For almost 20 years, Great Falls resident Leesa Donner has been studying the Bible. During her career as a broadcast journalist and while raising her two sons, the Bible has always been a source of inspiration.
“For some people, prayer or church is the way God speaks to them, for me that’s always been the Bible,” she said. “I loved doing Bible studies, and started teaching them. But over the years, I would find myself in groups with these wonderful women, women who were intelligent, highly educated modern women, and these studies didn’t seem to be speaking to them.”
Searching for a study that would lead the modern woman to explore her relationship with herself, other women and their theology, Donner decided to give it a try herself.
“I was looking for a more meatier Bible study, something that just wouldn’t feed you an answer in the first paragraph,” she said. “If you go to a Christian bookstore, you’d be lucky to find more than one book about the Gospel of Luke. It’s the longest of the gospels, it’s enormous and very detailed.”
DONNER’S EFFORTS led her to publish “Free At Last: A Life Changing Journey Through the Gospel of Luke” in May.
“I found that most studies were laid out in a five-day format, where something had to be done every weekday. That’s a lot to ask of women who are raising a family and working, it’s very easy to fall behind, making it even harder to catch up,” she said. “I wanted to make it a little easier, which is why my study has three days per week. That way, someone can use it Monday, Wednesday, Friday, or Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, or whatever their schedule will allow. There’s a lot of lee-way.”
Donner also said making each segment about a half-hour was “a reasonable amount of homework,” not too short to be superficial, but not so long as to make it hard to squeeze into the normal course of a day.
“It was very important to me that this study not tell people what to think, but rather ask questions that encourage them to explore their theology,” she said. “It’s designed to be an inductive study, and once someone figures out their answers, that’s a good opportunity to meet with your Bible study group and discuss the answers.”
Donner says the writing process took about four years, two to research and write, a year to edit and a year to publish. She said the editing process, going line by line through her work, was the toughest part.
“I wanted to quit a hundred times, but I just kept pushing on, and my husband was very supportive, he kept telling me to keep marching on,” she said.” Until I saw the first proof copy printed and in front of me, I kept doubting that it would ever happen.”
During the editing process, Donner did two years of “beta testing” with her church group, which she said helped her refine the approach.
“I would ask for anonymous evaluations at the end of each study, and I got a lot of positive feedback, which kept me going,” she said.
THE STUDY has been positively reviewed by many in the faith community. Dr. Tremper Longman III, a professor of biblical studies at Westmont College, said Donner does a masterful job of encouraging the reader “to enter the world of the gospel and come away not only with a better knowledge of the text but with a transformed heart.”
Donner is working on a series of short complementary videos to go along with the study, and will be teaching it to a group in Great Falls.
“Free At Last” can be found online at Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com. More information on Donner can be found at www.freeatlastbiblestudy.com.