Editor's Note: The following is an excerpt from the Summer 2010 edition of the Southwestern News. To view the magazine online, visit www.swbts.edu/swnews.
The kingdom of God, Jesus said, is like a sower scattering seed. The seed is God’s word. At times the seed is plucked from the ground, scorched by the sun, or strangled by thorns and thistles before it can bear fruit. Planted in well-tended soil, the seed bears a rich harvest.
Traveling to the city of Monclova, Mexico, Jan. 2-9, students from Southwestern Seminary and the College at Southwestern scattered the seed of God’s Word, witnessing the power of the Gospel to change lives. Through door-to-door and market evangelism, they handed out 23,000 tracts and other evangelistic materials, made 1,614 contacts, and shared the Gospel with 1,129 people. During the trip, the Gospel produced the fruit of 179 Mexicans who professed faith in Christ and whose lives were transformed.
Southwestern Seminary student Nelson Fonseca praised God after one woman escaped from the occult through the power of the Gospel. Nelson and his teammates met Nancy Saenz while working in the small town of Sacramento, only 30 minutes away from Monclova. As they shared the Gospel with Nancy, she began to chant and clung to a medallion that hung around her neck. She then cried, trembled, and passed out.
When this happened, some Southwestern students began to pray, while other students cared for Nancy. Nelson, who served as a translator during the trip, spoke with Nancy’s sister, discovering that Nancy had been involved in the worship of Santa Muerte (Holy Death), a syncretistic cult advocated by drug traffickers and many others who look for protection amid violence. Nelson learned that Nancy prayed to a headless image that was in her house.
When she woke, Nancy could not remember what had happened to her. As other Southwestern students prayed, Nelson shared the Gospel with her once more, and this time she accepted the message of Christ’s love and made a profession of faith. The following day, Nelson could see a change even in Nancy’s face when she attended a church service with the group. Since his return from Mexico, Nelson has stayed in touch with Nancy through e-mail.
“She says that she no longer fears for her life and that God is working in her life,” Nelson says. “I advised her to continue reading her Bible and to tell her story to other people in town so that they would know the power of the Gospel.
“I thank the Lord because He is still the same yesterday and today and wants to save lost individuals like Nancy.”
In another suburb of Monclova, Justin Howe, a student in the College at Southwestern, reaped an unexpected harvest. Justin and his team were driving back from a suburb called La Madrid, where they had been serving at a mission church that another area church had planted. Unexpectedly the pastor of the parent church, whom they were following, pulled off the road for a short stop. As the team waited to get back on the road, Justin met a 15-year-old boy who passed by on his bike. Justin gave him a tract and they spoke for a few minutes, but Justin was not able to take the conversation very far before they had to leave.
The following day, the team unexpectedly changed their plans and decided to hand out tracts and witness within the local market. As they did so, Justin saw the boy that he met the previous day. He felt compelled to share the Gospel with this boy, who soon professed faith in Christ.
“It was just amazing to see God move—step by step, moment by moment—to reach this one young man,” Justin says. As he reflects on this experience, he is reminded that God has a plan even when nothing seems to go according to human plans.
“Christ and His Gospel are powerful,” Preston Atwood says, reflecting on the transformation of lives and the spiritual harvest he witnessed in Monclova. A graduate of the College at Southwestern and currently a Master of Divinity student, Preston helped organize the trip to Monclova. Prior to the trip, Preston spent hundreds of hours in administrative work in order to prepare the Southwestern team to scatter the seed of God’s Word throughout Monclova.
“Having worked with all the students for such a long time to get them ready for this trip, I had a deep love for everybody on the trip,” Preston says. “So it was neat to see so many of them experience such true and deep change in just a matter of a week.” Students who attended the trip, he says, went home with a renewed sense of passion for sharing the Gospel.
Despite the fruit that was produced as the Southwestern team shared God’s word in Monclova, Preston and his wife, Emily, also learned that sometimes the Gospel is planted in hard, unforgiving soil. As they shared the Gospel in Monclova, they witnessed to an elderly man who refused to profess faith in Christ despite the costs.
“This had a really potent impact on me,” Emily, a graduate of the College at Southwestern, says. Emily explains that this man said he wanted to believe the Gospel, but he refused to forgive a man who had attempted to kill him earlier in life. Preston and Emily told him about Christ’s parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:22-35. They told him about the importance of forgiveness and said that Christ would give him the power to forgive.
“After that, the man said, ‘Well, if those are my options, then I’m going to have to go to hell because I will not forgive him,’” Emily recounts. “So it was like he even knew what he was doing, and he still rejected the Gospel.
“I sometimes still shudder to think about it, and we just hope and pray that the Lord would soften his heart. There is always still hope that the Lord would soften his heart and call to mind the things that we told him.”
Both through this disappointment and through evangelistic success, Preston and Emily were re-energized to share the Gospel not only in Mexico but also in Fort Worth.
“The trip made us more aware of our former lack of intentionality in doing evangelism,” Emily says. While it is easy to share the Gospel during a mission trip or for a class assignment, it is also easy to put evangelism aside when at home. “It is humbling and ironic to think how lame our human flesh is in excusing us from our responsibility to share the Gospel all the time. And it is neat to see how the mission trip encouraged both of us to be better at fulfilling our honor and our responsibility to do that every day.”
Since they returned to Fort Worth, Preston and Emily have renewed their efforts to reach the community that surrounds them. They have witnessed at La Gran Plaza, a mall located only a few miles from the seminary, and they have shared the Gospel with people from the community who walk around the seminary’s campus each evening. They have also participated in Taking the Hill, Southwestern’s initiative to reach people within the mile-radius of the seminary.
“You don’t have to travel 800 miles to share the Gospel with people,” Preston says. While scattering the seed of God’s Word throughout the city of Monclova, he and Emily remembered the importance of working in fields that are ripe for the harvest in their own community.