Further Education for Continuing Mission

Harding University, my alma mater, started its “Graduate School of Religion” on the main campus in Searcy, Arkansas in 1952, but in 1958 the program was moved to Memphis, Tennessee. Just having a graduate program in Bible was a change of pace for this branch of the Restoration Movement. Up to that point the a cappella Churches of Christ had mostly followed the tradition of Alexander Campbell in having liberal arts universities that also offered Bible. Bible classes were considered, for the most part, something additional to the liberal arts program.

During my two years in Harding University’s School of Biblical Studies (now called “Center for Advanced Ministry Training”) I went to the Memphis campus twice for one-day seminars. I loved the campus and yearned for the opportunity to further my theological education, but it wasn’t to be. I was more anxious about getting done with my undergraduate training and getting to Brazil for mission service. This was the foolishness and fervor of youth. At the time I had a fiancee in Brazil (not Christiane, it was a different relationship that didn’t work out) as added incentive to hurry back to Brazil, and in my rush I forgot entirely the educational commitment I made to God the day I sensed His call to go there.

50 years of the Harding University Graduate School of Religion in Memphis, Tennessee…and here I am in New Jersey. If I could ever get a job that pays well enough to get my bills under control and allow me enough time for ministry, I’d love to attend one of the seminaries in the area. New Brunswick Theological Seminary is located here in New Jersey, there is also Alliance Theological Seminary in New York, and of course Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey.

Any of the above would be good options, but while the first or last would probably fit my general theological outlook better than the middle option, I’m afraid I couldn’t deal with so much chatter about Karl Barth at Princeton, and I’m not sure New Brunswick would offer what I’m looking to obtain. Alliance is an attractive option, as there is also an undergraduate division. My wife could study for her Bachelors there as I pursue a Masters. Also, it’s reportedly the only evangelical seminary between Philadelphia and Boston.

Having said all that, what I really need right now is a degree in IT that will get me into a better salary and provide skills that not only could be used to help the church in Brazil and serve for community development projects there (think providing vocational training to lift people out of poverty), but also be available as a backup option in case a church is unable to continue supporting us there.

Missionaries overseas face a lot of uncertainties, and one of them is finances. If just one church decreases or drops support (it can happen just because of falling offerings in the U.S.) the missionaries are often unable to make up that support without returning to the States. Frequently this leads to missionaries leaving the field entirely. If I have alternate job skills, tight financial times could conceivably be compensated for by “outside” work. This certainly isn’t ideal, but then, neither is leaving off the mission work.

As for my wife, Christiane, she is anxious to improve her English skills and enroll in college. She wants to study, as I’ve mentioned, and would want to learn things useful for the challenges we will face in Brazil.

A plan is slowly formulating. My wife and I are thinking and praying about it intensely, and in a few weeks I hope to have something more solid to share. I am carrying quite a bit of student loan debt from Harding that I haven’t been able to pay off, and we are considering reaching out to churches for support to help pay my past educational bills as we work towards further training.

We are serving Christ among Brazilians here in New Jersey, and thank God for the privilege of being bivocational and gaining so much experience, but we both are convinced that where we ultimately need to be is Brazil. There is so much need.

Please pray for us, the work here in New Jersey and for Brazil.
See a recent Christian Chronicle article about HUGSR, A risky venture: Advanced theological training marks a milestone, and also my recent post,11 Years of Brazilian Missions

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