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Blind seminarian earns 3 degrees in 4 years By Joni B. Hannigan

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–When David Hunter’s beeper goes off, he’s likely to be heading straight for one of the walls at a local ice-skating rink. With the camera-sized beeper suspended from his neck to warn him of the boundaries, Hunter, who is blind, enjoys another of the activities that keeps both mind and body sharp.
Graduating with a record number of master’s level degrees from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City in May, Hunter says he’s felt the sting of rejection from people who may not understand just what his strengths and weaknesses are.
“Don’t judge a book by its cover,” Hunter sighs. “Give people a chance.”
Hunter was the first Midwestern graduate to earn all three master’s degrees in his four years at Midwestern — the master of divinity, the master of church music and the master of religious education.
Prior to coming to seminary, he earned a bachelor of arts in religion from Carson-Newman College in Tennessee in 1987 and the bachelor of arts in music from Adams State College in Colorado in 1992.
Calling Midwestern the “prettiest” of any of the Southern Baptist seminaries in the nation, Hunter says he has learned to utilize all of his senses, and knows about the trees, the squirrels and the birds that make the campus unique. Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in California is beautiful as well, he says, but is just too far away from his Tennessee home and doesn’t have snow — the stuff required for Hunter’s skiing escapades.
A gifted musician, speaker, dramatist and listener, Hunter readily admits his limitations but says he wishes people would realize there’s more to life than seeing.
About the only difference between Hunter and other ministers may be his need for transportation. Since Hunter cannot drive, he relies on a ride service or friends to get him from place to place. Until recently, one of the biggest challenges Hunter faced was having access to written resources. Now, he says life is easier with a computer, a scanner, a voice synthesizer and the software that allows him to bring books and papers right into the computer for almost instant conversion to a voice telling him what’s on the page.
“One thing that’s been most frustrating is not having the accessibility to resources that everyone else has. Lexicons and commentaries, for example,” Hunter says. “I can’t always pull up church music. Also, I don’t have the books to pull off of the shelf. Computers are helping with that, but we have a long way to go.”
Hunter lost his sight gradually as the result of an optic nerve disease. Although he could see pretty well as a child, by the time he was 12 all that was left were dark shadows and outlines. After attending Tennessee School for the Blind where he learned to type, Hunter attended his local high school where people assisted him by reading aloud or taping the textbooks.
Raised in a Christian home, Hunter was saved when he was 7. In his teens, Hunter ministered to others in surrounding country churches where his father took him to preach, sing, act and play music. Additionally, Hunter kept busy traveling to youth camps and Centrifuge to minister with other teens.
College was tough for Hunter. Carson-Newman’s “remote” location and proliferation of ministry students left Hunter with a lot of time on his hands and few ministry opportunities. After college, he took off to Colorado to find a purpose in life.
What he came back with was a new love for Colorado, a lot of rock-climbing experience, a degree in music and a newfound vision for life and ministry.
Now Hunter desires to serve God through a variety of gifts, but with a focus on his organizational, teaching, music and leadership skills.
“I’d like to coordinate worship and to bring it together so that it flows,” Hunter says. “Real worship is a true spiritual encounter with God and fellowship with each other. It involves music, drama, preaching the Word and fellowship — that’s all a part of worship.”
Hunter’s volunteered in ministry for years. Most recently, as a member of Friendship Baptist Church in Kansas City, Kan., he has assisted with the children’s ministry, music and Sunday school. He led a small choir and used his gift as a talented pianist and soloist to minister there as well. He says he enjoys outdoor recreation and planning and is good at organizing things and paying attention to details.
Quiet by nature, Hunter says it helps him to “keep his mouth shut and ears open.” But he’s not shy when it comes to the outdoors. Describing a recent trip to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, he says he climbed to the top of “Pinnacle Peak” with a guide and spent 16 days white-water rafting down the Colorado River. None of the other 17 participants or six guides were visually impaired, and there were no special arrangements for the trip.
Other than making sure he shops “with people he can trust,” Hunter’s life seems pretty routine. Scrambling eggs in the microwave, searching the classifieds for a job, taking long walks on the seminary’s beautiful campus or dreaming of a future wife, 31-year old Hunter is well-prepared for his next step.