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Partners in reaching the world
September 15, 2003
By Jeff Robinson
Students Charles Juma (left) and Charles Abuyeka lead other students in an East African worship service. The service was one of the many events commemorating the establishment of a three-year partnership between IMB missionaries in the region and Southern Seminary. Photo by David Merrifield
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has forged a three-year partnership with International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries in East Africa that will involve seminarians in proclaiming the Gospel to unreached people groups in the region.
Officials from both the seminary and IMB signed the partnership during a Sept. 2 chapel service. Through the partnership, students and faculty members will assist IMB missionaries in East Africa with research and Gospel proclamation efforts over the next three years.
“Southern Seminary has a goal to get 10 percent of the faculty and 10 percent of the students involved in overseas missions and preferably to East Africa,” said Twyla Fagan, director of Great Commission Ministries at Southern Seminary.
“Among the things we will do is send research groups to research people groups. The partnership will involve sending people to unreached people groups and seeking bridges to preach the Gospel to them. Those involved will get to know the culture there better.”
The East African region includes 144 nations that contain more than 100,000 people. Of those nations, 105 have no Gospel witness, John Sapp, IMB’s regional director for East Africa told the chapel audience. The IMB is focusing on those 105 nations.
“We’re not among them and we don’t know their language, their way of life or their worldview,” Sapp said. “I hope in the next three years those nations become part of your vocabulary and part of your understanding of what God is up to in that corner of the world.”
Southern Seminary marked the partnership Sept. 2-5 with a celebration that included a replica of an African village on the Seminary Lawn, an African worship service and various African-themed exhibits.
“Today is one of those historic opportunities for Southern Sem-inary as we are connecting to the purpose for which this institution was established, even as we are making a new partnership for the future,” President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said.
“In 1859, when Southern Seminary first opened its doors, [founding] President James Petigru Boyce stated [that] the ambition of this institution [is] to water the world with the Gospel. One of our responsibilities as a school is to seek not only to talk about missions and to teach missions, but to be involved in missions at the present and we are very excited today to be starting something new.”
One area in which students will be particularly valuable is leadership training, Fagan said. Seminarians will teach indigenous leaders of churches already planted by missionaries.
Sapp urged seminarians to gain encouragement from believers in East Africa who continually face persecution from other religions such as Islam. The Muslim faith dominates parts of Africa’s east coast, including Tanzania.
“I hope you get to meet some of the believers who are now paying a dear price for naming Jesus Christ as the Lord of their hearts, who are wanting to follow Him in believer’s baptism,” Sapp said. “[They] live in a community that is 99 percent Muslim [located] on the coast of Tanzania. I’ll guarantee you those folks, as they go to bed at night, know what the term ‘fear’ means. I believe as you and I continue to be obedient to God’s call upon our lives, we’ve got to remember that what He gives is peace that can overcome the fear that the world wants to hand out.”