From June 2-15, about 15 theology students from Southwestern Adventist University conducted 15 different evangelistic seminars in English and Spanish churches across the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
As a result, 45 decisions for baptism were made by community members, and student evangelists were reporting personal revivals among veterans in every church.
As for themselves, the pastors in training said they walked away feeling inspired and empowered to take the next step in their own spiritual journeys.
The meetings were the culmination of the university’s annual five-week Field School of Evangelism, a required class for upper division theology majors.
This summer, students apprenticed under evangelist David Machado for three weeks in the classroom, as well as in the Hurst Seventh-day Adventist Church where Machado conducted his own series of evangelistic meetings from May 10 through June 1. Machado’s meetings resulted in 40 baptisms, for a total of 85 baptisms.
“Field school teaches students to continue to do public evangelism well into ministry, and equips them to be able to do so,” SWAU assistant professor Buster Swoopes, who taught class with Machado, said.
This year, students were literally equipped by the Southwestern Union Conference and the Texas Conference, as they were provided projectors, suit allowances, books, giveaways and flyers for the meetings. SWAU hosted the students in the dorm, and the SWUC Conference covered gas and stipends for meals.
Students also received plenty of hands-on experience in ministry.
“Field school taught me how to take care of a congregation, how to visit and work with them, and everything that follows,” SWAU theology senior Alexis Mireles said. “It’s helped me understand how ministry really works. I’ve learned that visitation is more important than preaching.”
Swoopes said that while visitation was not required all students were encouraged to knock on doors, and some students had tremendous results.
For instance, recent SWAU graduate Miguel Simo gleaned 12 candidates for baptism from “cold knocking,” water.
“He was running the Dallas meeting, and almost every day he knocked on doors and organically and personally invited the twelve that were baptized to attend the meetings,” Swoopes said. “Often days he came back to class sweaty and tired, but he never missed a day of class. He worked really hard.”
Recent SWAU graduate Samson Sembeba, who ran the Alvarado SDA Church meetings and who has just accepted a pastoral position in Oklahoma, said he wasn’t ready to be an Adventist pastor when he went into the field.
“I knew the beliefs, but I couldn’t break them down from scripture,” Sembeba said. “Doing field school forced me to really study the Bible. I feel like going through this experience has been a revival for me, where I am now confident in the Bible — the Bible is so clear — and it makes me want to stand and proclaim it with everything in my bones. I’m so excited now. Field school changed my life.”
Alexis Mireles, who conducted a seminar in the Crowley Spanish Church, said the experience has changed how he views his calling.
“Before this field school, I was planning to go as a missionary to somewhere remote, like the Amazon, but I realized that there are people right here in the U.S. that don’t know Jesus,” Mireles said. “This has made me be more flexible about my calling. I’ll go wherever God calls, but now I also feel he can bring me people that need to hear the truth right where I am.”
This year marked the 10th anniversary of the field school, which began under the leadership of Dr. Bill Kilgore. Each year the field school visits a different conference in the Southwestern Union. Next year the field school will take place in the Southwest Region Conference,
The field school is a unique component of SWAU’s religion program, setting it apart from its sister schools and providing excellent career preparation for future pastors, missionaries and evangelists.
For information about SWAU’s theology program, visit swau.edu.