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Prof’s collection of nativity sets give global view of Christ’s birth

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–More than 35 nativity sets — from Bethlehem and countries such as the Philippines, Brazil, Nigeria and Sweden — are on display this holiday season at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.

Senior professor of missions Lavell Seats, who donated a lifetime collection of nativity sets to the seminary in 1998, began collecting them while serving as a missionary in Nigeria, acquiring sets from around the world in purchases and as gifts.

One of Seats’ favorite sets is the largest of the collection, depicting typical family life in the Philippines. Seats added extra pieces such as animals and trees to “reflect the ingenuity of the people.”

Among other sets in Seats’ nativity collection also scenes carved out of the same piece of wood or crystal.

Judy Howie, Midwestern’s reference librarian, noted that several sets represent different American cultures, including a display of the Native American lifestyle in which the artist placed buffalo and wolves in the nativity instead of donkeys and cattle.

Seats donated all but three sets in his collection to the seminary, keeping three with special meaning to him.

Others, meanwhile, have taken an interest in the seminary collection, such as a missionary in Thailand who donated a nativity scene.

Seats said he has learned an array of facts about other cultures while collecting the nativity scenes. When a seminary employee visited Mexico and returned with a nativity scene for him, she shared that Christians in Mexico do not put the baby Jesus in the nativity until Christmas day, the day of his arrival.

“I’ve had a very good life, and God has been good to me,” Seats said. “I just want to share what I can with the students and others.”

(BP) photos available upon request from Midwestern Seminary news office, (816) 414-3709 or e-mail [email protected].

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  • Andrea Aldridge