Editor's Note: For years, Southern Baptists have supported SBC missions and ministries by faithfully contributing through the Cooperative Program. The following articles illustrate how God uses your faithful giving to accomplish His Kingdom work.
Taking the Heart-Healing Gospel to the Nation's Capitol
According to Michael L. Trammell, MBTS doctoral graduate of 1989 and 2007 alumnus of the year, his journey of learning to relate to people in different life situations that began at Midwestern has proven to be invaluable in his ministry to those living in the high-stress environment "in the shadow of the nation's capitol." Since 1991, Trammell has served as pastor of Mt. Airy Baptist Church, a medium-sized Southern Baptist congregation in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area.
Coming to Midwestern was not a "snap" decision for Trammell, however; he considered the DMin program at other seminaries as well. A couple of factors, including the breadth of Midwestern's program, finally brought him to MBTS.
"The generalist approach that Midwestern offered appealed to me because its five seminars were more broad-based and touched on more of the many skills a local pastor needed to minister in a local church environment," said Trammell. "In short, I wanted my DMin to provide me with a wide-ranging set of practical, hands-on tools. And the extension program, utilizing the regional centers such as Little Rock, was more convenient, meaning less time away from home."
Much of the value of his experience was sharing the educational journey with his fellow students and co-laborers in the doctoral seminar setting, an appropriate change of pace from the formal classroom setting.
"I learned to use a lot of ministry tools that have served me, and hopefully the Kingdom, well in the years that have followed," said Trammell. "The doctoral seminar structure is really just a platform for dialogue and interaction between these men who are laboring side-by-side in their churches during the week, dealing with the challenges of being a pastor ... the professors are like the conductors of a symphony who lead the orchestra without actually playing the instruments."
As is the case with a journey, though, it goes on. Trammell said that the skills he acquired at Midwestern have made it possible for his learning experience to continue.
There certainly is plenty to learn and experience for a Midwestern, Bible Belt-born minister ministering in Northeastern suburbia.
"In many ways it [my ministry] is a textbook for contextualization in ministry, which I first learned about at Midwestern," said Trammell. "This area is not the Bible Belt. Our area is a bedroom community to the nation's capitol with some of the longest commute times in the nation. Many of the men in our church leave home for work before daylight and get home after dark. This lifestyle is pretty hard on families."
Trammell's ministry in this area is based on a deep-seated conviction that "the Gospel is supra-cultural" and that God has placed him there to feed the flock and make disciples. In a place of unbelievably high real estate prices, taxes, and cost of living, where Roman Catholicism predominates and Baptists are rare and unfavorably-viewed, and from which people flee as soon as they reach retirement age, Trammell is committed to conveying the Gospel message that the hearts of those Northeastern suburbanites God places in his path might be healed.
"I think my Midwestern DMin experience has given me again a breadth of understanding about people that I otherwise would not have had," said Trammell. "Many of the life issues I confront here, in the shadow of the nation's capitol, I first studied about at Midwestern."
Trammell continues his contact with MBTS as a supportive alumnus, calling the present Midwestern's "finest hour."
"I am so thankful that we have a leader with the stature of Dr. Phil Roberts," said Trammell. "And the seminary's faculty, I believe, is as good as it has ever been and is as strong as any seminary anywhere! I would say it is a great time to consider Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary! I would say it is a great time to come to the Heartland and develop ministry skills for a lifetime of Christian service."
Prior to his current pastoral position, Trammell served in the United States Army and two Arkansas pastorates. He has been involved at the associational, state, and national Baptist levels. His bachelor's degree was earned at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, and he received an MDiv degree at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis, Tennessee, before entering the doctoral program at MBTS.
Reprinted with permission from The Midwestern, Fall 2007.
Kingdom Commitment with Midwestern Roots
Looking back half a century, Donald Kammerdiener calls himself a "hometown Kansas City boy." He grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, and met his future wife there while they were both in high school. However, when Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary opened its doors in 1957, Kammerdiener was a state away, ministering with his wife at a church in Oklahoma. Kammerdiener sensed that they needed additional education to pursue their calling to missions in South America — the question was where to seek that training.
Kammerdiener and his wife prayerfully considered their options. No burning bush-type sign appeared, so Kammerdiener finally chose to return to Kansas City, and resigned from his pastorate in Oklahoma. The same day, he got a call from an inner city church in Kansas City, offering him a position as pastor. Apparently, Kammerdiener observed, Kansas City was where God wanted them after all.
A member of Midwestern's first class, Kammerdiener attended the school from 1958 to 1962. He particularly enjoyed courses in church history and theology, and occasionally found ways to free up his wife so she could visit his classes. "I didn't want to grow apart from her in the things we were thinking," he said. "I wanted us to share the same theological foundations."
By this time, Kammerdiener was the father of two children as well as a fulltime student and pastor, but he and his wife had their focus fixed on Latin America. "It wasn't a question of 'finding ourselves,' as so many students seemed to be doing," Kammerdiener said. "Our goal was just getting the basic tools and being on our way."
Kammerdiener and his wife had planned their missionary career while still in high school. In attending Midwestern, Kammerdiener wanted an education that would prepare him for what he would encounter in South America. "I had a high-quality preparation for a mission career," he said. "I was never lacking for basic tools in the work I was called to."
In May 1962, Kammerdiener graduated from Midwestern and was appointed as a missionary in October of the same year. He and his family spent most of 1963 in language school in Costa Rica before reaching the Colombian mission field in 1964. During his seven years in Colombia, Kammerdiener planted churches, led Baptist camps, and provided biblical training to Colombian laymen. He spent the next ten years in Argentina, where he took on additional administrative work while starting three new Baptist churches. Kammerdiener spent the last forty years of his career working with the International Mission Board before retiring in 2002.
With the benefit of six decades of service, Kammerdiener encourages leaders to begin their training with a strong sense of purpose. "I think a commitment to the Lord is not something you should still be experimenting with when you get to seminary," he said. "The exact place of your service — not everyone needs to know that — but dedication to the Kingdom of God should not be experimental."
Kammerdiener believes the seminary is well-prepared for the years ahead. "I am very optimistic about the future of Midwestern," he said. "It's in the best shape it's been in fifty years. The leadership and faculty have a focus that is appropriate, and I have the most confidence in the school's direction that I've ever had."
Reprinted with permission from The Midwestern, Summer 2007.