NEW WHITELAND, Ind.–Criswell College students attending the Southern Baptist Convention and pre-convention evangelistic outreach learned firsthand how God redirected their plans to suit his purposes amid dangerous floodwaters surrounding the church they were to help.
Assigned to conduct revival services and evangelistic outreach for New Whiteland Baptist Church south of Indianapolis and later engaged in the kind of street witnessing they’d done in Dallas, the 13 students saw at least a dozen people profess faith in Christ. The annual pre-convention evangelistic thrust known as Crossover saw 759 people saved as 500 volunteers from across the country braved a rain-soaked weekend.
Long before the weekend of June 6-8, God had prepared the heart of an Indiana pastor to accept the call to pastor a small-town church. The students he would meet from Criswell were prepared to minister. It was more than a coincidence that legendary Dallas pastor W.A. Criswell had a hand in influencing the pastor to accept the New Whiteland Baptist Church assignment as well as laying the foundation for the college from where the students learned to be flexible in going where God leads.
GOING WHERE GOD LEADS
In the fall of 1991, Daniel Moore attended a state convention meeting in Indiana where Criswell was preaching. He sought the famous pastor’s counsel regarding an opportunity to serve the New Whiteland church for less pay, a decision Moore’s own pastor had advised against.
“I was upset because I always thought you should go where the Lord wants you to go,” Moore shared with the Criswell College students assigned to conduct evangelistic outreach.
“After W.A. Criswell got done preaching, I told him the story and asked what I should do,” Moore recounted. “He told me, ‘Son, you just do what the Lord’s calling you to do,’ and so I told him I was going to do it,” later resigning the Indianapolis position to begin his ministry in New Whiteland.
Having served the church for the past 16 years, Moore recognized God’s providence in giving him the Criswell students on a weekend that would test their endurance.
“They learned in this experience that we may have our plans but sometimes God interrupts those plans and we have an opportunity to minister in a different way,” explained Bobby Worthington, evangelism professor at Criswell College and director of the Encounter Missions program that trains students to witness in any circumstance. “You need to respond quickly and think about the community,” he advised them. “The church is a lighthouse and we’re to respond to help people in need.”
Though he’d planned to send the students into the surrounding neighborhood to distribute VBS flyers, Moore redirected them to assist residents threatened by the floodwaters, while advising police that the church would serve as a safe haven for displaced neighbors.
“I never heard one of them complain about wading in water or anything else,” Moore told the TEXAN as he reflected on the students’ efforts. “We couldn’t have done it without them.”
At press time, ministry continued following the flooding as Moore served as a disaster relief chaplain, tackling spiritual needs in the wake of the natural disaster.
“I’ve never seen anything like that before,” recalled student Jason Thomas. “While we were going out it was almost waist-high water.”
He and other students checked on elderly residents to tell them of the availability of New Whiteland Baptist church as a shelter.
Criswell student Byron Milligan described his amazement at the opportunities to share their faith as they walked the flooded streets. As the team approached a house with five children, Milligan shared that they warned the mother of the rising waters, urging her to get out quickly. Twenty minutes later her husband arrived, but the water had risen too high for the children to walk to safety.
“We carried them down the street to our truck,” Milligan wrote in his journal. “I was able to get a little boy named Josh to know that Jesus loved him. He was pretty frightened and I know it will be something he will always remember. Hopefully, he will also always remember that Jesus does love him and has a plan for his life.”
College student Ali Khadivi remembered prayerwalking those same neighborhoods the night before the foot of rain fell, planning to go into different neighborhoods to invite people to Vacation Bible School and the weekend revival.
“It was God-ordained and God-organized,” he said of the chaos that ensued. “There were lots of travelers that we didn’t even plan to meet. They came for food and we shared the gospel, fed and ministered to them.”
Khadivi preached at the Saturday evening service after a day of disaster relief ministry. A Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary student had been redirected through New Whiteland when floodwaters overcame the freeway he was traveling. He learned of the ministry opportunities from Worthington and stayed to participate in the services since he could not make it to the site to which he’d been assigned to provide music.
“He sang a song that really touched all of the members there,” Worthington said.
“One gentleman was saved and the whole church was crying because so many had prayed for this young man,” Khadivi related.
Staying into the next week to participate in the convention meeting, students shared their faith on the downtown streets, in Circle Centre Mall, and at a Greyhound bus station.
“People were coming and going and everybody was a divine appointment,” Khadivi said.
Khadivi, a Middle Eastern immigrant, said, “I kind of speak Spanish,” relying on Spanish-language tracts and his limited vocabulary to witness to two Spanish-speaking men who accepted Christ as Savior. “It was just awesome. Professor Worthington organized it in a way to team up with different students every day.”
“We tried to build relationships so that after we left they would turn to the local churches,” Worthington told the TEXAN.
Twenty-three professions of faith were reported during the downtown evangelistic efforts in which Criswell students participated.
Khadivi added, “Criswell College prepares you for every good work—preaching and evangelism, but my heart is on missions. Anywhere I go I can’t keep my mouth shut for Jesus Christ.”