March 12, 2018
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of all your garden plants and becomes a tree . . .” (Matthew 13:31).
For two weeks in January, Sioux Falls Seminary served as host to seven men and women from Cameroon, West Africa. Along with a current missionary who serves with Converge Worldwide, our guests were students in a Cameroonian Doctor of Ministry cohort that has grown out of our partnership with the North American Baptist International Office, Taylor Seminary, the Cameroon Baptist Convention, Cameroon Baptist Theological Seminary (Ndu), and Cameroon Baptist Seminary (Kumba).
Our guests traveled a great distance to come to our campus in Sioux Falls and brought with them vast educational and ministry experiences. Several of the cohort students are currently professors and/or administrators at Cameroon Baptist Theological Seminary and Cameroon Baptist Seminary. They teach in a variety of subject areas including theology, biblical languages, Christian heritage, missions, pastoral care, and more. Others have served as pastors of local churches or as “field-pastors.” They care for their families and the people in their communities. They are exceptional men and women of God who came here to learn but also became our teachers.
Although the seven students shivered in South Dakota winter temperatures throughout their stay, they enjoyed their time in the classroom with Drs. Larry Caldwell, Paul Rainbow, Gary Strickland, and Philip Thompson. Outside of the classroom, they were captivated by the deep history of missions in Cameroon and the strong partnerships that have formed today as a result.
One day during their stay, the group visited the North American Baptist Heritage Commission (often referred to as the archives), which is housed at the seminary. They saw a number of Cameroonian artifacts and learned about the history of Baptist mission work in their homeland. They were fascinated by the stories of individuals like Bee Westerman, Eleanor Weisenburger, Helen Marie Schmidt, and hundreds of others who served faithfully as missionary nurses, teachers, and doctors in Cameroon.
One student, Esther, gladly received a copy of the book, Love Them for Me Laura, which shares the memoirs of missionary Laura Reddig. Students Harrison and Ephriam visited with former missionary, Daphne Dunger. Part of their conversation focused on the life and legacy of pioneer missionaries, Dr. George and Louise Dunger and their service at a clinic that now bears their name. Hundreds of names and thousands of stories could be added to the nearly 100-year history of North American Baptist missions in Cameroon.
We are thankful to those who have planted seeds of faith throughout the years to help this great group of men and women, and many others, arrive at this point in their spiritual lives and educational journeys. Hard work, innate abilities instilled within them from God, and the prayers, dollars, and investments of people they have never met have all helped bring them to this place in their lives.
The Gospel writer in Matthew 13 reminds us that small seeds planted in faith and by faithful servants will produce significant results. The apostle Paul used the imagery of planting and watering in describing his ministry: “I planted the seed. Apollos watered the seed but God made it grow” (I Corinthians 3:6).
Join us as we develop servants for their participation in the kingdom mission. Whether in Sioux Falls, Cameroon, or around the world, God continues to move in surprising ways. Through this partnership, in particular, God is expanding the impact and reach of theological education throughout the North American Baptist Conference. Praise be to God!