Seminary donates 2,500 pounds of rice to Nashville mission

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)--While it is common for exhibitors at each year's Southern Baptist Convention to construct displays, never before has a large portion of such a display been eatable. But the exhibit built by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary was constructed mostly of 25 pound bags of rice -- 300 of them.

Southwestern erected a 10'x 20' display booth resembling a U.S. Army special operations base camp. The booth was built with materials such as camouflage netting, rough-cut lumber poles, ammo cans and sandbags. The theme for the booth demonstrated that Southwestern Seminary is training men and women to take the Gospel to places in the world where it has never been heard before, or "behind the lines."

Greg Tomlin and Brent Thompson, Southwestern's director and associate director of public relations, respectively, led a team that designed the booth in-house. The team estimated that the booth would require about 300 sandbags for it to have an authentic look.

"As we were drawing up plans for the booth it occurred to us that, instead of putting sand in the sandbags, we would fill the bags with rice. Then, after the SBC annual meeting, we could donate the rice to the Nashville Rescue Mission," Tomlin said.

The seminary purchased all the rice it needed -- 7,500 pounds -- through Riceland Foods of Stuttgart, Ark. Then it purchased 300 new, but empty, sandbags from a bag manufacturer in California that supplies the U.S. Army. Inside each green, Army-issue sandbag used to construct the low walls of the exhibit was a 25-pound bag of high-quality rice.

When the SBC annual meeting drew to a close June 22, Tomlin and his team divided the rice from the walls of the display booth to be distributed to the Nashville Rescue Mission, the Union Rescue Mission in Little Rock, Ark., and the Union Gospel Mission in Fort Worth.

As they drove home from Nashville, they stopped by the rescue missions to drop off 100 25-pound bags of rice in each location.

"We hope to show that at the heart of Southwestern Seminary's educational mission is providing for people's deepest and most immediate needs. Of course, the people who eat the rice will be hungry again physically, but our mission is to offer them Christ in order to satisfy their spiritual hunger forever."

Rader Walker is the executive director of the Nashville Rescue Mission which, according to its website, served 452,134 meals and provided 194,516 nights of lodging to the Nashville homeless population in 2004.

"The Nashville Rescue Mission is excited to benefit from the generosity of Southwestern Seminary," Walker said. "Rice is always something we can use in serving more than 450,000 meals this year to Nashville's poor, hungry and homeless. We greatly appreciate Southwestern Seminary reaching out to help minister to the needs of our city's needy."


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