Fruitland expands teaching to multiply disciple-makingby Mike Creswell
Two graduation services in June show how Fruitland Baptist Bible College is expanding its satellite centers to equip even more church leaders across North Carolina.
In a June 6 graduation service at the main Hendersonville campus, diplomas or 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 June 6 graduation 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 North Roanoke campus.
James Gailliard preached a moving baccalaureate sermon whose content was directed towards graduates but whose style was tuned to the more than 40 African American graduates and visitors.
As the congregation declared "Amens" and at times stood or applauded, Gailliard 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! Don't get caught up in what you don't have. Praise God for where He has you right now," he counseled.
A Bible college degree will not keep you from making mistakes in life, Gailliard warned. "All of us will get stuck on stupid sometimes," he said, to great congregational affirmation.
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.
Gailliard's message left Robert Fernández gasping at times to translate the message into Spanish. Fernández coordinates Fruitland's Hispanic teaching ministry.
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.
Another unique thing about the June 6 service came when Amanda Horton, daughter of Fruitland President David Horton, walked across the stage to receive an Associate Degree. Other graduates got a handshake; she got a hug.
At Fruitland's June 13 graduation service at Front Street Baptist Church in Statesville, 14 Hispanic students capped four years of study as they received Diplomas in Christian Ministry. This graduation service was conducted in Spanish.
The Statesville satellite center was established several years ago by Aldo Barceló, a native of Chile, who worked with Fruitland to start its first satellite centers.
Fruitland's teaching ministry to Hipanics is continuing to expand, with a new teaching center set to open in mid-July in Charlotte, said Robert Fernández.
William Ortega, Hispanic church planting consultant with the Baptist State Convention, presented the baccalaureate sermon.
"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," he said.
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.
He said in his view, the next generation of great servants of God and missionaries will come from the Hispanic community.
Instructors in Fruitland's Hispanic program include Bill Grissom, retired pastor of First Baptist Church, Rocky Mount; William Seeler, minister of music, worship and adult ministry at Central Baptist Church, Wendell; and Brian Daniels, a Ph.D. student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest.
North Carolina Baptists support Fruitland through their Cooperative Program gifts. More than 800 North Carolina Baptist churches are led by Fruitland graduates.