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International students reach record number at Southwestern

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has never been more international than it is this fall semester with the highest number of international students ever and a record number of new students from Africa.
The 35 new students, F-1 visa students only, put Southwestern’s total enrollment of international students at 181, a 25 percent increase over last fall. The size of the incoming class equals the previous high set in the fall of 1993. The 147 international students enrolled that fall was the previous high. Eight African students are included in the count, bringing their total to 17.
Calling Southwestern “the global seminary,” President Kenneth S. Hemphill reported the increase to trustees at their fall meeting Oct. 20.
Jan Johnsonius, the seminary’s international student director, said she is amazed at the high enrollment of African students this semester, attributing the increase to the prayers of faculty and American and international students. She was particularly thankful that Kenyan students who comprise the majority of Southwestern’s African students were able to get their visas before the U.S. embassy in Nairobi was bombed.
“Our African students had a real burden that there were only nine African students, and they were not as dispersed [from] across the continent as they felt was needed for the 21st century in African leadership,” Hemphill recounted. “They began to pray, and this year, in answer to prayer, our African student population nearly doubled.”
Andre Peasley, a theology student from South Africa, said he chose Southwestern because of its good reputation and curriculum. His father, Cecil Peasley, an international evangelist, highly recommended Southwestern for its excellence in theological training.
Some students said the greatest need for Africa is trained ministers.
Kekgaoditse Suping, a theology student from Botswana, said in his country the highest level of education attained by many ministers is an associate degree.
More people from his country should be trained to reach people at all levels, Suping said. He said he hopes to return to Botswana to minister among ethnic groups who have not been reached with the gospel.
“I believe that a national who can identify with the culture and background has a better chance of reaching them with the gospel,” he said.
The variety of courses at the seminary attracted international students who want to major in fields other than theology. Patrice Kikuyu, a communications student from Kenya, is grateful that theology courses are required for his major. “I want my ministry in television to be based on Christian principles,” said Kikuyu, who plans to start a television station after he completes his studies.
“Relationships have aided in helping a large number of Africans to come to the seminary on time,” Johnsonius said, noting the relationships have taken the form of prayer, financial support and efforts to promote the seminary beyond the United States.
Abiola Olagbami, a social studies student from Nigeria, was informed about the seminary by Richard Goodlum, pastor of Bloomer Baptist Church in Arkansas. The church supports her seminary education financially.
Prospective African students learn about the seminary through missionaries, alumni, American universities, professors and overseas speaking engagements by Hemphill and others related to the seminary community, said Marlene Merritt, associate director of admissions.
She said the admissions office and international office work together to ensure that students receive their acceptance at least a month before registration.

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  • Winnie Nkhoma