Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.—Matthew 28:19–20 (ESV)
Permit me, as is my practice, to get right to the point. Bethlehem College & Seminary needs $185,000 this summer to replenish the Alex Steddom International Student Fund in order to support four seminarians already in-residence and to be able to offer admission to a new grantee for the Fall of 2021. In order to conserve fundraising expenses in the current distressed economic environment, this will be the only appeal we will make this year for the Alex Steddom International Student Fund. So please pray and act now, pray and act later, but in any case…please pray.
Unless you were born before 1948, it is unlikely that you can remember a year like 2020, during which the entire world shared in an obvious sense of common threat. The COVID-19 virus has been seemingly unwilling to distinguish between tribe and tongue, national boundaries, or political ideologies. We—as so many kitschy commercial messages have so often reminded us during these last five months—are “in this together.”
But so we always have been: both threatened and in this together. At this writing, 497,000 souls have perished since the outbreak of the coronavirus in every region of the world, and deaths are expected to continue until, by God’s grace, a remedial vaccine or course of treatment may emerge. One must wonder, how many gasped their last breaths without saving faith in Jesus Christ?
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?
And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?
And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
And how are they to preach unless they are sent?
As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
—Romans 10:14–15 (ESV)
The Alex Steddom International Student Fund was established to provide both a full-tuition scholarship and living expenses to one seminary applicant per year from a region ripe for gospel endeavor, to receive Bethlehem College & Seminary’s Bible-saturated, “Education in Serious Joy” then return to the nations to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ. To gain a rich overview of just how fruitful God has made this initiative thus far, take a few minutes to view the video.
These devoted young men hail from economically distressed communities, without the local or personal means of support sufficient to travel, establish residence in the U.S., or pay tuition. The stipulations of their student visas preclude them from being employed anywhere other than here at the school, and while all are engaged in some manner of work-study while here, we still depend on the benevolence of saints like you to meet their modest needs during their tutelage. All of them have been magnetized toward the cause of Christian Hedonism (“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him”) by the astounding global outreach of Chancellor John Piper’s ministry at desiringGod.org. By God’s grace, they will leave here equipped for the role of biblical eldership, competent and faithful in the handling of God’s word, and enflamed with hope for nations to which they will return.
The first recipient of the Alex Steddom International Student Fund was Dr. Dieudonné Tamfu of Cameroon. We rejoice to tell you that in May just past he led the first group of Cameroonian seminarians at Bethlehem College & Seminary-Yaoundé through their first year of studies amid the disruptions of the global pandemic and a civil war between the national government and a separatist independence movement. But he wasn’t the only Steddom recipient to experience pandemic and civil unrest this year.
Right here in Minneapolis, where our campus sits within walking distance of the site of the horrible death of Mr. George Floyd, three current seminarians from three different continents found themselves pulled by the competing physics of rigorous academic requirements, virus-mitigating shelter-in-place orders, and large-scale protest demonstrations and civil unrest. What a blessing it has been to our wider Bethlehem College & Seminary and local church community to have Rene González of El Salvador, Zau Naw of Myanmar, and Chinechetam Ogazi of Nigeria leading us in worship during the livestream season when Governor Walz had us all worshipping from home. Even the more so when photos appeared from a peaceful gathering of church leaders from all around the Twin Cities, and we saw our own Chinechetam Ogazi leading the whole community in a service of lamentation and prayer.
Under current international travel restrictions, we might have supposed that we wouldn’t be able to welcome an Alex Steddom International Student Fund grantee this August when classes reassemble. But God in his providence and mercy found a young man from Indonesia, already studying here in the U.S., who will join us this school year. We are eager for you to get to know Benaya Ariel of Jakarta, this year’s recipient of the Alex Steddom International Student Fund grant.
Cameroon, El Salvador, Myanmar, Nigeria, Indonesia—where will God next direct this initiative? It is all up to him, but he will use us as his means.
Here is the objective essence of the one-and-only appeal that we will make in 2020, recognizing that we are in a season in which financial resources are strained and likely best deployed close to home:
By God’s grace, through your generosity, we have sufficient resources in hand
to support the seminarians to whom we have already made commitments for the current school year.
What hangs in the balance
is whether or not we can accept a new international student
for the coming year.
That’s why we’re writing. the process of a new student’s VISA application requirements, as well as preparatory Greek instruction which the student must complete before arriving, has caused us heretofore to make an admissions decision in July of the preceding year of matriculation. At this writing, we do not have a balance in the Alex Steddom International Fund to evidence good stewardship and financial responsibility in making such a commitment to a new student. Consequently, we’re extending our admissions decision date to September in the hope that sufficient generosity might still be expressed, even in this season of recession, so that we might yet add another international student in August 2021.
And so you have it. We never intend to pressure, coerce, poor-mouth, or express anything other than an absolute confidence in God to meet the needs of his ministries on earth and fulfill his purposes in redemption. How blessed we are to be drawn into the work of his works, while it is day, and how eager we will be to report to you again about how much he has done to prosper this particular endeavor to bring gospel light to places where the darkness remains so grievously dense.
His servant and yours,
Vice President of Advancement & Distinguished Lecturer of Commerce and Vocation
- Pray that God would provide the funds to bring Benaya Ariel to seminary this fall.
- Pray that God would grant wisdom to those planning the return of students and faculty next month.
- Pray that God would be preparing our new students as they prepare to move and begin classes next month.