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Southeastern students witness near ‘ground zero’

NEW YORK CITY (BP)–For eight Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary students, the tragic events of Sept. 11 moved them to put feet to their faith by sharing the gospel with hurting souls near “ground zero” in New York City.

The eight students borrowed a 15-passenger van and drove almost eight hours from the safe haven of Wake Forest, N.C., to the streets of New York City only three days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 to spend the weekend preaching on the corners, praying and leading people to Jesus Christ.

The students agreed that the borrowed van, which also acted as their hotel room for the weekend, was more than a vehicle of transportation; it was a vehicle for spreading the gospel. “We could tell God prepared our way because the first person to receive Christ was our [New York City] parking attendant,” said Thomas White, a Ph.D. candidate from Honea Path, S.C.

Standing as close as they could to the actual tragedy site, the students passed out more than 2,000 tracts, a multitude of Bibles, preached to the masses, prayed with those who were hurting and saw eight people accept Christ as their Savior.

With Bibles in hand and displaying a sign that said, “We are here to pray for you”, the eight young men took turns street preaching and singing praise songs.

They said they traveled to New York City because they wanted to be used by God and to see Christ glorified in the situation.

“We want our God to be glorified, whatever it takes,” said Jose Rondon, a Ph.D. candidate from Caracas, Venezuela. “We want to see Christ glorified, this is my only desire.”

While hundreds of volunteer groups were meeting the physical needs of the New Yorkers, the eight seminary students said they were called to help meet the spiritual needs of the lost as well.

The eight said they prayed for firefighters who had just seen charred dead bodies. They encountered illogical arguments against Christ among people with hard hearts. And the group saw an entire city searching for answers.

“There were two main things I saw there,” White said. “I saw people hurting, and I saw people wanting to do something about the situation by putting up posters of missing loved ones or lighting a candle.”

James Hilton, a Ph.D. candidate from Orlando, Fla., said the composition of their team was an asset to reaching the international population of the city.

“People came and the spirit of God was moving,” he said. “There was no racial distinction on our team. Our group included Spanish, Cuban and South African.”

The eight passed out Spanish tracts and Bibles and one team member was able to speak about Christ to a man in Italian.

“Our focus there was not to preach about judgment, but Jesus,” Rondon said.

“As the Body of Christ, we need to humble ourselves … we need to be sensitive to God,” he said. “Are we going to fear men, or fear God?”

While the harvest is ready but the workers are few, the seminarians believe it is time for revival in America.

“I have a love for revival,” Hilton said. “We prayed the whole time, ‘God use us for revival.’ We just preached, ‘God loves you. He sent Christ for you … what are you going to do with Christ?'”

Out of their desire to see people come to know Christ as their Savior, the eight men believe God is calling them to form a nonprofit Christian organization that focuses on delivering the gospel message, open-air evangelism and prayer on site after tragic events.

“What the eight of us learned is that it is time for Christians to stop being lethargic with their lives and put feet to their faith and declare the gospel with all boldness,” the said in a joint reflection. “Amidst this, we realized that Christians, that Southern Baptists, and that Southeastern Seminary have a duty to take the gospel to these people.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: PRAYER and WITNESS.

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  • Kelly Davis