Missouri NOBTS alums join Midwestern in prayer for Hurricane Katrina victims
Unable to get IDs of Missouri students at New Orleans Seminary at press time
By Allen Palmeri
September 6, 2005
KANSAS CITY– On the last day of August, students and administrators at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS) sent a message to the now homeless brethren of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS): “We are praying for you.”
Midwestern had already designated three separate sessions of 7 a.m., 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Aug. 31 as a “Fall Day of Prayer.” Instead of focusing on their own needs, though, the seminary stopped to consider the needs of the evacuated and dispersed NOBTS community, its campus consumed by floodwaters triggered by the fury of Hurricane Katrina.
MBTS President Phil Roberts stopped in the middle of the afternoon prayer walk time to talk by cell phone with The Pathway about the spirit behind Midwestern’s actions.
“We shifted the focus to New Orleans seminary,” Roberts said. “Their well being is of utmost concern to us, and we are prepared at this time to do anything else we can to help.”
Tom Johnson, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fredricktown, and a trustee for NOBTS, was piecing together details of the disaster as he tried to keep up with his ministry duties south of St. Louis.
“I just feel devastated,” Johnson said. “The seminary’s been doing so well, and our enrollment’s been growing. I’m worried about these kids who have moved to New Orleans and had jobs set up. Of course, those jobs are gone and the seminary’s gone, at least for this semester, and they’re totally displaced. I just really feel bad for them. I don’t know what they’re going to do, where they’re going to go.”
The natural disaster has led Missouri Baptists to weep for the lost. Ed Moncada, Missouri Baptist Convention Director of International Student Ministries, is a NOBTS graduate who along with his wife, Angie, used to minister to people from New Orleans to Pensacola, Fla. They both can remember their newlywed days when they shared the Gospel in the various seaside communities of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and on into inner-city New Orleans.
“At times we break out in tears for the devastation going on in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast,” Ed Moncada said. The Gulf Coast’s – and especially New Orleans’ – need for Christ has long been evident. Though relegated to insignificance amid the widespread suffering was the cancellation of an event dubbed the 34th annual Southern Decadence festival, scheduled for Aug. 31 through Sept. 5. An estimated 100,000 homosexuals were expected to gather for that event, Moncada said.
Efforts by The Pathway to report on how many Missourians are students of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary were unsuccessful due to New Orleans seminary officials relocating to Atlanta. The seminary’s database was reported to be down as well, making access to records impossible. The students were embarking on the first full week of school, with orientation and registration, when Katrina hit.
There are about 125 New Orleans seminary alumni scattered throughout Missouri, Moncada said.
Randy Miller, pastor, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Doniphan, talked Sept. 1 with Johnson about the possibility of Missouri Baptists banding together to help those displaced New Orleans seminary students from Missouri with money for basic needs. MBC Executive Director Dave Clippard said the MBC must weigh all of its options in a long-term recovery.
“I think we need to have general support for all of our disaster relief efforts,” Clippard said. “Part of that disaster relief plan will be to seek out the students with Missouri roots to see what kind of needs they have and how we can help them.”
Miller said his heart goes out to that group of Missouri seminarians and the obstacles they will be facing in the weeks to come.
“They’ve lost the ability to provide for their families,” he said. “There are no jobs down there.”
Through its web-like system of 15 extension centers, which is the most highly developed network among the six Southern Baptist seminaries, NOBTS is blessed with the capability of executing a broad array of academic instruction this school year, according to New Orleans Seminary President Chuck Kelley. The main campus may be devastated in a city that has been evacuated, but the work of the seminary will go on.
Roberts said the plan is for Kelley to preside over a temporary seminary in Atlanta. Students will go to school at the North Georgia Extension Center in Decatur, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta, as well as the 14 other extension campuses, which are spread out through Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Many ideas for helping New Orleans are being discussed, with Roberts advocating that the six Southern Baptist seminary presidents agree to freeze the level of Cooperative Program support for New Orleans this year to keep it at the same level next year, in order to offset any potential drop in enrollment. Look for some action at the September meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, Roberts said.
“We’ve all talked about doing what we can to help them financially, and we’ll wait to hear from New Orleans how we can best do that,” he said.
It is apparent that the extended New Orleans seminary family is determined to pull together during this time of need. Johnson said it is quite possible that Atlanta will be the site of an emergency meeting of the board of trustees sometime in September.
“Our trustees are supposed to be meeting in about six weeks, and I’m sure that they’ll have some kind of contingency plans for us to consider, the direction that we’re going to go and what we’re going to try to do to help our students,” Johnson said.
“Pray for the students. That’s the main thing.”