NOBTS’ Landrum Leavell Dining Hall dedication opens new year

By Marilyn Stewart/NOBTS

NEW ORLEANS (BP) – Convocation at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Aug. 15 opened the new academic year, honored faculty anniversaries and this year, included the ribbon cutting and dedication of the Landrum Leavell Dining Hall in the heart of the seminary campus.

Leavell family members were present for the dedication that marked the reopening of the dining hall after substantial remodeling that added 2,700 square feet of floor space for student dining services, an updated and expanded kitchen, and two new conference rooms.

Convocation was held at Leavell Chapel, named for Roland Q. Leavell, the fourth NOBTS president and uncle to the seventh president, Landrum P. Leavell II. The dedication and ribbon cutting followed.

‘Seek God with desperation’

Jamie Dew, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary president, began his convocation address saying that his hope for the seminary family in the new year is that they stay focused on a simple, but urgent goal. 

“There is one singular thing that ties everything together,” Dew said. “One thing that if we do this one thing, come what may, our Father will be pleased and our lives will be rich. What is that one thing? Love Him.”

Drawing from Psalm 63:1-5, Dew said the psalmist used metaphors of hunger and thirst to show he was “desperate” to know God.

“Have you ever been desperate for something?” Dew asked.

Dew told of his first mission trip years ago in Africa when his host continued to bring him food though he was full. When Dew insisted he could eat no more, the host scooped up the leftovers off his plate and gave the scraps to children at the door clamoring for food, Dew related.

“It was the first time in my life I had seen genuine hunger,” Dew said.  

Dew challenged listeners to consider if they hungered for God as the children hungered for food. Dew warned that seeking a degree can become a “professional” pursuit that “turns affection for God cold.”

If nothing else is done, Dew said, may the one accomplishment be: “That you walk out of here … loving Jesus more deeply and more faithfully than we have before. Seek God with desperation.”

Second, believers must seek God with desperation because only God can satisfy, Dew said. Pointing to verse 3, Dew reminded listeners that God’s love is “better than life” itself.

“There’s something liberating, something powerful that happens in our lives when we actually find out that He and He alone is more satisfying than one more day of life, that He himself is more satisfying than any accomplishment this world can ever give us,” Dew said.

Dew concluded with “Now is the time, maybe more than ever before, to just love Him with a sense of desperation knowing that He and He alone can satisfy.”

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Akin calls students to step out in obedience to the Great Commission 

By Chad Burchett/SEBTS

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP) – During his fall 2023 convocation address, President Danny Akin charged attendees to trust God and carry the gospel to the nations, sharing the story of Yvette Aarons, longtime Deaf missionary. During the ceremony, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and The College at Southeastern also celebrated three recently elected faculty and recognized dean’s list recipients in The College.

“If you have been here for any period of time, you know that the Great Commission drives everything we do at Southeastern,” Akin said during his address. “The stakes are extremely high. … There are more than 7,000 unreached people groups today, and there are still more than 4.2 billion people who have no access to the Gospel, which means they will be born, they will live, they will die, and they will go to hell — never having even one time heard the Good News about King Jesus and his salvation.

“This is why at Southeastern you will be challenged again and again to ask, ‘Lord, not why should I go, but, Lord, why should I stay?’”

Urging students to consider the nations, Akin explained that he would continue his convocation tradition of expositing a biblical passage alongside the biography of a faithful missionary whose life testified to the truth of the passage. Akin’s message reminded attendees to trust the Lord fully, know the Lord intimately, and fear the Lord completely — just as missionary Yvette Aarons had done throughout her life.

Narrating the story of missionary Yvette Aarons, the first Deaf missionary appointed by the Foreign Mission Board (FMB; now the International Mission Board), Akin preached from Proverbs 3:5-8 — a beloved passage that guided Aarons through many obstacles in her missionary journey.

Born Deaf into a non-Christian family in Jamaica, Aarons lacked many opportunities other children had, yet in God’s providence, she was exposed to the Bible at a young age. As a child, she often attended Sunday school where she was encouraged to memorize Scripture, and later as a teenager, she would attend church services where she was taught the Gospel. When she was 16, she trusted in Christ for salvation and began her life as a follower of Christ.

It was at that time in her life that God gave her the desire to serve Him as a missionary. Yvette pursued seminary training at Southwestern Seminary, and although the seminary could not afford signers, her fellow students helped her until she graduated. In 1985, Aarons applied to the FMB, only to be rejected because she was a Deaf woman. The FMB changed its policy in 1987, and in 1989, she was sent on special assignment to Trinidad.

Trusting God’s providence and testifying to his grace, Aarons served as a missionary in Trinidad and Saint Lucia for 13 years before being transferred to Thailand to work among the Deaf in Southeast Asia. Throughout her 29 years of service as a missionary with the now-International Mission Board (IMB), Yvette wrestled with the emotional and spiritual toll and isolation of often laboring alone, but she trusted God’s faithfulness and obeyed him even during challenging seasons of ministry.

Quoting Aarons comments to him in a personal interview, Akin shared her charge to fellow Christians: “We must go because the lost are everywhere in all kinds of cultures. We go because we have what they don’t have: Jesus. … Take the step. He will take care of you.”

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