News Articles

Southeastern grad follows God’s call to New Hampshire

CLAREMONT, N.H. (BP)–When Bill Hedgpeth helped his father establish a new church two-and-a-half years ago in Greenville, S.C., he had no idea that God was preparing him to pioneer a new Southern Baptist work 1,100 miles away.
“I saw some stuff firsthand that I got excited about,” Hedgpeth recalled.
Meanwhile, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson had been praying for months “that God would show us somewhere in this land where we could plant a life-saving station for Christ.”
In January, Patterson’s prayer was answered in the seminary’s partnership with the New Hampshire Baptist Association aimed at planting
50 Southern Baptist churches in the northeastern state over the next 10 years.
As graduation loomed just five months away, Hedgpeth found himself on his knees at the altar seeking God’s will for his life following Patterson’s invitation in a January chapel address to join God in his work in New Hampshire.
“It’s one thing to sit there in a classroom and talk about, ‘I’ll go anywhere for Jesus,'” said Hedgpeth. “(But) if he didn’t want me in New Hampshire, I sure didn’t want to be up there in that cold weather with no barbecue or southern football.”
On May 18, the day after graduating from Southeastern with a master of divinity degree, Hedgpeth headed to New Hampshire to see if God was really calling him there. “Sometimes you don’t know where you’re supposed to be until you get there,” he reflected.
A couple of days later, as Hedgpeth prepared to return to his home in Greenville, S.C., a group of about 30 Southeastern students and faculty arrived in Claremont, N.H., prepared to share the gospel with each of the more than 6,500 households representing nearly 14,000 people throughout the town.
Before the Southeastern team of missionaries headed back to Wake Forest, they had led 67 people to professions of faith in Christ. In three weeks, the Southeastern group reached every household in Claremont through a combined effort of door-to-door witnessing, mass mailings and radio announcements. More than 1,900 people were contacted personally and the gospel was shared more than 540 times.
But even before the group from Southeastern had hit the streets of Claremont, Hedgpeth said, God’s will was made clear. “I pretty much knew a couple days after I got home that New Hampshire is where I belonged,” he said. “It was a still small voice of God saying, ‘Go.'”
Three weeks later, Hedgpeth was awakened by an early morning phone call from Alvin Reid. Reid, Southeastern’s Bailey Smith Chair of Evangelism professor, was calling from Claremont, N.H., to ask Hedgpeth to come preach June 8 during the first worship service at the new Connecticut River Baptist Church.
Still in the midst of packing, Hedgpeth booked a flight to New Hampshire for the June 8 service. He preached from 1 John about five signs of a true Christian. More than 40 people, not including those from Southeastern, were in attendance. Two people made professions of faith and five others rededicated their lives to Christ.
And so was born the first of 50 Southern Baptist churches planned for New Hampshire.
“People here in our congregation are excited about where we’re going, Hedgpeth said. “(God’s) put in our church some people who have a heart for missions.”
Now, six months into his first pastorate, Hedgpeth, 33, said he can’t imagine any other place he’d rather be serving. “The main thing is to keep Christ at the center, obviously, and my main ministry that God’s given me is to preach and teach first and to evangelize.
The gospel seeds planted in Claremont this summer by Southeastern students and faculty are taking root in the new church where about 45 people meet every Sunday and Wednesday in a Christian school building.
“The work that was done by the mission team was absolutely crucial to this,” Hedgpeth said. The Southeastern mission team also laid the foundation this summer for another church start across state from Claremont in a town called Exeter.
“When God shows us where he is at work, that is an invitation to get involved,” Hedgpeth said. “God will provide the resources. God will provide the money. That never really entered the picture. I knew based on God’s goodness in the past that he would take care (of everything). He may not take care exactly where I thought he would or the exact time I thought he should, but I knew he would take care of the (cost of) living part, and he has.”
Hedgpeth has a simple message for those praying for God’s direction in their life regarding ministry opportunities in New Hampshire. “Trust that God is going to take care of the details and come on,” he said. “There’s a freedom up here. Yeah, we’re a minority, but there’s a freedom.
“We need godly men to answer the call,” he said. “We need people to put aside their fear of the cold. We need them to trust the Lord with the matter. … There’s enough people up here that are hungry (for the Word), and that makes it worthwhile. It’s something to see somebody get on fire for God. It’s wide open here.”
Southeastern students Erin Fisher of Crofton, Md., and Brad Borders of Statesville, N.C., saw firsthand how God moved in Claremont, N.H.
“We walked to the door and asked this lady if we could take a survey,” Fisher recounted. “She said, ‘Sure.’ When we were done, Brad shared his testimony and she had tears streaming down her face. He said, ‘Would you like to have that?’ She said, ‘I’d love to have that.’ Right there she prayed to receive Christ.”

    About the Author

  • Lee Weeks