FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–The sun-baked desert of New Mexico. The high crags of the Montana Rockies. The desolate sage-covered flats of Nevada. The fields of wheat across Iowa. The destinations may have been different, but the goal was the same: preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.
And 83 Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary students did so during their spring break at 91 churches in 25 states, all outside the Bible Belt. Preliminary figures show that more than 450 sermons were preached and more than 750 decisions were made, of which more than 150 were professions of faith.
The students were participating in Southwestern’s annual spring evangelism practicum, and March 20, the Monday after they returned, some of the students shared what they had seen God do in the churches they had visited and in their own lives.
Roland Harvey, a master of divinity student from Nacogdoches, Texas, said that when he went to Chief Cornerstone Baptist Church in Billings, Mont., he saw many church members fall under conviction. Five people made professions of faith and others dedicated themselves to a range of new ministries.
Brian Brinkmann of Melbourne, Fla., made his way to First Baptist Church of Bend, Ore., where he said he learned to be flexible when he arrived on Saturday and his luggage came in the next day. But during the week, the M.Div. student added, a third of the congregation’s 75 members had made decisions.
Jason Ewing’s first venture as an evangelist, in Waterloo, Iowa, taught him to rely on God’s spirit, he said, recalling the quote from Zechariah 4:6: “`Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.”
Ewing, an M.Div. student from Venus, Texas, was in the middle of moving from one house to another when he made the trip, and he caught the flu right before he left. Even so, he found out when he got to Iowa that the congregations he preached to didn’t care who was preaching the gospel, just that it was being preached.
“God told me I need to have a hunger for the Word,” he said.
In Danbury, Conn., the account of the raising of the widow’s son in Nain had a profound impact. Jair Campos of Portugal, an M.Div. student, recounted that one of his six sermons to the First Portuguese Baptist Church in Danbury made an impression on an elderly woman who was attending the church.
Following his sermon on the widow, the elderly woman came up to Campos and told him that she was also a widow who had lost her only son and that Jesus spoke to her through the sermon.
Her son had been killed, and she could not forgive the man responsible, Campos said, adding that she still had her son’s bloodstained pants. The church prayed for her Monday and, the following Wednesday, she came to Campos again and told him that she had forgiven the man who had killed her son.
The power of God moving in the hearts of people was witnessed across the country in central Nevada where David Price, a Christian education diploma student from North Richland Hills, Texas, saw revival break out for him and for the church in Round Mountain, a small mining town.
Prospects at first seemed bleak. Only five to eight people attended the church, and the remainder of the population was not “emotionally connected,” Price said. He had a lot of time Sunday night to pray, and the Lord laid it on his heart to go to the local high school. The principal welcomed him and allowed him to hold a service at the school, and Tuesday night around 40 people showed up.
“It taught me to step out in faith and to trust the Lord in everything,” Price said.
Matt Evans of Aztec, N.M., traveled to Lincoln, N.D., where he learned revival comes from God, and “it has to start in me.” The seven-member church where Evans, a master of arts in Christian education student, preached was not prepared for revival, but during the week, two youths made professions of faith and three people rededicated their lives to Christ.
Tommy McGill, an M.Div. student from Kingstree, S.C., went to a church that was in pain. Calvary Baptist in McConnelsville, Ohio, had gone through a split in July and had had no pastor until early in March. That Sunday morning, McGill said, was tense.
Yet he experienced God there. McGill ministered to a family who had suffered a death. On Wednesday, he fixed supper and more adults showed up there than had come to the Sunday morning services.
“We had a great time of fellowship,” he said.
One student evangelist helped lead a soul to Christ even before he left the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. Bill Stokes, who was on his way to First Baptist Church of Mounds, Ill., struck up a conversation with a 19-year-old serviceman in the airport. Before the conversation was over, the young man had accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior.
“There are people out there who want to know,” said Stokes, an M.Div. student from Memphis, Tenn.
This is the 42nd year that the spring evangelism practicum has sent Southwestern students to preach revivals during spring break. The practicum enables churches with less than 200 members or limited resources to hold at least one revival meeting per year.