Two graduation services in June show how Fruitland Baptist Bible College is expanding its satellite centers to equip more church leaders across North Carolina.
In a June 6 graduation service at the main Hendersonville campus, diplomas and certificates were presented to seven Hispanics and 15 African-Americans, while associate degrees were presented to seven Anglo graduates. Fourteen more Hispanic students received certificates during a June 13 graduation exercise in Statesville. The service was another historic first for Fruitland as 13 of 15 African-American graduates came from Rocky Mount to receive their certificate of Christian leadership, completing two years of study at the Rocky Mount campus in cooperation with the North Roanoke Baptist Association.
As the congregation declared “amens” and at times stood or applauded, James Gailliard, senior pastor of Word Tabernacle Church in Rocky Mount, told the graduates the only way to stay on the right path through life is by trusting “the right Somebody,” meaning Jesus Christ, not intellect or degrees.
“We have to learn to rejoice right where we are,” he said. “Don’t get caught up in what you don’t have. Praise God for where He has you right now.”
He compared life to a toy jack-in-the-box whose puppet pops up as the handle is cranked. “Life may push you down. You may make mistakes. But the Holy Spirit will crank you back up. God is faithful and just,” he assured.
BSC photo by Mike Creswell
Graduates can’t hide their excitement after shifting their tassels during a ceremony June 13 at Front Street Baptist Church in Statesville. Fourteen Hispanics completed diplomas in Christian ministry through one of Fruitland Baptist Bible College’s satellite campuses.
Graduates should realize that God has a purpose for their lives, relating this to the last words of Jesus on the cross saying, “It is finished.” Jesus was saying, “I have finished my assignment,” Gailliard said.
“My degree at Fruitland is finished, but my learning’s not finished. My loving is not finished. My making a difference is not finished. So make up your mind that there is some work that God has for you to do,” Gailliard urged.
Amanda Horton, daughter of Fruitland President David Horton, walked across the stage to receive an associate degree. While other graduates got a handshake, she was honored with a hug from her father.
At Fruitland’s June 13 graduation at Front Street Baptist Church in Statesville, 14 Hispanic students received diplomas in Christian ministry. The service was conducted in Spanish.
The Statesville satellite center was established several years ago by Aldo Barceló, a native of Chile.
Fruitland’s teaching ministry to Hispanics is continuing to expand with a new center set to open in mid-July in Charlotte, according to Robert Fernández, director of Hispanic theological education.
“These certificates are the result of four years of hard work by these students,” said Fernández. “Most of these students originally came to North Carolina with other plans, mostly to find economic success. But God meant that for good, because the Lord Jesus was waiting here for them to put them into service.”
If the students are like most Hispanics in the state, he said, some will return to their homes in Mexico or other Spanish-speaking countries. Thus, Fruitland will be exporting trained Christian leaders as missionaries.
“I predict this will have an impact around the world,” Fernández said.
William Ortega, Hispanic church planting consultant with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), presented the baccalaureate sermon.
Rocky Mount success
Two years after Fruitland launched a satellite teaching center in Rocky Mount, 15 students have completed their courses.
Thirteen of them made the six-hour trip to Hendersonville for Fruitland’s June 6 graduation.
They traveled with friends and family in a bus chartered by Word Tabernacle Church. Fruitland Baptist Church provided dinner for the group.
The students completed 16 classes adapted from Fruitland’s major courses, said Bill Mackey, who coordinates Fruitland’s Rocky Mount center and continuing education.
“We combined classes to give them as much as possible in that two-year program and then we helped them to find everything else they needed,” he said. Most of the students serve as unpaid church staffers, working bivocationally to support themselves.
Two Rocky Mount pastors requested the classes, telling Mackey it was wearing them out to provide leader training while managing rapid growth. Most of the students came from Word Tabernacle Church and Greater Joy Baptist Church, led by Shelton Daniel, pastor.
Partnership between Fruitland, North Roanoke Baptist Association, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) and these two local churches enabled the teaching effort.
“It has been gratifying to see how they are more involved in giving leadership in their local churches,” Mackey said. “One of the most powerful moments I can remember seeing in recent years was seeing how God has transformed their lives as adults, how they had become believers and then started to minister to other people in the name of Christ.”
He told of one young man who does street evangelism with his family and a woman who is “the most passionate about encouraging people to come to faith in Jesus Christ I have ever seen.”
Instructors in Fruitland’s Hispanic program include Bill Grissom, retired pastor of First Baptist Church in Rocky Mount; William Seeler, minister of music, worship and adult ministry at Central Baptist Church in Wendell; and Brian Daniels, a Ph.D. student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest.
BSC staff members, along with the instructors in the Hispanic program, lead these courses. Urban church planting consultant Richard Lee taught New Testament; Michael Sowers taught missions and church planting; Marty Dupree taught evangelism and Brian Upshaw, disciple-making.
Mackey said the Rocky Mount teaching project has been so successful he hopes it can be set up in other locations. Mackey also works with Fruitland’s program of continuing education to keep pastors and others updated in their ministries and methods.
N.C. Baptists support Fruitland through their Cooperative Program gifts. More than 800 N.C. Baptist churches are led by Fruitland graduates.