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Missions-bound students, faculty commissioned at Southeastern

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Students flowed in from all over Binkley Chapel until a small army of missionaries stood before Paige Patterson, ready to be commissioned as “servants of all men.”

Between tears, Patterson begged God’s blessing on Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary students, faculty and staff who will be answering God’s call to missions this summer in an emotional chapel service May 16 that marked the end of the 2001-02 school year.

The special commissioning service is a yearly event at the seminary, especially poignant because in it Patterson issues a particular charge to students in the seminary’s “two plus two” program. Those students and their families will be spending the next two years on foreign soil, spreading the gospel while finishing their degrees.

In a short but emphatic message, Patterson charged the students to remember the resurrection as the focal point of their faith.

“The essence of Christianity is found in that empty tomb,” Patterson said. “Let me challenge you to go forth in the power of the one who was once dead, but is now alive.”

Patterson emphasized to the students that no matter where they go — and especially in those unreached areas that the seminary’s missions program focuses on — they should be prepared to face hostility to their message of hope.

“Like your Master who has gone before, you must be prepared for persecution,” he said. “Endure hardships as good soldiers of Christ.”

In a post-Sept. 11 world, Patterson added, students are likely to face hostility not only as Christians but also as Americans, particularly in Muslim-dominated regions of the world.

Finally, Patterson urged the students to imitate Jesus as they “make things happen.”

“We have a Savior who made something happen even though it cost him his life to do it,” Patterson said. “Our Lord, wherever he went, made things happen. … . [Y]ou are sent out to win a world to Christ.”

Patterson’s final note was sobering — the students could be called on to give their lives for the cause of Christ. Even knowing that, not one of the dozens of “two plus two” families or other short-term missionaries hesitated to walk forward for a special closing prayer.

With missionaries engulfing the front of the chapel and faculty members surrounding them, Patterson prayed.

“It’s about life being born out of the matrix of death,” Patterson said. “Death is no problem to those who stand clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: SERVANTS COMMISSIONED.

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  • Jason Hall