FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS)-One would not generally expect to hear the words “health,” “wealth” and “Gospel” used together in a positive light at a Southern Baptist Seminary, but the three converged during the Community Wellness Fair at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Nov. 3.
The seminary opened the doors of its Recreation and Aerobics Center (RAC) to offer free medical, financial and spiritual guidance to the surrounding community. Students, faculty and volunteers from the medical community were on hand, and translators were available to assist with communication for Spanish-speaking members of the community.
“The whole purpose of the event was to be an outreach to the community, to let them know we are here and that we care about them,” said Dr. Richard Knight, physician of the campus medical clinic. “If we’re able to witness to them or give them a copy of the Bible, that’s the ultimate in health and wellness.”
After registering and receiving a checklist, participants were given the opportunity to visit various stations. Several stations offered health screenings for blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure and vision. Those interested in having their hearing tested were sent to the campus medical clinic to be screened by an audiologist in a quiet environment.
Some volunteers recalled their own health concerns as a driving force behind their desire to serve. Brett Hawkins, administrative system analyst for the information services department, said, “When I had cancer several years ago, it really meant a lot to me that people were praying for me and supporting me (during) a really hard time in my life with my health. So this is a great way, I think, to minister people.”
In addition to health screenings, participants were able to talk with financial experts and receive information about expense planning, debt management and cleaning up one’s credit. A final station offered a spiritual checkup where individuals were able to talk about spiritual questions and receive a free Bible.
Outside of the RAC, mechanics conducted automotive inspections, and a local veterinarian performed physical exams on family pets, including complimentary vaccinations and pet registrations. Free firewood was distributed in an effort to help families prepare for the winter months.
The Wellness Fair was the culmination of a weeklong emphasis on evangelism at Southwestern Seminary. The seminary family was challenged to give at least 2 hours during the week to personal evangelism, and several evenings were dedicated to prayer for evangelism and the Wellness Fair.
David Mills, assistant dean of the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions, played a key role in organizing the evangelism week. Mills said that he saw Southwesterners respond consistently with positive attitudes to the effort. Faculty members, especially, were excited to see that the seminary was sponsoring a campus wide emphasis on evangelism. Mills added that he was pleased with the results of the endeavor. More than 300 students and faculty members reported their involvement in evangelism during the week following the event. They testified to 26 salvation decisions.
“I think that, with the atmosphere we’re living in today, there are just a lot of people that frankly don’t believe in evangelism any more,” Mills said. “And what has happened is that this (effort) has restored their faith … in New Testament evangelism. They have become convinced that the Holy Spirit has preceded them and is doing a great work with lost people.”
During the Wellness Fair, teams of seminary faculty and students went into the surrounding community to share the Gospel. Each team had at least one Spanish-speaking member in an effort to reach out to the Hispanic population in the area. Over 30 people volunteered to venture into the community, and they returned to the seminary with reports of seven professions of faith and eight requests for follow-up and prayer.
“One of the best things about the door-to-door evangelism was that many of the teams were composed of several students and a professor,” said Jon Wood, executive assistant to the vice president of student services. “This allowed an opportunity for students and professors to fellowship together as they joined together in the task of the Great Commission.” Wood, who was responsible for organizing the Wellness Fair, was excited that students were able to see professors modeling biblical evangelism in front of them.
Ishwaran Mudliar, assistant professor of Old Testament, reminded the students on his evangelism team of the value of door-to-door evangelism. Many believers, he said, deny the usefulness of this method, arguing that it does not bring about any lasting results. Mudliar, however, reminded his team that many of the people who deny the Gospel during a door-to-door encounter will not receive it elsewhere. He also pointed out that groups, such as the Latter Day Saints and Jehovah’s Witnesses, grow because of their consistent practice of door-to-door proselytizing.
“They do it with a false spirit,” Mudliar said. “But we do it through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Mudliar, with Southwestern students Saul Rodriguez-Cardenas and Matt Fuller, prayed with one woman who was concerned for her alcoholic husband and son. In the course of their conversation, she asked for a book that would answer the problems of modern life. Fuller gave her a New Testament, directing her to an appendix that listed Bible verses applicable to specific concerns in life: for example, “Where to find help when you are weak” and “What the New Testament says about drinking and drugs.”
They then encountered an older gentleman who claimed that no one can know the nature of the afterlife. Mudliar spoke with this man about the Gospel and the validity of Christ’s claim to be the only way to God, and answered some of his other concerns. Mudliar then gave him a business card, inviting him to call if he had additional questions.
Finally, they prayed for Genesis, a 10-year-old girl struggling with cancer. Her family showed openness to their prayers, in part because other Southwestern students, involved in door-to-door evangelism, had worked with them in the past.
“Even though no one specifically prayed for salvation, I think each encounter we had was a fruitful encounter,” Fuller said. “It’s not up to us to bring people to salvation. We must rather plant seed or water seed that has already been planted. Hopefully, somebody else will come along and reap the harvest.”
“Being able to work with a professor and see him in action is pretty invaluable,” he added. Fuller also valued the cross-cultural experience that working with a translator in a multi-cultural environment provided.
About Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Southwestern Seminary celebrates its centennial in 2008. Since its founding, the seminary has trained and sent out over 40,000 graduates to serve in local churches and mission fields around the world. In 1908, B.H. Carroll established the seminary on the campus of Baylor University. It was moved to its current location on Seminary Hill in Fort Worth in 1910 and was placed under the direction of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1925. Paige Patterson was elected as the eighth president of the seminary in 2003.
For more information, contact:
Dr. Thomas White, Vice President for Student Services and Communications
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
817.923.1921 ext. 7300