Yesterday I had the privilege of attending a luncheon hosted by Baptist University of the Americas. BUA will soon celebrate 60 years of educating pastors and other leaders for service to the church and the world.
I have known of BUA for many years, as a longtime friend of my father's is a vice-president there and because my church endowed the first scholarship to BUA in honor of one of our members. But until yesterday, I had not understood the vital role that this institution plays in Baptist life, and in preparing students to minister in cross-cultural settings in Texas, the United States, and the world.
Formerly known as the Hispanic Baptist Theological Seminary, BUA has been providing theological training Spanish-speaking ministers for six decades. Students come from all over the world, most especially from Latin America. We had the opportunity to hear from a current student, a young man named Cesar. Cesar is from Guatemala performed two wonderful worship songs in Spanish and in English, and shared his testimony of how God is calling him to serve as a music minister.
How important is the work of BUA? In Texas, we know that in the next fifteen years, Latinos will become the majority ethnic group in our state. How many of our pastors are fluent in Spanish? How many are prepared to minister cross-culturally to this growing population? This isn't just an issue on the border; the population of Hispanic citizens and immigrants is increasing throughout the United States, in places like Nashville, Charlotte, and Kenosha, Wisconsin, where a recent BUA graduate planted a church that (after a year!) runs 500-600 in attendance.
V.P. for Advancement Arnie Adkison also told us that BUA is currently educating 229 students. Every graduate of the school's programs is in high demand by state Baptist associations and missions groups that understand the need to reach out to Spanish-speakers in their communities, and to others around the world. Adkison told us that for every student who graduates, there are five jobs that need to be filled.
Clearly, the school's mission is an important one, and something that Baptists everywhere need to support. What are some ways you and your church could help BUA? One is by giving money. BUA is supported by the Cooperative Program dollars through the BGCT, the Texas Baptist state missions offering, and by private donations. Because most students coming to BUA need significant financial aid, the university cannot rely primarily on tuition and fees as a source of revenue. Your church, like mine, might consider giving money for scholarships.
In order to serve more students, BUA is building a new campus across the freeway from its current campus, which the school has rapidly outgrown. This means that the university also needs donations for its capital campaign. The school would like to educate at least five times the number of students it can house now - and clearly the need is there. How neat would it be if Baptist churches could build support for BUA's capital campaign into our own capital campaigns - if, when we decide that we need a new parking garage or family life center or education building, we would also choose to support this vitally important program?
The most important way we can support BUA, of course, is to pray for the university's leaders, professors, staff, and students. The question we were asked yesterday, and the question I am asking you now is this: How can we help students like Cesar respond to God's call in their lives? I think supporting BUA with our prayers and our finances is a great way to start.