We thank all our planned-gift donors for their generous support. Here are some of their stories.
John Carlson considers himself just an average guy who is obedient to share his faith with someone when God presses it on his heart. An engineer by trade, Carlson is the epitome of a faithful, personal witness for Jesus Christ wherever life takes him. Whether he is flying in an airplane or working in a manufacturing plant, he always looks for opportunities to share the Gospel.
Carlson first became involved with Southwestern through his friendship with former evangelism professor Malcolm McDow. Carlson and his wife, Pat, have demonstrated their commitment to evangelism through financial support of Southwestern's Spring Evangelism Practicum, which sends students to churches outside of the Bible Belt to preach week-long revivals during spring break.
"It's a good program because there's nothing like getting out there and doing it," Carlson says. "You can talk about evangelism until you're blue in the face, but it's 100 times better when you get out there and do it. Once you see it change people's lives, it will change your life.
"I think one of the big benefits of the spring practicum is that it gets the preachers out to the pioneer areas of the country, where they probably would never go. They go on the spring practicum, and then they get a heart for churches in the middle of nowhere."
Southwestern is honored to have friends like John and Pat Carlson, who passionately support the seminary's heart for evangelism and who model this same spirit in their own personal lives.
John Carlson is founder and president of Carlson Engineering, which designs, constructs, and installs equipment used by the nation's leading food, beverage, and dairy manufacturers, such as Dreyer's and Coca-Cola. Although his home and office are in Fort Worth, Carlson travels extensively for projects, which often require him to live outside of Fort Worth for months at a time. Despite this strange travel schedule, he makes it a point to connect with a local church near the project along with faithfully serving his home church in Fort Worth when he is in town.
Carlson especially enjoys going with the church to visit people in their homes, noting, "If I'm in town, I'll be at visitation." He is committed to making himself available to share with people whom God puts in his path. "It's God's job to save them," he says. "All I've got to do is tell them. You never know who is sitting next to you, and you never know what their spiritual condition is."
Carlson recalls one such situation when he was working at a plant in Modesto, Calif. He was programming equipment one Saturday, and the only other person in the plant was a maintenance man named Jim, with whom he had developed a relationship.
While they were working, Jim told him about a dream he had the night before about dying. Carlson used the opportunity to begin talking with Jim about God. He bought Jim a Bible, and their conversations progressed over the next several weeks. Finally, Carlson invited Jim to a church near Jim's home. They visited the church together, and Jim recognized several people in the church, including the pastor's son, who was a volunteer firefighter with Jim.
Eventually, Carlson finished the project and returned home. Three months later, he received a call from Jim, who said, "Hey Big John, I just wanted to call you and tell you that I was baptized yesterday, my wife was baptized yesterday, and my two nieces were baptized yesterday."
"Now that will get you fired up," Carlson says as he recalls the story. "I wasn't there when he got saved, but I was there when he told me about his dream. You just see how God works. God uses a half dozen people a lot of times to intervene in a person's life."
One of Carlson's fondest memories happened with his daughter several years ago. One day, she said, "Dad, I have a lot of friends who aren't Christians, but I don't know how to talk to them." He and she began attending the Evangelism Explosion classes in their church together.
Carlson recalls the impact those classes had on him and his daughter: "For 13 weeks, I never missed a Tuesday. I flew in on Tuesday, and I flew out Wednesday morning a lot of weeks, but I never missed one week for 13 weeks. It was probably one of the best times of my entire life."
Carlson tells story after story of how God has used common circumstances and conversations to open doors of salvation in other's lives. He has led people to the Lord on airplanes, in break rooms, and in people's homes. He uses a variety of methods to share the Gospel, including sharing his testimony, using a witnessing presentation or tract, and inviting people to church.
Above all, Carlson says, "People are open. You just have to be open to share with them." He considers evangelism as every Christian's responsibility, regardless of the methods they use. "Everyone is an evangelist, either a good one or a bad one," he says, adding, "People will see your life."
Louie and Meifeng Lu
Membership: Birchman Baptist Church, Fort Worth
Ministry: Chinese Baptist Church, Fort Worth
Louie was born in China.
Meifeng was born in Taiwan.
Arriving in America with only $40, Louie gained a scholarship for a graduate program in physics, graduating in 1987. Four years later, Louie accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. A year after that, he founded Yangtze International, Inc., a nowfluorishing company specializing in importing custom-made products from China.
Southwesterners were key in leading Louie and Meifeing to faith in Jesus Christ and introducing them to each other. "We can't count the number of friends we have that graduated from Southwestern," Meifeng said. "We are so blessed by our association with the seminary."
Louie is a member of the Southwestern Advisory Council, the Presidents Club and a major sponsor of the annual Gala Concert of Sacred Music. He has fully funded the Miles and Jeanne Seaborn Scholarship for International Students, an endowment that provides tuition for Chinese or Southeast Asian students enrolled at Southwestern.
"I can't think of a better return than investing in Southwestern," said Louie, whose passion for personal evangelism shines through every part of his life. "Seminary students will be future missionaries or pastors who will share the gospel all over the world for years to come."
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is grateful to Louie and Meifeng Lu for their support.
Little did Clif and JoAn Hale know that the untimely death of their only child would eventually bear fruit in seeing the Gospel preached across North America.
After a time of uncertainty about what to do next, their friend and former pastor, Bob Rich, a Southwestern graduate, encouraged them to consider investing in eternity through giving to the seminary.
"When our only child passed away, it changed everything," says JoAn. "Bob knew we were struggling with this, and he suggested that we talk to the seminary about making a bequest."
After speaking with representatives at the seminary, the Hales decided to create a planned gift toward the Spring Revival Evangelism Practicum, a yearly program that sends Southwestern students outside of the Bible Belt to preach revivals.
They experienced firsthand the need for the Gospel outside the Bible Belt when they lived in Maryland, where Clif worked for the Atomic Energy Commission.
"One of the things that attracted us to the spring practicum was that when we got to Maryland, we realized how few people up there even get the true Gospel," JoAn says.
"When you think of missionaries," Clif adds, "you don't think of them in your home. You think of foreign missionaries going to China and Tanzania and places like that, and that's what missions always meant to me. But, good grief, look at all the mission opportunities there are within our own boundaries, and it seems like they get overlooked."
Following their time in Maryland, the Hales returned to Texas, where Clif worked for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as the senior project manager in licensing during the Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant construction.
Today, they are members of First Baptist Church in Lakeside, Texas. Clif teaches a large Sunday school class, and the Hales lead the seniors group at the church.
"We've been teaching for a long time, and as we've gotten older, they've gotten older with us, so we've kind of evolved into working with seniors," Clif says.
The Hales are members of the Naylor Society and Distinguished Life members of the President's Club at Southwestern. They feel blessed to have recently seen the impact their planned gift will have on reaching people with the Gospel.
"We were invited to a luncheon at the seminary, and we had the privilege of being in chapel when they had prayer for the young men who were going out on the spring practicum," JoAn says. "It was just great to see those men lined up along the stage and have prayer for them. It brings it closer to home when you have a privilege of putting a face with that name."
Noting the desperate need for believers to support the work of Gospel-centered seminaries, Clif says, "I wish there was some way to get that message across to the general population of Christians. I know there's got to be a dozen people facing the same problem we were faced with: What are we going to do with our estate? We only had one child and the Lord took him home long before us, so now, what are we going to do?
"That's when we started thinking, 'It's God's work that's going to go on, and we can have a part in that.'"
"It doesn't matter if they remember who put it there," JoAn adds. "It just matters if they can spread the light."
Southwestern is grateful for the investment of Christians like Clif and JoAn Hale, which advances the Gospel to North America and to the ends of the earth.