Astonished, Yet Not In Disbelief


By God’s amazing grace, the Alex Steddom International Student Fund has been sufficiently funded by to meet the extraordinary financial needs of two new seminary students—one from El Salvador and the other from Myanmar—who attended their first classes at Bethlehem College & Seminary this week. René Gonzalez, Zau Naw, their brothers in the seminary cohort, the entire faculty and staff, and I join in lifting thanksgiving to God for the waterfall of grace that he has poured over Heaven’s threshold on and into the lives of these students and our school.

Our prayer for this fund, launched in 2016, was that God might supply $25,000 before school started this year, such that we could admit the first international student requiring additional support, beyond that afforded by the Serious Joy Scholarship available to all students. We also prayed that over the next four years an annually replenishing fund of $100,000 might take shape to support four students, one in each seminary cohort.

Meanwhile, God moved to effect the unexpected enrollment of a second student, requiring that we now have $50,000 in place this year, instead.

Over the Summer, when attentions typically span things more diversionary than fundraising appeals, the Lord nevertheless brought focus on this need and stirred the hearts of the extended Bethlehem College & Seminary community such that—at this writing—over $110,000 has been placed at the service of this initiative to recruit and support seminarians from places and people groups strategic to the gospel. This means that not only were the needs of these two students met for this year, but we will head into next year better prepared for whatever the Lord may will.

Again, the Alex Steddom International Student Fund was conceived as an annually replenishing fund of $100,000. We had not anticipated that the fund would reach its full initial funding until 2020. Instead it reached scale by year two. We marvel with astonishment, but not in disbelief. As Dr. Sam Storms, one our the school’s Trustees once said, “It has always seemed entirely reasonable that God would honor the work of this school.” This is not presumption in the slightest, rather our unshakeable confidence in God’s passion for his own glory.

In the biblical account of the disciples’ unprofitable fishing venture described in Luke 5, Jesus told the disappointed anglers to “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” (Luke 5:4b) Simon relied on Jesus’ word in the face of a full night of empty nets, but when the boats returned so full of fish that they began to sink, Simon Peter abased himself crying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.”(Luke 5:8b) Simon Peter believed that Jesus could do what he and his fellows could not do, but when Christ actually did it, he was both astonished at the miracle and convicted by his unexpressed disbelief. He was ashamed at being still surprised at what he knew in advance Christ could so easily do. We look upon God’s movement in filling of the Alex Steddom International Student Fund with holy astonishment, awestruck and affirmed in our faith, but not surprised by what he can and will do for his own glory and our joy.

Some of these funds will be drawn down during the next year. Absent a $2.5 million endowment gift that might fund this need in perpetuity, we expect to be back next summer making a new need known. For now, we move on to the more daunting work of funding 250 Serious Joy Scholarships of $10,000 each for the current school year, unflinching in our faith that God will again supply all our needs, and overflowing with gratitude for being enveloped in a community of such Christ-exalting friends and benefactors.

Rick Segal

Vice President of Advancement & Distinguished Lecturer of Commerce and Vocation.

Prayer Requests

  1. Praise the Lord for the overflow of contributions for the Alex Steddom International Student Fund.
  2. Pray that all 250 Serious Joy Scholarships would be filled for the coming academic year.
  3. Pray that our incoming freshman class grows closer to the Lord and each other on their retreat this weekend.
  4. Pray for all our students and faculty as they fall into the rhythms of a new school year.