1956 – Student World Missions Congress

It was not until  the summer after June and I were married in 1957 that I felt what I still believe to have been God’s call to overseas mission service. But we attended the Southern Baptist Student World Missions Congress in December 1956 and there declared our willingness to be open to missionary work should God lead us in that direction.

Although we were not yet married, June had gone with me to spend Christmas with my family in north Missouri in 1956. We were engaged and halfway through our second and final year at Southwest Baptist College (as it was then called).

According to June’s diary, we left at 6 a.m. on Dec. 26, picked up our SWBC Baptist Student Director and three other students and set out for Nashville, Tennessee. We traveled in the 1951 Chevy I had bought just before starting to college, and I drove us 700 miles that day to Tennessee. student-missions-congress-d56

The next day the Missions Congress started, and we were to Nashville in plenty of time to hear the keynote address, “The Christian Student and the World Crisis,” by Culbert G. Rutenber, Professor at The Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary. I still remember being impressed with Dr. Rutenber’s talk.

I also remember hearing Howard E. Butt, Jr., speak during those days in Nashville;  I thought about that when I hear of Mr. Butt’s death last September. His talk was titled “The Dignity of Work.”

The closing service was on Sunday morning, and we skipped breakfast in order to get to the meeting place early so we could sit near the front. Billy Graham was the preacher that morning, and June wrote, “We both got to shake hands with him.” (I find it a bit odd that I remember well shaking hands with him in the Orange Bowl in 1965, but don’t remember that in 1956, the first time we had seen or heard him in person.)

Of primary importance to us, though, was the closing service on Saturday evening. Baker James Cauthen, the Executive Secretary of what was then the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board, spoke on “The Chain Reaction of Revolutionary Love.”

At the close of the service–and the content of the talks are printed in the booklet whose cover is pictured above–Dr. Cauthen said, “Now is the time for decision.” He first invited us students to volunteer for missionary service. Then he said, “If you do not yet feel led to volunteer, will you not offer yourself to your Lord to go to any land and do any task he may command? Will you not seek his will, and if it is his will for you to go, follow without hesitation?”

We responded to the latter invitation. Later, as indicated above, we did feel God’s call to missionary service. Although it was nine and a half years later, we were appointed as missionaries to Japan on June 23, 1966.