At Southwestern Seminary, two plus two no longer equals four. Instead, for many who enter the seminary’s 2+2 Program, it equals a lifetime of missions. By God’s grace, it also equals a multiplication of new believers and churches.
Through the 2+2 Program (officially called the M.Div. in International Church Planting), Southwestern works with the International Mission Board (IMB) to train missions students for two years on campus, while mobilizing them in locations around the globe for the remainder of their Master of Divinity degree programs.
“I think it is the high retention rate that has caused the IMB to so openly embrace this program,” says dean of the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions Keith Eitel, who developed the 2+2 Program while serving at Southeastern Seminary in 1995. “Even during an economic down period like we’re in now, they’ve actually set aside a quota system for 2+2 appointees, to prioritize that program. Thinking back over that first batch (of 2+2 students), all but two of them are still out on the field. And that was 17 years ago. That is a pretty good return rate.”
Southwestern Seminary students Anthony and April will deploy to southern Africa to complete their training and begin a life of mission work this summer. They will serve through the IMB’s Missionary Apprentice program, which actually involves three years on the field. This longer program is designed for those who desire to return to the field as career missionaries.
“I knew missions was what I was called to do,” says Anthony, whose uncle and aunt participated in the 2+2 Program when it was first developed. “I knew that I wanted to study and do the 2+2, and I knew that if that was the degree I was going to do, I wanted to study under the guy who created it, Dr. Keith Eitel. That was a main reason that I was interested in Southwestern.”
Anthony is thankful that the seminary has a program that provides multiple levels of support—from both the seminary and the IMB—for students who desire to serve on the mission field, especially for those who have never served overseas on a long-term basis. He also says that his experience on campus has been extremely productive.
Having been reared in the church, Anthony knew much about Christianity before coming to the seminary. But his course work has taught him how to study the Bible in depth, with a background in systematic theology and the original languages of Scripture. It has also given him insight into the work of evangelism and missions. His wife, April, agrees.
“I enjoyed studying under Dr. Eitel and (others) who have been able to express the things that they learned on the field, as real-life examples,” says April, who will complete the necessary fieldwork required for Southwestern Seminary’s M.A. in Missiology degree. “I can say, ‘I’ve read this from the book, and I heard this from professors who have actually been there.’”
According to Anthony, mission experiences with Southwestern have also played a major role in his education. In 2010, he travelled to Chiang Mai, Thailand, with a team of professors and students from the seminary. He and his fellow students took classes each morning on how to witness to Buddhists and Muslims, and each afternoon they worked alongside their professors to share the Gospel in market places, temples and mosques.
April says another Southwestern Seminary mission trip clarified their calling as a couple. Traveling to Vancouver, British Columbia, with the seminary, Anthony and April learned to surrender their lives to God.
“It made both of us realize that we just need to be completely open to what God has for us,” April says. “That was when the calling became about what we were going to do as a family.”
At the end of March, Anthony and April traveled to North Carolina to see their families and prepare for deployment. Before leaving Texas, however, they were commissioned by Normandale Baptist Church in Fort Worth, where they hold their membership. Pastor John Mark Yeats, who also serves as an adjunct professor at the seminary, shared his excitement about Southwestern’s 2+2 Program.
“I am really excited about the 2+2 Program because it allows people to come in to study and then to go back out onto the field,” Yeats says. “In essence, we’re able to get people into the mission fields where they’re desperately needed more rapidly and doing so without compromising the theological or biblical underpinnings that they need to be effective. … I am so grateful that the seminary offers the program for those who are able to take advantage of it and who feel called to missions.”
“(Anthony and April) have been a part of Normandale for a while, and they’re part of our family as a church. … It is important for us, then, to send them out,” Yeats adds. Normandale often commissions people by praying over them as a congregation. This not only encourages Anthony and April, as well as other missionaries, but it also highlights an important message.
“This is the natural thing for a church to do—to send people,” Yeats says. “We want to continue to send people—to send people back to work to be missionaries where they work, to send people into the community (and) globally to share about the hope that is found in Jesus Christ.”
Yeats says the church will continue to support Anthony and April as they serve on the field. They will especially need encouragement from Christians in the United States, since only 10 known believers live in the region where they will serve.
But, because of the 2+2 Program, Anthony and April do not only have support from their local church. The IMB and Southwestern Seminary will also support and pray for them as they proclaim the Gospel and as God adds to and multiplies the number of those being saved in southern Africa.