In 1916, ten young men formed the first class of students at the NSW Baptist Theological College. Their class photo shows them posing in suits and ties with serious determination and formality. Noticeably, all they are male and mono-ethnic; a stark contrast to our college community today. It, of course, captures a moment in time. It cannot share their desire to share their faith in Jesus. It doesn’t tell of the lasting legacy of George Morling, after whom the College is now named, or how Victor White went to serve with the Australian Baptist Missionary Society (ABMS) in India, Pakistan and Papua New Guinea. It cannot look forward two years to the presence of Effie Stead who enrolled as the first female student training for cross-cultural mission.
This old class photo does, however, highlight how much has changed. Morling College, like many other Theological and Bible colleges, has responded in gospel-shaped faith and obedience to changes we’ve witnessed in our world, our neighbourhoods and our churches. Our courses, areas and modes of study have diversified. Our residential campus is now a home for ninety university students from sixteen nations. Our classes include robust discussions about how various theological, cultural, and historical perspectives can inform us. Our open campus welcomes our neighbours. Our students and alumni serve around the globe in churches, in workplaces and in cross-cultural mission.
We have an opportunity now to pay attention to the world around us, to listen and learn from people’s stories, and to consider how we can respond to God’s faithful work amongst us.
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One example is our 2019 Senior Student, Nanu Mugai. Nanu was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya and has been studying a Bachelor of Ministry since 2017. Nanu currently serves as the student minister at Blacktown Baptist Church, with a particular focus on children’s ministry. From young adulthood, Nanu felt God calling her to serve his church. Nanu remembers how, after a yearlong church internship, God asked her “Nanu, what if Meru (a rural town in Kenya) is the first of many places I will require you to go and all I want from you is obedience?”. She reflects, “that question has spurred my obedience to go where God directed me, and I guess my one year isn’t finished”. She says “I arrived in Australia as a major step of faith, trusting God to guide me, protect me and provide for me. I have not been disappointed yet and I don’t think I ever will.” Her desire is that God would constantly show her how He is working “in and through broken lives but more so that I would accept his invitation to join Him in being a part of that healing.”
Ecashia Jacob’s story also reflects the way that God leads us in our changing world. Ecashia was born and raised in Singapore and raised Chinese. She is a third generation Christian with a “big, big love for Jesus”. Eleven years ago, together with her family, she sensed the strong call of God to move to Sydney. This year, she joined the Morling staff as our Overseas Student Advisor. As she works pastorally and administratively with students she helps them to “translate missionally what is on paper into action”, encouraging holistic formation so that students are sent into our changing world further along their journey than when they first started.
“Our world is changing” is the first sentence of Church Without Borders written by Mathew Kuruvilla and published by Morling Press this year. This statement is true in 2019 just as it was over a century ago. As Senior Pastor of Parkside Baptist in Sydney for over 30 years Mathew has seen great changes but also great opportunities. He encourages us to have a conversation about what it means to “make disciples of all nations – and about the growing need for our churches, in this ever-changing world to model the diversity of heaven in our local communities”.
It is not only old photos that remind us of how much our world has changed. We have an opportunity now to pay attention to the world around us, to listen and learn from people’s stories, and to consider how we can respond to God’s faithful work amongst us. At Morling College, as we equip and shape Christ-centred followers to impact the world, we are both excited and challenged by God’s invitation to join him in this mission.
Gayle Kent is Chief Community Life Officer at Morling College.