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Missionaries hope to have planted seeds in BPC students
Missionaries hope to have planted seeds in BPC students, program
By Terry Gaston
BPC Public Relations
The inaugural year of Brewton-Parker College’s missionaries-in-residence
program has come to an end, and Douglas and Rebecca McHenry hope they have
planted seeds for both a budding program and in many students’ lives
as they return to the Caribbean mission field.
The McHenrys began their stateside assignment at Brewton-Parker in August
after spending the past six years in Kingston, Jamaica. Their year at Brewton-Parker,
from where Douglas received an associate degree in 1974, included their teaching
a course on Cross Cultural Ministries, believed to be the first type of missions-based
course offered at Brewton-Parker.
|Rebecca McHenry (seated), missionary-in-residence
at Brewton-Parker College for 2004-05 along with husband Douglas, portrays
a French port station representative who encounters American students who
have various language or physical disabilities in their efforts to enter
France during an activity in the McHenrys' Cross Cultural Ministries course
this spring at Brewton-Parker. (Photo by Terry Gaston)
Besides using the basic textbook and handout article methods of teaching,
the McHenrys used classroom experiences to educate their students on breaking
down many of the barriers that hinder the development of personal relationships
“The point of the class was, what it takes to reach across a cultural
barrier, and that can be political, economic or even what state you are from,” Douglas
McHenry said. “Every culture can be Christian but be divided by different
During one class, the McHenrys invited a
retired missionary couple from the Caribbean island nation of Trinidad and
Tobago to conduct an activity that
would expose the students to the world’s fourth-largest people group,
the hearing impaired.
Tuffy and Doris Goforth’s ministry
in the Caribbean included the opening of doors to a previously unrealized
population of 10,000 deaf citizens in the
nation of 1.3 million.
To demonstrate to the students the disadvantages that disabled people, not
just the deaf, the McHenrys and Goforths challenged the students to overcome
temporary disabilities in order to receive a missions passport in their respective
Students had their fingers, hands, arms, mouths or legs taped to limit their
mobilities. Each student also had an audio player with headphones to drown
out any outside noise to represent deafness.
The class was split and sent to either a
port station representing either France or the Community of the Deaf. Each
student then had to get a box filled
with books that Douglas McHenry said represented the students’ burden
they feel to share the gospel.
When the students arrived in the Deaf Community station, they were greeted
by the Goforths who spoke only in sign language. Some students improvised by
writing letters out with their fingers, and others who were blindfolded used
the assistance of sighted companions.
Rebecca McHenry conducted business in the French station, where she passed
out questionnaires in French. One of the barriers she created, however, was
when students responded on their questionnaire for their reason of entering
the country as being missions, they were denied.
The general consensus from students in the discussion that followed the venture
was frustration in accomplishing the task, whether it was in overcoming the
language barrier either in French or sign language or carrying the burden box
with their usual abilities temporarily disabled.
Still, others embraced the opportunity to learn from the experience, with
one expressing a desire to learn more sign language during the activity. Others
who could still see cherished the fact that they could, and sympathized with
those that were blindfolded as well as had their hearing eliminated during
Other presenters during the semester included Dr. Ben Lang, an African-American
consultant for new church development ministries for the Georgia Baptist Convention
and Rev. Jim McCain, a former area pastor who crossed cultural barriers when
he became an associate pastor at an African-American church in Birmingham,
Presenters also included a representative of Caribbean Hispanics and a Lebanese
native who worked with Muslims.
“Most issues that we consider racial issues are more in the differences
of culture,” Douglas McHenry said. “We wanted guest speakers who
could enlighten students of the barriers that Christians in America endure
when crossing into different cultures. America is a very multicultural country,
but we are always adding cultures.”
Another means many of the students discovered cultural differences was by
spending time with families who are relatively new to the United States. Students
stayed with refugee families in the Atlanta area who were originally from Afghanistan,
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ghana, Iran, the Philippines and Somalia.
“Some of the families were Christians, but some were Muslims and Buddhists
and one was Hare Krishna,” Rebecca McHenry said. “The students
had to dress as the host families dressed and had to eat what the family ate.
If they covered their heads, the students had to cover their heads. Most sat
on the floor to eat, and most of the homes were unclean.”
Others completed that phase of the project
when they participated on a mission trip to Belarus during spring break. “They all had a list of questions
they had to ask their host families and had to write about their final experiences,” Rebecca
McHenry said. “Most enjoyed it but were pretty humbled by it.”
Students also had to interview four other people of different cultures, which
Rebecca McHenry said included the chance for them to become more acquainted
with international students on the Brewton-Parker campus.
In their final class session in May, the
McHenrys conducted a commissioning service, during which each student was
presented with a certificate on which
Douglas McHenry had included that student’s greatest personal insight
from the class along with a complementing Bible verse.
“We challenged them to be cross-cultural ministers the rest of their
lives,” he said.
The service also included a foot-washing
ceremony. “It is all about
giving,” Douglas McHenry said. “You are there to give your life
for them, wherever God takes you.”
“It was a great year,” Rebecca McHenry said. “We
really enjoyed being with the students.”
Douglas McHenry added: “We learned a lot. I think the missionary-in-residence
program is in its infancy and needs further development, but you don’t
create a kingdom without first touching lives. Hopefully a missions tradition
has begun at Brewton-Parker.”
The McHenrys will return to the Caribbean for a four-year tour to serve as
church planters on the island of St. Lucia, where they will minister to the
Lucian-Creole speaking population, which has just had the Bible translated
“Doug and Rebecca McHenry returned home to Brewton-Parker College as
our first missionaries in residence, and helped us to solidify an experience
that enriches the experiences of students, and will add a wonderful resource
to our region as this program develops,” said Dr. David R. Smith, Brewton-Parker’s
president. “I am grateful for their service and will be praying for their
ministry in St. Lucia when they return to the mission field.”