FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–A Chinese soldier’s encouragement during World War II of a future Southern Baptist missionary is helping make seminary education possible today for a Brazilian student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
At a special scholarship donor luncheon Jan. 27, Fabio Torres of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, met Jesse Kidd, the World War II veteran, and his wife, Wilma, both Southwestern alumni and former Brazilian missionaries who established the scholarship he now receives.
Torres said it was very special “to put a face to the people that gave the money.”
“[The scholarship] encouraged me that somebody else cares,” he said, “because at times as a foreigner … getting grants like this encourages you to keep on and encourages you that the Lord really called me into ministry.”
Like other students who shared testimonies at the luncheon, Torres said being awarded a scholarship was “a reaffirmation that God called me to better prepare myself for his service.”
Sixty-three Southwestern students, representing the hundreds who receive scholarships every year, met the families who gave money to create their scholarships. Donors representing 40 scholarship funds came to the Fort Worth, Texas, campus in spite of an ice storm that morning.
The Kidds came up with the idea for their scholarship fund while on furlough in Arkansas in the late 1960s. They established the fund out of frustration over not being able to express sympathy to family and friends back in the United States who had lost loved ones.
“You can’t buy sympathy cards in [the interior of] Brazil,” Wilma said.
Harry Trulove, then president of the Arkansas Baptist Foundation, showed them a card that could be mailed to people.
“That way we could say to them a gift has been given to this fund as a memorial to your wife or husband,” Wilma said.
They knew of people who had established scholarship funds, Wilma said, but none like this one. Trulove called their fund “uncommon.”
“I wish it was more common,” Trulove said. “Baptists haven’t learned that aspect of stewardship quite as well as tithes and offerings. I think there’s a lot of needs out there that could be met if people did a better job of estate planning.”
Even modest amounts add up. “The eighth wonder of the world is compound interest,” Trulove said.
The Kidds, who have no children, said they have received tremendous blessings from the fund. “To me, it means that we’re still on the cutting edge. We are still involved in missions,” Wilma said.
“It required little or no effort on our part,” Jesse said. “We don’t miss what we put into this.”
“It’s a great joy to us to know that somehow we are helping people get their education and out on the mission field,” Wilma added.
Southwestern President Kenneth S. Hemphill called the scholarships investments that will impact many generations.
David McQuitty, Southwestern director of student financial aid, said more than 350 scholarship funds representing approximately $600,000 are available to students. Income for endowed scholarships is dispersed when a fund reaches $10,000. At that point, McQuitty and his staff conduct interviews every semester “to match the right student with the right scholarship.”
The Kidds’ scholarship will help students like Wilma who enrolled at Southwestern in 1943. She remembered having to decide between buying tomato soup for dinner one night or buying a doughnut for breakfast the next morning.
“And that has stayed with me through the years,” Wilma said. “So I want to help a student.”
Wilma said she thought she was in heaven her first year at Southwestern.
“I had never heard ‘Amazing Grace,'” she said. “That was very emotional for me to be in the chapel and to hear the male voices singing ‘Amazing Grace.’ Of course a lot of the men were at war then.”
One of those men was her future husband. He served in the infantry and was part of the outfit that opened the Burma Road through the Himalayan Mountains to China. They made the longest march of any outfit in World War II, Jesse said.
In their recently published autobiography, “The Kidds of Brazil,” Jesse recalls the soldiers being ordered to “get rid of everything they did not want to carry for the next several hundred miles through the jungle.” One item he kept was a little New Testament.
“Upon boarding a ship in California, each soldier was given one by an Army chaplain,” Jesse wrote. “Now I had grown cold and indifferent to the gospel. As I was about to cast the New Testament aside a Chinese soldier rushed up and spoke in perfect English, ‘Soldier, don’t throw that away. You are going to need it.’
“Completely surprised, I replied, ‘How do you happen to speak English — and what do you know about this New Testament?’
“‘I attended a high school in Chungking run by Baptist missionaries from your country,’ the soldier replied. ‘I know about that book.’
“I put it in my pocket. He was right. I found out I did need it.”
Trulove called the Kidds a very special couple.
“They were very dedicated and very interested in doing what they could for the Brazilians to help them come to a saving knowledge of Jesus,” he said.
Now, almost 60 years later, through the encouragement of a Chinese soldier and the faithful gifts of a missionary couple serving far from home, the word is still going forth.
“Through assistance with scholarships,” Wilma said, “only God knows how many times the loaves will be multiplied — and he’s the bookkeeper.”
The Kidds’ autobiography is available by calling Faith Press in San Angelo, Texas, at (915) 658-1623.