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Golden Gate Seminary president urges grads to ‘finish well’

MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP)–Starting in ministry well is important, but finishing ministry well is what really matters, said William O. “Bill” Crews, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Mill Valley, Calif., at the school’s commencement ceremonies Dec. 17.

“I think of that young man chosen by God to be the first king of Israel, yet we know what happened to King Saul,” he told the 48 graduates, citing the testimonies of faith and endurance in Hebrews 12. “(Saul) ended the race, but not well. His successor David, though he was a great king, ended the race with his family in calamity and his nation divided because of a mistake in the race.”

He said many biblical characters didn’t finish well, but others such as Stephen and the Apostle Paul left important testimonies of spiritual endurance. “You will finish the race well if throughout the race you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and aim only to please him,” he said. “The only applause that matters is the applause of the Master.”

The graduates, representing 12 states and seven different countries, received tribute from Christian education professor Don Simmons. “I can’t imagine a better group who came here with courage and a call,” he said. “You have brought us unparalleled levels of creativity and encouragement. Some of you have names that at first were hard to pronounce, but many of you had to learn a whole new language and culture.”

He commended some of the graduates’ plans to go or return overseas. “Some of you are going places that we as faculty can only read about,” he said. “You extend our world and our reach. While we’ve had the privilege of being your teachers, we’ve also had the privilege of learning with you.”

Sharing the story of her seminary journey, master of arts in Christian education graduate Charity Gwaltney said she and her husband call themselves “oddballs.” “I’m the one in seminary, and my husband is getting the ‘putting-spouse-through’ degree,” she said. “And I thank God every day for my husband who constantly knew everything would work out, even when I was pretty dubious about God’s plan.”

The Indiana native said she felt God’s calling to Christian education while she was a church secretary. “My husband was doing graduate work at the time, and I wondered what were the chances he’d get a job close to a seminary,” she said. “When a University of California-Berkeley position came up, for whatever reason I said I couldn’t. I was a new mother. I didn’t think we could afford it and felt my husband and son needed me too much.”

Still, they moved out to Golden Gate Seminary’s residential campus near San Francisco, she said. “El Nino greeted us the day we moved in. We had no friends, and our son had gotten into a state where he wasn’t handling the move well. Suddenly, within a couple of minutes, one person showed up to help. Then others came and helped unload the truck. Within a short time, I had an invitation to dinner that night and to a birthday party for someone we didn’t even know.”

She said God will continue to provide as she pursues her calling. “I am able to discover God more as I learn and study and read and pray and fellowship,” she said. “My husband is looking for a more permanent position, and I have another child due in May. But though I’m anxious of what the future holds, I have a peace that God will provide.”

Master of divinity graduate Brent Peterson said he feels like an ancient Israelite about to enter the Promised Land. “I confess I’m a little apprehensive,” he said. “But as the Hebrews had a cloud and a fire, we have the Holy Spirit. I’ve realized I’ve seen the presence of God in the faces of the ones who have made it possible for me to be here. And I know God is going to bring even more people into my life to help me along just as he did while I was here.”

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