Friday, August 24, 2012

In memory of Dwight Baker (1923-2011)

Our library at NETS is named after Dwight Baker, a Southern Baptist missionary from the USA who was an influential figure in the growth of evangelical Christianity in Nazareth. He was also instrumental in seeing that the Baptist House in the American Quarter of Nazareth was transferred to the locally-led Association of Baptist Churches in Israel (ABC). The seminary today is located in that same building where Baker and other missionary families lived over the decades.

Here is a memory from the Rev. Ibrahim Simaan who ministered along-side Dwight Baker, originally posted here:

Dwight Baker was sent to Nazareth, Israel in the early 1950ies with a clear mission, to rebuild the Baptist Mission to the Holy Land, and re-organize the Baptist Church, whose majority of the members, and leadership were disbursed throughout the whole Middle East due to the Arab-Jewish War of 1948.

The young missionary worked very hard to get the church in Nazareth re-started, as well as the Nazareth Baptist School...and worked very hard to sustain an orphanage which included some 19 kids.

He was joined later by Paul Rowden, and the Baptist Convention in Israel was founded..with Dwight in the North and Bob Lindsey in Jerusalem.

In Nazareth, Dwight recruited a good team of new young believers, an initiated quick training for them, with the vision of indigenizing the local church..The church-and school sponsored Sunday School, Brotherhood, Royal Ambassadors, Girls Auxiliary...etc...

He believed in the theory of churches survive if they develop a missionary outreach. Therefore, The Nazareth Church under his leadership started village work covering Cana of Galilee, Tur'an, Eilaboun, Rama, 1964, Having turned over the pastorate to a national pastor (Rev. Fuad Sakhnini) he had another phase of his vision for the Baptist witness..Leadership Training, therefore in 1963, he came back from furlough, with a mind set up on this vision, therefore he moved to Haifa, as a more central location in the country, where he started the Christian Service Training Center, as an Extension to Southern Baptist seminaries...During his stay in Haifa, several generations of Baptist potential leaders were located and got their training at the CSTC...including Rev. Edward Souti, Rev. Suheil Ramadan, Rev. Ibrahim Simaan...and later on the CSTC extended its services to Jerusalem, Ramallah and Gaza

Dwight was a great preacher, great pastor, and a great writer and historian...he wrote many articles to well known papers, like "Christianity Today" and the local Baptist publication "Hayahad Digest", and started the Arabic magazine "Al-Jama'h" with me as secretary editor...

He even had a vision to start work among the Bedouins of the he worked as an English language teacher at Kusefeh Secondary School near Arad..and moved to live in Arad...He served for two terms in India, and taught church history and Islam at Baylor University.

But I think that his first love-field-of-service was the Holy Land to which he returned as a volunteer-missionary for one year, after his retirement...

He helped founding the Christian Council in Israel, and was its chair person several times...

He did not forget his labor in the Holy Land, and the Baptist House in Nazareth, home to the Nazareth Evangelical Seminary, and the New Life Baptist Church, was purchased in 2005 by the Association of Baptist Churches due to a generous donation from his personal resources.

Many generations shall remember you Father Dwight.

I am indebted with most of what I know to Dwight Baker, having associated with him so many years, and worked under his leadership more than 15 years.

His remembrance shall be forever! (Psalm112:6)

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