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In Russia, students work toward NOBTS ministry certificates

RYAZAN, Russia (BP)–Despite the damage on the main campus of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, the seminary’s training mission continues in the United States and beyond. On Sept. 13, the seminary began its third ministry certificate training session in Ryazan, Russia.

Less than two years ago, the seminary’s undergraduate studies program, Leavell College, joined NOBTS alumnus Kim Hall in his efforts to offer basic theological training to pastors from Russia and Uzbekistan.

The partnership is yielding amazing results. This April, 13 students met in Ryazan for the first course -– Old Testament Survey -– one component of Leavell College’s certificate in pastoral ministries. Twelve of the students traveled from Uzbekistan, where believers face severe persecution for their faith.

Next April, the first certificate graduation will be held in Ryazan.

Hall, who serves as pastor of Hunter’s Glen Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, earned both a master of divinity degree and a doctor of ministry degree from NOBTS. Since 1991, Hall has been involved in mission work in Russia.

During his many trips to Russia, Hall noticed the need for theological training among many of the pastors. He hoped the seminary could help provide much-needed training opportunities.

“I met some great, young Russian pastors who were eager to reach into the pioneer areas of their country and into Central Asia,” Hall said. “God grabbed my heart and I couldn’t think of a reason why they shouldn’t have the same kind of education I have had through New Orleans. I called the seminary, made a proposal and Thomas Strong shared my vision.”

Strong, dean of Leavell College, and Hall quickly began working on a way for the seminary to offer the training program in Ryazan, Russia, leading to specialized ministry certificates from Leavell College. In April 2004, the NOBTS board of trustees approved the plan.

“God has put this together with amazing ease,” Hall said. “We are now looking to expand into other countries where this type of mobile, but quality training is so needed.”

The Center for Global Ministries, founded by Hall, provides funding for this project, including a provision for one NOBTS faculty member to teach each summer. Francis Kimmitt, associate dean of Leavell College, taught at Ryazan in July.

“The students are a blessing to teach and to be around,” Kimmitt said. “They love the Lord and love serving Him and His people. Teaching in Ryazan is a good reminder that we are all part of the larger Kingdom and universal church. Our work there is an important part of the mission focus of NOBTS.”

The pastors from Uzbekistan have made a five-year commitment to send new students to Ryazan for training. Next year, a biblical teaching certificate will be offered to those completing this year’s training and a new group will be introduced to the pastoral ministries curriculum.

The program is not only extending the seminary’s ministry overseas, it provides NOBTS alumni with a unique ministry opportunity. Along with Hall, who teaches regularly, many of the other American pastors who teach in the program are NOBTS graduates.
With reporting by Kim Hall and Francis Kimmitt.