Before a standing-room-only crowd Dec. 16 in the chapel auditorium, 29 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students crossed the stage to receive their diplomas from Midwestern President R. Philip Roberts.
The seminary's two "firsts": the initial class of Korean doctor of ministry graduates as well as the first diploma to a student, Christopher F. Rucker, to complete the entire online coursework in the master of arts, theological studies program.
Roberts, in a keynote address titled "When a little means a lot" from Mark 12:41-44, noted that an anonymous person, the widow, made a significant impression on Jesus by her faithful act of giving. Her testimony was so significant in Jesus' eyes that He wanted the disciples to learn from her example.
In focusing his message on the graduates' futures, Roberts set forth three points: The widow gave what she had; she gave all that she had; and she gave the best that she had.
"Little is much when God is in it," Roberts said. "And what little we have can count much for the Kingdom when it is given to Him. In fact, the Lord prefers to have it that way, you know? If you have a talent, a resource -- and now that you have an educational credential that you can use for His kingdom's purposes -- are you willing to give it back to Him?
"God will use it, and it is your job to give what you have."
Roberts told the story of Bill Koehn and Martha Myers -- Midwestern alumni who served as missionaries in Yemen for 25 years and paid the ultimate price in serving Jesus Christ when they were killed in 2002 at the hospital where they worked. Roberts quoted the words of Jerry Rankin, retired president of the International Mission Board: "On that day in 2002, their lives were not taken because they had already been given years ago. They were given to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and they were given to Jesus to serve Him in whatever capacity the Lord would have them serve."
Roberts noted that even though the widow set an excellent example, there is an even better example to follow. "Who was the One watching? Who was the One who took note of what the widow had done?" he asked. "This is the One about whom the Scriptures say, 'Though He was rich, yet for our sakes, He became poor so that through His poverty we might also be rich.'
"Jesus gave what He had; He gave all that He had; and He gave the best that He had," Roberts said.
Although it wasn't technically the first mid-year graduation in seminary history, Jerry Sutton, Midwestern's academic dean, said the only previous graduation observance held on the Kansas City, Mo., campus in December was held for a student whose wife was terminally ill and would not live to see him graduate in May.
The Korean doctor of ministry program hosted its first seminars at Midwestern in May 2010. While it is a three-year track, each of the December graduates transferred into the program from other schools as advanced-standing students. The program's initial graduates are Peter J. Chin, Jung O. Gu, Jong L. Kim, Sangsoo 'Paul' Kim and Buck S. Sung.
The 100-percent online program, launched in July 2010, had its first graduates in May, but all of them had transferred hours into the program. Rucker is the first graduate to complete all of the courses required in the online format. According to school administrators, both programs have experienced significant growth in a short amount of time.
T. Patrick Hudson is director of communications at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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