EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second article in a series of historical profiles written by members of the Missouri Baptist Convention’s Historical Commission. The profiles will feature the histories of Missouri Baptist educational institutions. The author of this article is Robbie Smith.
BOLIVAR – The history of Southwest Baptist University began with two circuit riding preachers visiting churches, homes and farms. Bro. Abner Smith Ingman and Bro. James Rogers Maupin were the two southwest Missouri itinerant preachers. Their hard and long circuit ride in the summer of 1878, the events leading up to it, and their legacy after it teach us much about praying God-sized prayers and persevering despite difficult circumstances.
Ingman and Maupin met as roommates in 1876 at LaGrange College, a northern Missouri seminary that later became present day Hannibal-LaGrange University. While there, the two prayed a God-sized prayer to establish a similar Christian college in Southwest Missouri.
The two men were reunited after they graduated in late July of 1878 in Lebanon, Mo. They mounted their trusty steeds and began the grueling circuit ride to draw up potential students and financial support for the college.
Only prayer to God and perseverance by His power would get them through it, because at one point, the two men were in the saddle every day for four straight weeks.
Ingman records in his journal, “God was always good to us. We had great opposition on the part of open enemies and of good but misguided brethren. Our trust was in God. Our watchword in times of trial and adversity was ‘By the Grace of God we will succeed.’ We had a glorious hard time. It was a man’s job. We said to ourselves after we got into it that if we had been men instead of a pair of fool boys maybe we would have hesitated to tackle so big a task. Almost every hill and valley in the Southwest heard our prayers. Best of all God heard them! The college walls were cemented by prayer.”
Ingman and Maupin persisted not only in prayer, but persevered when life got difficult.
Their trip was receiving lots of prayer, but not financial support. The many days in the hard saddle wore and tore at Ingman’s pants so much that they had to be replaced, but they didn’t have much money to replace them. The two pooled their last pennies for a pair of pants and rode on.
God answered their God-sized prayers and honored their perseverance with 69 students enrolled in September, just two months after the ride began.
They had to continue to pray and persevere despite a difficult educational environment too. The college was a poorly lit old Baptist church building. They built wooden partitions to make two rooms and a chapel.
This once small but mighty place and student body is now a vibrant Baptist university in the city of Bolivar. It has grown to over 3,600 students and it still has the same goal of Ingman and Maupin – to provide students a Christian education in Southwest Missouri, to the glory of Jesus Christ.