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5/29/97 Students hear God’s call to international missions

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Ben Dewberry is packing his bags for Malawi. The 20-year-old college student has known God planned to send him to Africa one day. This summer he will make that trip as a Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board summer missionary.
“God was faithful to his calling,” said Dewberry, a student at Samford University, Birmingham, Ala.
In Malawi he will help host a rally for True Love Waits — a campaign for sexual abstinence before marriage — and work with students at a university.
Dewberry, of Eufala, Ala., was one of more than 200 students in summer missions orientation at the board’s Missionary Learning Center May 15-18 in Rockville, Va..
The summer of 1997 marks the 50th anniversary of Foreign Mission Board student ministries. In 1947, 11 students traveled to Hawaii as its first group of student missionaries. This year about 475 students will serve in overseas summer missions, some of whom will be featured in the October issue of The Commission, the board’s magazine.
“This is just a part of the nearly 3,000 students who serve here in the States through the North American Mission Board, as well as around the world through the Foreign Mission Board every year,” said Quintin Ratliff, the foreign board’s student ministries coordinator.
The recent orientation provided opportunities for this year’s summer missionaries to learn much about their assigned countries. They also spent time evaluating their relationships with God and the call he extended to each of them.
Dewberry feels sure of his call to Malawi. “I hope to be an example,” he said. “I hope to be able to relate to their culture so they can accept me, so they can see what Christianity — real Christianity — is all about, and just to sow, so there can be a harvest.”
Students attending orientation discussed why they were going to a foreign country as missionaries, and they talked about God’s heart for the nations. They learned about cross-cultural ministry, engaging in an interactive lesson to experience what it is like to be in a community visited by outsiders.
“I don’t want to come in as an American — I want to come in as a teacher who loves the Lord,” said Shelly Forrest, 20, assigned to teach English as a second language in East Asia. Forrest, from Moore, Okla., attends Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, where she majors in health care administration.
“I want to come in as a learner. I know that just because I’ve grown up in an area where Christianity is an option doesn’t make me any more deserving of Christ,” she added.
In a “global village” activity, students used methods and materials appropriate to their assigned areas of the world to decorate housing units and prepare foods. Then they visited each other’s displays and tasted the many dishes.
“These students will be our future leaders in missions and promoters among our churches of what God is doing throughout the world,” Ratliff said. “For the first time, they will have a global vision to understand how God can use their gifts and skills for fulfilling his kingdom around the world.”
Since FMB student ministries began in 1947, thousands of students have served as summer and semester missionaries around the world. Many, who first heard the call from God while serving as a student, have continued their service as journeymen and missionaries through career or International Service Corps programs.

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  • Julie McGowan