FIRST-PERSON: God was calling

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (BP) -- It's a fact of life that the choices we make are important. We choose our schools, jobs, marriage partners and so forth.

Out of the 33 seminaries I looked into during my senior year at the University of Hawaii in Hilo, I ended up choosing a Southern Baptist seminary.

And I believe it was truly a Spirit-led choice.

After becoming a Christian at the age of 20, I longed to be equipped as a disciple, to become a spiritually mature Christian, but I didn't know how to go about it.

In college, I disciplined myself to read the daily Bible readings and to pray every morning before my first class at 8 a.m. I shared my personal testimony of how God worked in my life to my friends on campus. I attended the student-led "Eklessia" Bible studies at the Baptist Student Union building. On Friday evenings, a dozen or so college students gathered together at a local church for "Coffee House Ministries" where we enjoyed a time of praise and fellowship. On Saturday mornings I usually cleaned up the small church building in preparation of the Lord's Day. At Sunday worship services, I served as an usher in greeting church members, who numbered around 100 on average.

Although I kept myself busy in serving the Lord, I felt that God was calling me to a life in full-time ministry.

Although I had been accepted into a number of seminaries, when I received their financial aid packages, I discovered I could not afford the tuition and living expenses, even with my GI Bill. As I prayed about my future, I sought out the advice of our church organist and Baptist Student Union director, Josephine Harris, who I found out was a Foreign Mission Board (today, International Mission Board) missionary to Hawaii for 27 years and a SWBTS alum who majored in music. Her older brother, Dr. James Harris, was senior pastor of University Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, and an FMB trustee.

As I was seeking her guidance, I received the answer to my prayers when she told me to apply to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas. I had never heard of the seminary before. Through her help, I applied and God opened the door for me to enroll as a master of divinity student in the school of theology in August 1973.

Over 45 years ago, I experienced the abundant blessings of God's providence in guiding me to choose SWBTS. God took care of every detail, including finances, as in those days SWBTS was tuition-free and the $100 matriculation fee per semester was covered by my GI Bill.

To this day I am grateful to my professors, like Dr. David Garland, the Old Testament professor with whom I took my first seminary class. He shared about his first day at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky and how he was in tears as his mother dropped him off on campus. When he opened the class in prayer, his gracious voice and earnest words moved me so much that I found myself in tears!

Another mentor was my beloved professor, the late Dr. Huber Drumwright, who was dean of the school of theology and New Testament professor. He was so gentle, yet he gave me the biggest bear hug at my graduation. He was the one who introduced me to First Baptist Church in Dallas and to his sister, Ruby Pulley, a member there. Her husband, Ralph Pulley, was a well-known lawyer and chairman of deacons and a trustee at SWBTS. The Pulley family helped me so much while I was at the church and I'm so thankful that I was able to build lifelong relationships with them. What a wonderful family they are in Christ!

As I look back to when as a young Christian in college looking for a clear direction for my seminary education, I could see that God answered my prayer by preparing each precious soul in my life so that I could enter the Gospel ministry through SWBTS and FBC-Dallas.

I was eventually ordained at First Baptist and I returned to Hawaii in 1976 to start two house churches. I could have never imagined then that one day I would become a trustee of SWBTS, seeking to open up opportunities for a new generation of future SBC leaders.

Our God is sovereign over us and I praise and exult the matchless name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!

Paul Kim is the Asian-American relations consultant with the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee and pastor emeritus of Antioch Baptist Church in Cambridge, Mass.
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