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Home / News and Information / News - June 2005 / Missionaries hope to have planted seeds in BPC students

Missionaries hope to have planted seeds in BPC students, program

By Terry Gaston
BPC Public Relations

The inaugural year of Brewton-Parker College’s missionaries-in-residence program has come to an end, and Douglas and Rebecca McHenry hope they have planted seeds for both a budding program and in many students’ lives as they return to the Caribbean mission field.

The McHenrys began their stateside assignment at Brewton-Parker in August after spending the past six years in Kingston, Jamaica. Their year at Brewton-Parker, from where Douglas received an associate degree in 1974, included their teaching a course on Cross Cultural Ministries, believed to be the first type of missions-based course offered at Brewton-Parker.

Rebecca McHenry (seated), missionary-in-residence at Brewton-Parker College for 2004-05 along with husband Douglas, portrays a French port station representative who encounters American students who have various language or physical disabilities in their efforts to enter France during an activity in the McHenrys' Cross Cultural Ministries course this spring at Brewton-Parker. (Photo by Terry Gaston)

Besides using the basic textbook and handout article methods of teaching, the McHenrys used classroom experiences to educate their students on breaking down many of the barriers that hinder the development of personal relationships with others.

“The point of the class was, what it takes to reach across a cultural barrier, and that can be political, economic or even what state you are from,” Douglas McHenry said. “Every culture can be Christian but be divided by different cultures.”

During one class, the McHenrys invited a retired missionary couple from the Caribbean island nation of Trinidad and Tobago to conduct an activity that would expose the students to the world’s fourth-largest people group, the hearing impaired.

Tuffy and Doris Goforth’s ministry in the Caribbean included the opening of doors to a previously unrealized population of 10,000 deaf citizens in the nation of 1.3 million.

To demonstrate to the students the disadvantages that disabled people, not just the deaf, the McHenrys and Goforths challenged the students to overcome temporary disabilities in order to receive a missions passport in their respective communities.

Students had their fingers, hands, arms, mouths or legs taped to limit their mobilities. Each student also had an audio player with headphones to drown out any outside noise to represent deafness.

The class was split and sent to either a port station representing either France or the Community of the Deaf. Each student then had to get a box filled with books that Douglas McHenry said represented the students’ burden they feel to share the gospel.
When the students arrived in the Deaf Community station, they were greeted by the Goforths who spoke only in sign language. Some students improvised by writing letters out with their fingers, and others who were blindfolded used the assistance of sighted companions.

Rebecca McHenry conducted business in the French station, where she passed out questionnaires in French. One of the barriers she created, however, was when students responded on their questionnaire for their reason of entering the country as being missions, they were denied.

The general consensus from students in the discussion that followed the venture was frustration in accomplishing the task, whether it was in overcoming the language barrier either in French or sign language or carrying the burden box with their usual abilities temporarily disabled.

Still, others embraced the opportunity to learn from the experience, with one expressing a desire to learn more sign language during the activity. Others who could still see cherished the fact that they could, and sympathized with those that were blindfolded as well as had their hearing eliminated during the task.

Other presenters during the semester included Dr. Ben Lang, an African-American consultant for new church development ministries for the Georgia Baptist Convention and Rev. Jim McCain, a former area pastor who crossed cultural barriers when he became an associate pastor at an African-American church in Birmingham, Ala.

Presenters also included a representative of Caribbean Hispanics and a Lebanese native who worked with Muslims.

“Most issues that we consider racial issues are more in the differences of culture,” Douglas McHenry said. “We wanted guest speakers who could enlighten students of the barriers that Christians in America endure when crossing into different cultures. America is a very multicultural country, but we are always adding cultures.”

Another means many of the students discovered cultural differences was by spending time with families who are relatively new to the United States. Students stayed with refugee families in the Atlanta area who were originally from Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ghana, Iran, the Philippines and Somalia.

“Some of the families were Christians, but some were Muslims and Buddhists and one was Hare Krishna,” Rebecca McHenry said. “The students had to dress as the host families dressed and had to eat what the family ate. If they covered their heads, the students had to cover their heads. Most sat on the floor to eat, and most of the homes were unclean.”

Others completed that phase of the project when they participated on a mission trip to Belarus during spring break. “They all had a list of questions they had to ask their host families and had to write about their final experiences,” Rebecca McHenry said. “Most enjoyed it but were pretty humbled by it.”

Students also had to interview four other people of different cultures, which Rebecca McHenry said included the chance for them to become more acquainted with international students on the Brewton-Parker campus.

In their final class session in May, the McHenrys conducted a commissioning service, during which each student was presented with a certificate on which Douglas McHenry had included that student’s greatest personal insight from the class along with a complementing Bible verse.

“We challenged them to be cross-cultural ministers the rest of their lives,” he said.

The service also included a foot-washing ceremony. “It is all about giving,” Douglas McHenry said. “You are there to give your life for them, wherever God takes you.”

“It was a great year,” Rebecca McHenry said. “We really enjoyed being with the students.”

Douglas McHenry added: “We learned a lot. I think the missionary-in-residence program is in its infancy and needs further development, but you don’t create a kingdom without first touching lives. Hopefully a missions tradition has begun at Brewton-Parker.”

The McHenrys will return to the Caribbean for a four-year tour to serve as church planters on the island of St. Lucia, where they will minister to the Lucian-Creole speaking population, which has just had the Bible translated for it.

“Doug and Rebecca McHenry returned home to Brewton-Parker College as our first missionaries in residence, and helped us to solidify an experience that enriches the experiences of students, and will add a wonderful resource to our region as this program develops,” said Dr. David R. Smith, Brewton-Parker’s president. “I am grateful for their service and will be praying for their ministry in St. Lucia when they return to the mission field.”

-BPC-

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The mission of Brewton-Parker College, a Georgia Baptist college, is to develop the whole student through the application of Biblically-centered truth to a liberal arts curriculum in a community of shared Christian values.
 
Brewton-Parker College is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award associate and baccalaureate degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Brewton-Parker College.
 
Updated on: April 15, 2010 8:26 PM