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Southwestern announces five-year missions focus

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary will focus its international evangelistic efforts over the next five years in Cuba and Siberia and among the Nyika people of Zambia.

Seminary President Paige Patterson made the announcement in chapel Sept. 29 and said that he expects all students to be involved in winning those nations and the Nyika people to Christ, though he acknowledged that doing so might be tough for many.

“You probably won’t sleep in comfortable beds [in these countries], and you will even have to get out of the Land Rover and hike in 50 miles to get there, but that sounded just like the kind of place for Southwesterners, don’t you think?” Patterson said.

“It doesn’t matter if you are not called to missions full time. But missions ought to ooze out of your pours. It should be the heart and soul of every pastor, every music minister and every children’s minister,” he said.

Patterson also said that the seminary would be partnering with German and Russian-speaking Baptists in Bonn, Germany and Oradea, Romania in the Siberian effort. Both cities are the site of Baptist seminaries, with the seminary in Oradea being the largest in Europe. Immanuel Baptist Seminary has some 800 students.

Patterson drew his message from Acts 16, which details how the Holy Spirit would not allow Paul to proceed to any place but Macedonia. The passage also records Paul’s arrival at Philippi, his encounters with Lydia and a spirit-possessed slave girl, and his subsequent imprisonment with Silas.

“Did you know that Lydia still lives in the Cuban city of Trinidad?” Patterson asked. “She is poor but she does better than most in her community. She goes to church regularly and she even prays to God. She makes the sign of the cross before she makes every decision. But she is empty. She knows she is missing something.”

Patterson asked the students if they were content to allow Lydia to go to hell.

“This institution has been asked to take Cuba for Christ. You must go find Lydia,” Patterson said.

Patterson said that like the spirit-possessed slave girl and her masters, there are many people in Zambia who had never heard the name of Jesus Christ.

“There are 250,000 people in the Nyika. It is hard to get back there. There is a witch doctor there in the village that will oppose you, but you must go,” Patterson said. He said that many of the villagers would be delighted to see “pale faces” walk into their lands.

Siberia, Patterson’s third target for evangelism, stretches across 12 international time zones. He said that a trip to Siberia would be difficult as well.

“You will have to drink fermented Yak milk or something worse, and you will not have a comfortable place to sleep,” Patterson said. “There are no buildings to sleep in, no hotels…. But there are prisoners everywhere, some of them just out of the Gulag.”

Patterson said that the message the students would take to the people of Siberia would be simple, like Paul’s message to the jailer.

“Paul gave him the only information he needed to know, though it wasn’t mere intellectualism,” Patterson said. “What was needed was a total commitment to Jesus, the joining of one’s life to Him.”

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  • Gregory Tomlin