word. We spent my birthday night having a bonfire on the shore of the Sea of Galilee- it was such a memorable time that I am
so grateful to have experienced!
I am speaking as a spouse of a West student who truly tried her best to take advantage of the opportunities presented during this year. I’m sure that there are others, who did not do so, and would have a different perspective than mine, but I would encourage any future students and their spouses to really use this year to experience Christian community by trying new things together, getting out there and having some adventures, and growing through exposure to new things. Because of my experience as a spouse last year, I am now enrolled as a future West Student for the fall semester. Last year, I saw how valuable my husband’s education was, not just in the classroom, but within a loving community, and I look forward to experiencing that first hand this upcoming year. If you let it, this year could be one of the best in your life!