CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. — A worship service and banquet on Nov. 6 marked the 75th anniversary of the Baptist Student Center at Southeast Missouri State University — a ministry started in an imperfect time but simply forged ahead.
The BSC began in the latter years of the Great Depression, BSC Director and Chair of Bible Bruce Gentry explained to the volunteers who attended the event.
“This first lesson reminds us that there is no perfect time to start something great — you just have to start and forge ahead,” he said.
Early leaders sacrificed time and funds to launch and sustain the ministry, he added. First Baptist Church in Charleston, Mo., gave A.B. Cooper time off as pastor to raise money for the BSC from throughout the region. S.D. Aubuchon, the first director and Bible chair, received unused vacation pay from Wetzel Memorial Baptist Church, now Kirkwood Baptist, as his first paycheck at the university in 1939.
Six values drive the current ministry — intentional community, intentional hospitality, nurturing a community of learning, leadership development, embracing diversity and sustainability, Gentry explained.
As an expression of intentional hospitality, the ministry currently hosts a free lunch each Thursday and an evening meal on Sunday nights after a chapel service. One week, Japanese students cooked for the large group and shared about their culture, and the following week, German students did the same, he said.
At the event, center leaders unveiled a gallery titled “Faces of the BSC.” The gallery includes Cooper and the BSC’s four directors — Aubuchon, Thomas S. Messer, Andrew L. Pratt and Gentry.
Gentry also highlighted the work of Ron and Ina Winstead, retired missionaries with the Southern Baptist Convention International Mission Board. For seven years, the couple has been offering Bible study in Chinese at the center and networks with Chinese churches in Illinois, Arkansas and Missouri.
“The Baptist Student Center continues to balance ministry and academics and is one of very few places on state university campuses that have this kind of a mission,” Gentry told attendees.
Pointing to Isaiah 43:19 as a favorite text, he noted, “This text really is a reminder that God continues to create. I love the language of ‘new thing’ because it is ambiguous, and we can’t predict what God will do.
“God did a new thing 75 years ago and is continuing to do something new through us.”