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Southwestern News magazine highlights 5-year missions focus

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–The latest issue of Southwestern News magazine highlights Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s five-year missions emphasis “behind the lines,” or in countries where the Gospel has yet to penetrate specific regions or people groups.

Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson announced last year that the Fort Worth, Texas, seminary had entered into partnerships with missionaries to carry the Gospel to Siberia, Cuba and to the Nyika people group of northern Zambia. Teams of students currently are deployed in several locations across the former Soviet Union and in Zambia.

Greg Tomlin, director of public relations at Southwestern Seminary, said the goal of the magazine — the summer 2005 issue — was to make alumni, students and friends of the seminary aware of the global missions impact being made at the school. He also said the magazine was an invitation for alumni and friends to partner with the seminary in its missions emphases.

“Evangelism and missions really pulses through the veins of every student on this campus,” Tomlin said. “Today, they are fanning out across the globe and are seeking not only to share the Gospel with the people in these remote locations, but also to leave having planted identifiable and lasting churches there. We want our friends to join us as we carry out the commission given to us by Jesus Christ.”

In Siberia, seminary students will focus their evangelistic efforts on several large cities such as Novosibirsk and Khabarovsk. There, they will minister to college students and hold block parties and other evangelistic activities among Russian young people. They also will focus on unreached peoples such as the Koryak, reindeer herders in the remote areas of eastern Siberia.

The Nyika people of Zambia are also a focus people group. The Nyika people are isolated and have had little if any opportunity to hear the Gospel. Southwestern Seminary student Lew Johnson, a former International Service Corp volunteer in Zambia, said there might be some question from the people as to why they had come all the way from America.

“They are going to wonder what a group of fair-skinned Americans are doing bouncing up the road to their village in a four-wheel drive,” Johnson said. “We will tell them, through the interpreter, that we are looking for them and share the Gospel with them.”

The central focus in Cuba will be on developing leaders, according to Daniel Sanchez, professor of missions and director of the Scarborough Institute for Church Growth at Southwestern Seminary.

“We are going to assist the people that are there in training for the various aspects of ministry — evangelism, discipleship and church planting,” Sanchez said. “‘Assist’ means that the Cuban people are doing quite a bit of it already themselves.”

Bart Barber, a Ph.D. student and pastor of First Baptist Church of Farmersville, Texas, said Cuban churches do not need help in developing an effective strategy for evangelism — mainly because they have been so effective at it themselves.

“Of the Cuban pastors I know well,” Barber said, “the one with the smallest workload is serving as pastor to seven congregations. That only counts ‘constituted’ churches, not the dozen or so ‘houses of prayer’ that serve as preaching points and proto-churches.”

The magazine also features a profile of sisters Leila and Amie Varnadeaux, former Muslims who became Christians after leaving the United Arab Emirates. Both are now students at Southwestern Seminary.

“Islam is not a religion of the heart; it is really a religion of practices and rules and regulations,” Leila said. “Yes, it is a part of a daily schedule, but it is not really a part of the soul.”

For a free subscription to Southwestern News magazine, contact Brent Thompson, associate director of news and information at the seminary, at 817-923-1921, ext. 2430, or by e-mail at [email protected]. Southwestern News is published quarterly and has a circulation of more than 54,000.

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