For eight Southeastern Seminary students, the tragic events from the past few weeks sparked a compulsion to put "feet to their faith" and run to the hurting souls at "ground zero," in New York City.
"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 over 2,000 tracks, a multitude of Bibles, preached to the masses, prayed with those who were hurting, and saw eight people receive 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 their desire was to see Christ glorified in this situation.
"If God takes us to New York City, we are willing to go," said White.
"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."
The eight said they prayed for firefighters who had just seen charred dead bodies and encountered illogical arguments against Christ. They also observed many people filled with hard hearts and saw an entire city searching for answers.
"There were two main things I saw there," said White. "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."
"Our focus there was not to preach about judgment, but Jesus," said Rondon.
"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. Amidst this, we realized that Christians, that Southern Baptists, and that Southeastern Seminary have a duty to take the gospel to these people," they said.
Southern Students Provide Disaster Relief
by Bryan Cribb & Jeff Robinson
A dozen members of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary community went to New York City to help pick up the emotional pieces of those digging through the debris of fallen buildings and dreams. Both students and staff have traveled to Manhattan, individually volunteering to assist with the Kentucky Baptist Convention's disaster relief teams. While in New York, they offered physical and spiritual care to many rescue workers, residents, and shocked onlookers.
While serving food, the Southern volunteers were also able to offer comfort.
"We didn't do much talking, just a lot of listening," said one-time Long Island resident Alex Bell, a master of divinity student from Greenville, Tenn. "They just needed somebody to listen and give them a hug…. A lot of people came up to us because we were wearing a yellow [Disaster Relief] hat and just started telling us stories about people they knew who died in [the tragedy]."
All who went commented on the spiritual hunger among many New Yorkers.
"Everybody up there is looking to God, not necessarily our God, but to God for answers and for emotional help," Bell explained. "So it is definitely an open door toward spiritual renewal. It opens the door for us to step in with the true God and show them that He really does love us."
Southern's chief of security and risk management, Bob Perkins, had similar experiences, including "seeing our people stop firefighters and rescue workers and having prayer with them [and also seeing] people walking into our compound knowing we're a religious organization and saying, 'Help us make sense of this.'"
Brad Hughes, a master of divinity student who recruited additional help from his dorm mates, summarized the effort: "I know that tons of seeds were planted."
"The New Yorkers treated us great," Perkins said. "They thanked us constantly."
Even the mayor of New York personally offered his thanks to Hughes' group. In the area for a patriotic musical performance to be aired before a National Football League game, Mayor Rudolph Guiliani came by to see Hughes' team and other relief workers.
"He introduced himself to every one of us and just told us how very much he appreciated us being there," Hughes said.
For the students and staff who went, the whole experience and the sober reality was permanently etched on their minds.
"It was a pivotal point in my life — when I realized how important evangelism is and realized the brevity of human life," Hughes said.
Christians have rightly been horrified by this great loss of life and by the fact that many of the victims may not have known Christ, he said, noting that the Great Commission and the fragility of life should always be a humbling reality.
"We make a huge deal over this [tragedy], but life is ending every day for people, every minute since we've been talking. … If we don't tell them, they won't know. If they don't know, we know what awaits them."
Midwestern Student Offers Prayer And Cups Of Cold Water
by Larry B. Elrod
Amy Davis, a semester intern at the United Nations, had just left an international prayer breakfast the morning of Sept. 11, when she encountered the overwhelming evidence of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.
Davis, a student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., and co-worker Laura Gilbert of Richmond, Va., donned badges which read "May We Pray For You" and went into the rush of people fleeing the site of the disaster. Hundreds of people responded to that simple offer.
Under the leadership of North American Mission Board Christian ministries director Ken Welborn, Davis and other workers set up tables and began to hand out water and Christian tracts to the people who came by. More than 1,000 tracts were distributed, opening opportunities to share the gospel with many people.
"You could tell they had been hit hard," Welborn said. "They looked like they were in shock. Their security had been shaken. They looked like refugees. They needed an answer." The answer they received was the gospel of Jesus Christ.