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20 years on faculty helped profs withstand hurricane’s trauma

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Between the two of them, there’s more than 40 years of teaching experience at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. For professors Jeanine Bozeman and Dennis Cole, the past 20 years have carried plenty of challenges, changes and confirmations — and left them better prepared for the future.

“Reflecting on the 20 years here has been a joyful experience,” said Bozeman, NOBTS senior professor of social work. “I never dreamed of being a professor here, but I have seen God’s hand moving in my past experiences to bring me to this point in my life.”

Bozeman and Cole were recognized at New Orleans Seminary’s annual convocation on Sept. 5, as seminary President Chuck Kelley highlighted in his message the significance the storms have on God’s overall mission for a believer’s life.

Both professors affirm that their personal storms have shaped their teaching ministry and confirmed their sense of calling.

“I have probably learned more from ‘the storms’ than from the joys,” Bozeman said. “The death of my mother in an automobile accident was a tremendous blow for me, yet I have seen God use that painful experience to grow me and help others through my ‘Death, Loss and Grief’ classes.”

One characteristic of Bozeman’s teaching the Death, Loss and Grief class is her use of role-play. Each student must act out receiving crushing news from someone and giving that information to another person. It forces students to face situations that are sure to arise in ministry.

Cole, professor of Old Testament and archaeology, said that difficult times in his life early on at NOBTS helped confirm his calling to the seminary.

“In my first year as a trustee-elected faculty member, after teaching three years as a fulltime instructor, I faced major surgery,” Cole said, “and God provided strength and hope in recovery and confirmed through various colleagues and friends that this was indeed where God wanted me to focus my teaching ministry.”

When Cole and his family first came to New Orleans in 1980, their intention was to either go to his home state of Florida to minister or return to Oregon where he had done master’s work. God had other plans.

“The Lord opened the doors to remain here in New Orleans,” Cole said, “and each year as my wife and I raised our three daughters here, the Lord reconfirmed the calling to the seminary and the city.”

For both Bozeman and Cole, God used experiences from the past 20 years to carry them through Hurricane Katrina. For Bozeman, encouragement came from the first reunion of faculty members in Fort Worth, Texas, after the storm.

“Being able to be reunited with colleagues was thrilling,” Bozeman said. “The obvious care, compassion and generosity of Southern Baptists to all of us were amazing. I am overwhelmed with gratitude.”

For Cole, confidence came from the 1990s when he served on the committee that assessed the possibility of the seminary moving north of Lake Pontchartrain. The investigation into the pros and cons of moving instilled in Cole a firm commitment to New Orleans that remained steady through the storm.

“That decision-making process further cemented my personal commitment to the seminary and the city,” Cole said. “Not even Katrina’s disastrous effects could sway my wife and me from that commitment.”

Through everything, Bozeman and Cole marvel at how God brings unity out of a diversity of passions and experiences to accomplish His plans.

“Thinking of ‘my journey’ and the journeys of countless students, I am amazed at how God blends all of our experiences along the way to prepare us for the ministry to which He has called us,” Bozeman said.

Bozeman and Cole were not the only professors who celebrated significant anniversaries on Sept. 5.

Charlie Ray Jr. and William F. Warren Jr., professors of New Testament and Greek, and Paula Stringer, professor of childhood education, were recognized for 15 years at the seminary.

Marking 10 years at NOBTS were Jerry Barlow, professor of preaching and pastoral work; Ken Gabrielse, professor of church music; Becky P. Lombard, associate professor of music theory and organ; Will H. McRaney Jr., associate professor of evangelism; and Michael D. Sharp, associate professor of music theory and piano.

In addition, 12 faculty members signed the Articles of Religious Belief and the Baptist Faith and Message 2000: Jack Allen, Johnny Bley, Kristyn Carver, Bob Hall, Benjie Harlan, Trish Hawley, David Lema, Jeff Nave, Preston Nix, Craig Price, John Robson and Kathy Steele.

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  • Michael McCormack