EDUCATION DIGEST: Hall named Boyce dean, Fla. collegians trek to Cuba

by SBTS, BCF & BP Staff, posted Friday, June 24, 2016 (2 years ago)

Matthew Hall named Boyce College dean

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) -- Matthew J. Hall has been named dean of Boyce College, the undergraduate school of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Hall has served as vice president for academic services at the Louisville, Ky., seminary since 2013 and is an assistant professor of church history.

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary, appointed Hall to the position, describing him as "academically prepared, experienced and ready to lead one of the fastest-growing programs in higher education. I have had the honor of working with Matthew Hall for several years in the highest levels of Southern Seminary's administration. With this appointment we have the right man at the right time for the right school."

A two-time alumnus of Southern Seminary (M.Div. and Th.M.), Hall oversaw SBTS enrollment, library and assessment initiatives in his administrative role in academic services, after previously serving as chief of staff in the Office of the President. Hall holds a Ph.D. in American history from the University of Kentucky and was co-editor of the 2015 book, "Essential Evangelicalism: The Enduring Legacy of Carl F.H. Henry."

An elder at Clifton Baptist Church in Louisville, Hall is a research fellow on the SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and was a member of the SBC Committee on Resolutions in 2014 and 2015. He met his wife Jeannie while he was a student at Grove City College and they have three children, George, Charlie, and Jane.

"In nearly 14 years involved in the life of Southern Seminary, I've come to know Boyce College in great detail and have tremendous admiration for its mission and identity in Christian higher education," Hall said. "The challenges facing this generation of Christian men and women are extraordinary and I look forward to seeing how God might use Boyce College to prepare them for more effective service and ministry."

Since 1998, when Boyce Bible School became Boyce College under Mohler's leadership, Boyce has grown from six bachelor's degree programs to 13 and the enrollment expanded to 1,235 students in the 2014-2015 academic year. In May, Boyce conferred degrees to a record 149 students. Boyce has added a seminary track in biblical and theological studies for students to earn both B.A. and M.Div. degrees in as few as five years.

More information about Boyce College is available online at boycecollege.com.

Florida collegiate team serves in Cuba

GRACEVILLE, Fla. (BP) -- The winds of change are blowing in Cuba, but it's more like a gentle stirring than a wind, a 12-member Baptist College of Florida team reported after a week of religious work in the island nation once dubbed the "crown jewel of the Caribbean."

Although plenty of tour buses are traversing Havana, the pace of life is still slow and the spiritual climate is cautious, the BCF team reported.

Most BCF mission trips focus on evangelism and church planting, but in Cuba the objective was one of encouragement, said Rich Elligson, BCF mission team leader and theology division chair. The church is strong but often feels isolated.

"A week with these college students is like a breath of fresh air," one Cuban church member commented. "They remind us that the Kingdom of God is made of all kinds of believers from all over the world. We may be separated, but we are not forgotten. We are one big family working together."

The BCF team members included a variety of students and recent graduates. Some were missions majors, while others are pursuing degrees in psychology, business leadership or ministry studies. Some were older, some younger; some were first-timers and others had been to Cuba before. But all worked alongside their Cuban brothers and sisters doing Kingdom work.

The latest initiative in an ongoing partnership between BCF, the Florida Baptist Convention and the Cuban Baptist Convention encompassed church construction during the day followed by Vacation Bible School for children and a Bible conference each evening for adults.

The construction part of the project included mixing and pouring concrete for the building foundation and laying the first blocks -- a wearying task undertaken each morning before the scorching tropical sun got too high.

Following the typical late afternoon rain, children arrived for VBS fun and games and Bible stories and crafts. The VBS was organized and directed by BCF leadership and Christian education junior Casey Ranalli, with all the team members involved. "Once we got there, my part was easy," Ranalli said. "God brought all the right people together and everyone did a phenomenal job with the kids. I am just happy to have been a part of what may well be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do ministry in Cuba."

The final aspect of the work on the island was an evening Bible conference. This year, Cuban Baptist churches had been asked to emphasize "the family" during the weeks between Mother's Day and Father's Day. So the host pastor requested a teaching series on the topic and Elligson spoke accordingly.

"It's interesting to see the common challenges all families face, regardless of where we live," Elligson said. "But it's encouraging to know that God's Word still offers the solutions, and the folks here received the Word warmly."

Other events and opportunities during the week included a Bible study for the ladies of the church and a time of fellowship and recreation for senior adults. These informal gatherings allowed the team to share testimonies, music and devotional messages from God's Word.

Maria Wetzel, the Florida Baptist coordinator who traveled with the team, said the members "were so well prepared and so willing to jump in and work among the Cuban people. There weren't cultural conflicts or an 'us versus them' kind of mentality. It was a true partnership. In fact, I believe the BCF group was just as enriched, or more so, than the Cubans they came to help."

Elligson said the encouragement the Americans brought will last much longer than might be expected -- one might say it is "written in stone." After smoothing out one stretch of concrete running along the side of the new church building, the pastor invited team members to sign their names in the wet surface as a lasting memorial to the relationships that were built. "And be sure to add BCF's name," the pastor declared, before adding, "We want to remember you, just as we pray you will continue to remember us."

Compiled by Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston with reporting by Andrew J.W. Smith of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Sandra Richards of the Baptist College of Florida.
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