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Midwesterners on site in N.Y., D.C.; campus aflame with prayer, Scripture

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–Amy Davis, a semester intern at the United Nations, had just left an international prayer breakfast the morning of Sept. 11, when she encountered the overwhelming evidence of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.

Davis, a student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., and co-worker Laura Gilbert of Richmond, Va., donned badges which read “May We Pray For You” and went into the rush of people fleeing the site of the disaster. Hundreds of people responded to that simple offer.

Under the leadership of North American Mission Board Christian ministries director Ken Welborn, Davis and other workers set up tables and began to hand out water and Christian tracts to the people who came by. More than 1,000 tracts were distributed, opening opportunities to share the gospel with many people.

“You could tell they had been hit hard,” Welborn said. “They looked like they were in shock. Their security had been shaken. They looked like refugees. They needed an answer.” The answer they received was the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Meanwhile in Washington, Jason Peters of Sacramento, Calif., an Air Force chaplain to the Pentagon and a Midwestern graduate, was seeking to minister to those who had been targeted there.

Peters’ wife, Kim, recounted, “In God’s sovereignty, he allowed us to be delayed in leaving the house and for the TV to be on so that we knew what was happening. As we sat and watched the tragedy unfold in New York City, we saw the fireball explosion across the river over the Pentagon. It was like living in a real nightmare.” And yet, as part of the Pentagon’s crisis team, Peters worked through the day and all night to help rescue those who could be reached despite the fires which burned. “Even in the midst of this great attack, God is at work and is working,” Kim Peters stated.

On Midwestern’s campus the morning of Sept. 11, Old Testament and Hebrew professor Al Bean began the chapel services by praying, “Father, as we pray for our nation, as we pray for understanding, as we pray for courage, we do not want to focus only on the horrific headlines. But Father, we want to focus on the needs of the very people about us, the people who need Jesus Christ. To the people who ask ‘why,’ may we be quick to say that we do not understand but that we do know someone who does. So we pray that this may be an opportunity for us to stand and to speak.”

Bean asked God to provide the seminary community with wisdom, compassion and love in responding to the questions of others. “This is not a time to berate and to stir up hate against those who oppose us as a nation or people. This is a time for us to be your servants of love and to stand and speak clearly and calmly that your will might be done,” he prayed.

Retired Virginia pastor Charles Fuller addressed the chapel audience, noting that the tragedy underscores the importance of beliefs. “These terrorists are driven by what they believe,” which Fuller described as an attitude that the end justifies the means. “This occasion also teaches us that we must lead others to believe differently than what they believe,” the former chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention Peace Committee said.

“It is not the ballot box that has the most to do with the political future,” Fuller said. “It is the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The tragedy also teaches “that it does matter that you are a believer,” Fuller said, reminding, “There is something to be thought, there is something to be said, and there is something to be done.” Fuller then called for prayer for the President Bush and the Secretary of State Colin Powell, the military and missionaries in other parts of the world, as well as the preservation and peace of the United States.

In a special called chapel service Wednesday morning, Sept. 13, students and faculty at Midwestern assembled again to pray. In the absence of President Phil Roberts, who was stranded at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina by the shutdown of all air traffic, Academic Affairs Vice President Malcolm Yarnell called those gathered to pray for the victims and their families, the continued Christian witness, the political leadership and the perpetrators.

Paul Carlisle, professor of pastoral care and counseling, admitted in his prayer how difficult it is to know exactly what and how to pray since the need is so great. “We really are sheep and in desperate need of you as our shepherd.”

Julie Smith, a student wife from Tulsa, Okla., recalled her 10-year-old son’s prayer for the children who returned home from school without parents on Sept. 11. Jeff Pollard, a student from Warrensburg, Mo., asked God that his Word be taken to the cities touched by evil and that followers of Christ may cry tears and speak words of life. Student Daniel Snead of Kahoka, Mo., with a heart breaking for the salvation of Muslims, prayed, “God, may this tragedy which seems like a major wall to our missionary efforts be turned into a mighty door through which your gospel may go out to these people.”

Institutional Advancement Vice President W. Michael Wilson prayed for our national, state and local political leadership as well as the Midwestern student in ministry at the United Nations and the alumnus working at the Pentagon. On Sept. 13, Roberts arranged for students to hear a live phone conversation with Davis and Welborn as they shared details of their ministry at the United Nations.

In Tuesday’s chapel, student Loren Phippen from Canandiaiqua, N.Y., echoed the words of Joseph to his brothers, “You meant it for harm, but God meant it for good.” Another student, Craig Sauk of Madison, Wis., prayed for those who are in the military, especially those with a Christian witness who can minister to others readying themselves for war.

Quoting Lamentations 4:12-13, student Brian Evans of Rome, Ga., noted that no one would have believed that an enemy could have marched through the gates of Jerusalem and yet it happened because of the sins of her prophets and priests. He called all Southern Baptist pastors to return to the passionate, persistent and pure proclamation of the truth of God’s Word. Yarnell closed the prayer time and prayed for the perpetrators, for forgiveness for our own sins, and that forgiveness may be offered to others.

Yarnell noted, “The ‘powers that be’ must exercise their God-given authority to suppress the evil which has blackened our cities and landscapes, slaughtered innocent people and crushed the hearts of thousands of families. However, I beg of sincere Christians to separate their political passion from their religious passion. We cannot and must not allow our fears of Islamic terrorists to overwhelm our witness to the saving grace available in the God-man, Jesus Christ. It does matter what you believe.

“Let us as Christians be willing to lay down our lives for the sake of those who seek to wrongfully take them.” By following the example of Christ, Yarnell said Christians can give love where hate has been given, and forgiveness where evil has been offered.

“Let us tell Muslims that Jesus is Lord,” reminding them they will be held accountable for their beliefs and actions by a righteous God in the life to come, Yarnell said. Fanaticism drawn from “belief in a false god has led to unspeakable atrocities. Belief in the true God, the God who is love, will lead to life and joy. In the face of Islam’s bad news, let us give them Christianity’s good news. Jesus is Lord.”

    About the Author

  • Larry B. Elrod