Interview with Bible Study Leader Wai Leng Leong

Trang Le ’17

Assistant Features Editor

Wai Leng Leong ’15 is the leader of the international student Bible study group called Group Investigating God (GIG), part of the Smith Christian Fellowship, which provides Smith students with a safe space to discuss Christianity and the Bible, as well as spirituality and faith more generally.

How long have you been the leader of the Bible study group?

I became the leader of the Bible study group the fall semester of my senior year. I wasn’t involved much until this year. In my first year, I wasn’t very interested in any spirituality or faith issues. I wasn’t close to it [and did not] express any interest. It was not until my sophomore year that I started taking a lot of courses that made me question a lot of things. I took this course at Hampshire College called Buddhist Economics. It was the first class in which I explored faith and learned about Buddhism. I thought it made so much sense, and it explained the world.

That semester I went on a ServeUp trip to New Orleans with the Smith Christian Fellowship. We spent a week in New Orleans doing community service every day and having discussions about social justice and how it relates to faith and service. I also got introduced to Bible Scripture, and it was my first exposure to learn about who Jesus is. At that point I was very spiritually curious, learning about Buddhism and Christianity. I started questioning: “So which is true?”

After the trip, I joined the Bible study group, which met in Comstock-Wilder every Friday, not as a Christian, but I was eager to learn more. I was surprised how much I was learning each time I went. My pre-conception of God was very different from what I understood about Him through the Bible. I became intrigued and started my journey of trying to investigate God by myself. After my sophomore year, I was reading a lot of Christian books and exploring for myself. I realized that Christianity is real and true. This past semester is when I fully became part of the Fellowship and led the GIG so that others can explore for themselves.

How has being the leader of the group influenced  your experience at Smith?

I realized how, deep inside, people are hungry for deeper questions, but they are afraid of having that space or afraid of being vulnerable. It is always challenging for me because there’s a lot of silence when people are trying to process the questions or wrestling with truth … It taught me a lot about patience and it’s good to challenge each other in our belief. Just having that space to listen, I think, is very important.

I think the community is also in a very specific college setting where people can connect what they learn to the challenges they face in school. How do you think other students in the group have learned from the sessions you’re leading?

I think people are learning that the Bible is not just ancient and has no relevance to modern day. I think they are seeing that God cares a lot about the brokenness in our world. It challenges us to embrace the condition of the world and how we contribute to it, and we are a part of the brokenness. We look at Jesus and what he had to say about it. In fact, there are people offended by what he did and that he expressed anger. It’s difficult for members who come and are personally challenged to see that they formed the evils that are in their relationships or anything that they do. It’s an ongoing process, and it’s also hard, but when we come together and share the commonality that we are equally flawed human beings, it helps us to take comfort that we are not alone, that we don’t just end there and there’s hope.

How many students are there in the group? Do they come from different backgrounds?

About seven or eight. Yes we all have different backgrounds. There is a student from a Hindu background; another identifies as Buddhist but wants to learn more about Christianity. Another grew up in a non-religious family, so she wants to understand what it’s like to identify with a faith. The diversity brings very different perspectives and enriches our conversations.

What more do you want to do for future Bible study sessions?

Definitely make it more accessible. We want to reach out to others and let them know there’s a space to talk about faith safely and respectfully and to listen to people from different faith backgrounds.

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