ANDERSON, S.C. – The Rev. Donnie Hall had his Bible, with its worn spine and marked and dog-eared pages, open and ready when the heart of the meeting was under way.
In a sure and steady voice, he marched through the 11th chapter of 1 Chronicles, which tells of King David and those who fought in his armies. He reads the story of how some of those warriors fought and brought water to their king.
Hall kept reading even as the chapter moved into the 22 verses that list the names of those warriors. He did not quit until he had read all the names – every word.
Some of the others at the table, break in at different points of the story, and talk about David and his faith. They compare this story to others about David in the Old Testament.
“Donnie, as you read, I couldn’t help but think of Moses and his brother, Aaron,” said Dan White, one of the Bible study members. “They were mighty men, too. These men, here in this chapter, were also mighty. You have to have warriors to make a church because we are in the midst of spiritual warfare.”
Then those present took some time to look up information on their cellphones about some of the names in that list that Hall read aloud.
In no time, 30 minutes passed. Soon, the group’s members would need to head to their respective jobs.
But for an hour or so, the group’s members gather in the back corner of Besto, a restaurant on North Main Street in Anderson. They are here five days a week, Monday through Friday. They also meet Saturdays, usually at the Corner Bagel Bakery and Deli, also in Anderson.
Each time they meet, the members pray for each other and their friends and family and they read through the Bible – one chapter at a time.
A plaque hangs on the back wall of Besto informs visitors that the Bible study meets there each weekday.
Known as the Besto Bible Study, the group formed in August 2012.
It started with three men who were friends and wanted to gather for fellowship and to read Scripture together.
The group now has a Facebook page. Some days, as many as 21 people gather for cheese grits, prayer, some hugs and a Bible story.
“That’s why we are here – to let other people know that we are not ashamed of the Gospel,” White said. “We are here to encourage people in their faith. And it is never whether there are 21, or three of us. It is always about God, who has gathered us.”
It is a diverse group. There are men and women, young and old, from different churches and denominations.
Some were friends or family before becoming part of this group. Others are friends now that they have met here.
Nick Pratt brought his 10-year-old daughter on a Thursday morning. Ben Comen, who is a regular, has known fellow Bible study member, White, for eight years.
When Donnie Hall started coming, it was about two or three months before the rest of the group learned that he is a pastor. Hall would sit and listen, and would pitch in like everyone else. He said he started coming because he needed the encouragement and support of others.
What they have in common is a desire to learn more about the Bible and to support each other.
Sandra Counts has been a member for at least a year. She said she comes because she needs the help of a group so she can read the Bible all the way through.
“I cannot read the Bible on my own,” Counts said. “I need the accountability of the being here. Plus, this way, you have people you can share the stories with. And I am determined to make it through.”
Support comes in the form of prayer, too.
Just as the group finishes its discussion of the story about David, Dan receives a text on his phone. It is from Jennifer Trammell, a member of the Bible study. She is not with the group on this day, but she needs a prayer. Her father has a doctor’s appointment later in the day, and she is asking for a lift from her friends.
White calls her, puts her on speakerphone – “redneck Skype,” he said – and those present say hello. On Trammell’s end, she also has her phone’s speaker on so her father can hear.
Everyone’s head bows, and the prayer begins. Worries are expressed, people are called by name and thanks is given to God.
Then one last request is made.
“God, may we all be lights in a dark world,” White said.
Trammell responds, “Amen, brother. Amen.”