Students not only heard about missions opportunities from chapel speaker Jon Wright, ’79, during Missions Conference, October 22-26. They also may have eaten lunch or walked to class alongside a visiting missionary. The missions theme was carried out through the week by Wright’s three chapel messages, displays of missions organizations in Schimmel Hall, and missionary speakers in classrooms. Adjunct instructor in ministries Gary Taylor called it “primary exposure with the experts” and like a number of other faculty members, asked Dr. Bob Wright, who coordinated the Conference, to schedule missionaries to speak in his classes.
“God is building His Church,” Jon Wright stated on Wednesday, October 24, in chapel. “You can choose to be a part of that.” He emphasized that how we think affects our choices, and our choices shape our lives. Wright and his wife, Suzanne, ’79, who both lead Bible studies with members of the United Nations in Vienna, have made decisions to face the risks posed by their involvement in international missions.
Why? “Because Christ’s love compels us,” Wright summed up from the scripture passage found in 2 Corinthians 5:14-21. He went on to affirm to students, “The work of Jesus Christ is the most significant thing we can do.”
Wright is the son of Professor of ministries Bob and College registrar Rita Wright. He pastored New Hope Bible Church in Spokane, Washington for nearly 20 years, then took a pastorate for six years in an international church in Vienna. He continues to speak in churches but now serves full time with Entrust, a missions agency devoted to developing church leaders in Europe, Asia, and Africa. In Vienna, Wright has baptized United Nations diplomats as new believers in the Danube River, the very site of Anabaptist persecution by drowning centuries ago. His travels have taken him to Romania to teach in a Bible school and to Iraq to train Christian leaders. Such experiences have led him to an understanding of globalization and how that affects the spread of the Gospel. Although Wright noted that believers are distracted like never before with the things of this world, he urged students to take advantage of globalization like never before to spread the Gospel.
Displays from fifteen missionary organizations lined the hallways of Schimmel Hall during the week of Missions Conference. Representatives and missionaries from each one were generally available to talk with anyone who passed through Schimmel and showed interest in their work throughout the week.
Marlene Cardwell, who serves with American Missionary Fellowship alongside husband Dale, said that the real opportunities to speak with students were in the classroom, however. She picked up a carabiner (a rock climber’s clip popularly used as a key ring) from their mission display on the first level of Schimmel. “My husband used this to illustrate a point in one of the classes he visited,” she said. “Not everyone goes out as a missionary. Some stay behind to ‘hold the ropes’—like this carabiner—and support the work by praying or giving.”
Daryl Hanson of Saints Equipped to Evangelize pointed to pictures of Italian townspeople with Corban students. “Every time I look at these, I see the look in their eyes,” he said in front of the SEE display. “You can tell the Italians are hungry for God.” With only half of one percent of Italians professing to know Jesus Christ, the country is a prime spot for evangelism. Hanson has led twenty to thirty student teams to Italy on short-term missions trips during summers and spring breaks. His influence on campus to join an Italian team has had life-changing results. Dozens of Corban students have traveled to Italy over spring break, and one now works there full time. Beth Hutton, ’06, left in September to work for a year at Saints Bible Institute in San Lorenzo, Italy. Hanson’s wife Cheryl, who accompanied him to Missions Conference with their son Jonathan, said several students had already signed up for the Italian trip in the spring.
Assistant professors of ministries, Anne Jeffers and Lee Ann Zanon, both arranged for missionary wives to speak to their classes. It was gratifying, Zanon said, to hear one of the ladies refer to the same verses in scripture she uses over and over to her students—“for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Zanon expressed her regard for these women as “contemporary women of faith” who could inspire her students alongside the others they have studied in class.
Some students made decisions as a result of the primary exposure to missionaries. After attending a special luncheon with missionaries planned by the education department and hearing missionaries speak in Bible class, two education students told Professor Taylor that they had decided to pursue their careers in teaching overseas as missionaries.
“Only Eternity will tell us,” said Dr. Wright about the number of decisions like these. “But the goal of Missions Conference is not to persuade all students to be missionaries. It’s to let them know they have two options. They can be goers or senders. That’s how they fulfill the Great Commission. That’s the message I convey to them in my classes.”