I hated math in grade school. It started all the way back in second grade, and didn't get any better as I grew older. In eighth grade, Mrs. Li was my math teacher. She probably was really good at math; her problem was she knew very little English. The class was moving at a snail's pace through the textbook and learning very little.
A month into the school year, two of my friends, Dale and Paul, went to Mrs. Li and suggested they do an independent study through the math book. She agreed, and with her permission, they asked me to join them. Each day we worked through the textbook by ourselves. If we came across something we didn't understand, we tried to work it out ourselves, and if we really had trouble, we asked Mrs. Li for help. When one of us got stuck on a concept, the others stopped to help him figure it out. None of us moved on until all three of us got it.
When we finished one textbook, Mrs. Li got another for us and let us advance. At the end of the year, Dale, Paul, and I had worked through three and a half textbooks! The rest of the class had not even finished the first book.
Dale and Paul included me in their community with a purpose. I believe this was my first small group experience! Together we spurred each other on and, in the process, we connected with one another. We challenged one another and were patient with each other as we moved together to become something better than we were before.
That small group changed my life! The following year, I went to a college-prep high school and got all A's in math classes. I even tutored other kids in algebra my freshmen year. I went on to get my Bachelor's degree in finance and work in that field. God used community to transform me into something I could never have become ...