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Missionaries in residence bring awareness, serve as resource to students at SBTS
September 26, 2007
By Garrett E. Wishall
Ask any student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary if they realize that there are lost people in the world and they will likely look at you as if you just asked if they know the answer to 2 plus 2.
The question is do they understand the nature of lostness in the world?
*John B., missionary in residence at Southern, desires to bring home the reality of the lostness that billions of people around the world live in every day.
“We are trying to foster an awareness and connection to missions, to connect people with the lostness of the world,” he said. “And not just awareness, but really help them get connected to lost people, whether it be here in America or in a foreign missions field. We want to help people plant churches to reach out to people who do not know the Gospel."
John and his wife Rebekah are the first missionaries in residence at Southern. Chuck Lawless, dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth at Southern, said the missionary in residence program is designed to inform and connect students with missions efforts around the world.
“The work of the missionary in residence here is to promote missions by speaking in local churches, recruiting students and providing opportunities on campus to discuss missions opportunities,” he said. “Most missionaries in residence will be on campus for one semester, and we hope to have missionaries from several parts of the world over the next several years.
“John and Rebekah bring to Southern Seminary a passion for missions that is often unique to the missionary who has just returned from the field. Their presence will help us move missions into the DNA of Southern Seminary.”
Lawless said the missionary in residence program is also designed to provide an opportunity for Southern graduates to return to the seminary while on stateside assignment.
John earned a master of divinity from the Billy Graham School in May 2002 and Rebekah walked with a master of arts in Christian Education in December 2000. The couple returned from a five-year assignment in Uganda with the International Mission Board this summer and arrived at Southern June 9.
In August 2003, John and Rebekah had to return to the United States after a year on the field, as their daughter Rachel, now 6, nearly died from an infection in her gall bladder caused by salmonella.
Discouraged by the lack of visible fruit in their ministry, John and Rebekah wondered if the Lord wanted them to remain in the States. However, encouraged by Psalm 27:14 -- which says “wait for the Lord, be strong and take courage” -- the couple returned to the East African nation in January 2004.
In March of that year, the couple’s second daughter, Sarah, was born. Not long after the birth they began to see some visible evidence that the Lord was using their ministry in a largely Muslim region of the country.
“One day a volunteer helping us and I were sharing the Gospel and a Muslim witch doctor accepted Christ,” John recounted. “We encouraged him to share the Gospel with other people and he said he wanted us to be there when he shared the Gospel. When we went back two days later he had gathered 40 people to hear what we had to say. We shared the Gospel with them and started out first fellowship right there. By the end of the year, we had six house churches in that area and had baptized 24 people.”
When John and Rebekah returned from their assignment in June 2007, there were 96 house churches in the area and they had baptized nearly 300 people. John said as things progressed in their ministry, he and Rebekah were able to move to the background as they trained Ugandan nationals to lead the churches.
“God really opened a door and poured out His Spirit and we stood on the shoulders of those who had gone before us,” John said. "We were mainly watching God at work and were blessed enough to see it firsthand and participate in it.”
John said when he and Rebekah left other missionaries remained behind who continue to train and disciple the Ugandan believers.
Rebekah said she and her husband want to help students wherever they are in their missionary journey, from those who are beginning to sense a call to missions, to those in the process of going to the field to those who have already served.
The couple also wants to encourage students seeking to spread the Gospel in their current local context.
"People have to be intentional about evangelism and reaching out,” Rebekah said. “Here in America it is very easy to not be in touch with unbelievers. Students who spend most of their time on campus have to be really intentional about reaching out to people. Maybe it is taking public transportation one day a week to their job, helping in service ministries, or prayer-walking the streets."
John said opportunities to spread the Gospel in America arise when people are intentional about forming relationships with non-believers and seeking chances to share.
“There is a lot to be said for living in a community and developing relationships with non-believers,” he said. “I would be intentional about sharing the Gospel as the relationship develops, then continue to build the relationship, look for opportunities to share the Gospel and continue that cycle. You have to be intentional."
John and Rebekah will remain on campus until January. The couple will then be heading to North Africa to work with a last frontier Arab people group in a high security region that has experienced very little exposure to the Gospel.
Along with Bryan Galloway, visiting professor of missions, and his wife Karen, John and Rebekah are hosting bi-weekly fellowships on Tuesday evenings.
The fellowship goes from 7-8:30 p.m. in Samuels apartments 1 and 2, located between the Honeycutt Campus Center and Springdale apartments and provides a time for students with a passion for missions to fellowship together. The next fellowship is Sept. 25. During missions emphasis week in October, Rebekah will host a women's prayer tea Oct. 15 to pray for Muslim women around the world.
John and Rebekah are also available to meet with students one-on-one. Interested students may contact the couple through the Great Commission Center at or or directly at or .
*Last names are omitted for security reasons.
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