16 Dec DR. SAM VINTON REFLECTS ON HIS TIME AT GRACE BIBLE COLLEGE: THEN AND NOW
Sixty years ago in May 1955, Becky and I graduated from Milwaukee Bible College. I was ordained by the GGF, two weeks later we were married and shortly thereafter began missionary deputation under Grace Ministries International. By the end of the year we were in Belgium studying French before heading to Congo to begin serving the Lord as missionaries.
As I look back on our first term of ministry in the Congo, many things may now be a blur but not the birth of our son Bill and daughter Debbie, who grew up as second generation MKs in Africa. Nor can I forget the fact that without the biblical, theological and practical training that I received at MBC, I would not have been able to direct both the Kama Bible Institute and the Kama Pastors School; teach full-time; write textbooks on homiletics, principles of dispensational theology, and the Major Doctrines of the Bible; as well as take my students two weekends a month into the villages to preach and share the Gospel with the lost. As a teenager in the Congo, Charles Baker’s booklet “God’s Clock of the Ages” and Pastor J.C. O’Hair book “The Unsearchable Riches of Christ” got me on the right track of understanding the Scriptures dispensationally. Then during my studies at MBC it was especially the Systematic Theology classes, taught by Charles Baker, that helped lay a solid, sane, and balanced foundation that I have built on during these last sixty years.
After 20 years of ministry in Congo, of which I spent the last six years heading up the Swahili Bible Translation project, I was invited to become a faculty member at Grace Bible College. One of my great joys of teaching at GBC was having both my son Bill and daughter Debbie in my classes. Our son Bill, and a good number of other young men who were in my theology classes, have served the Lord faithfully on various mission fields, in churches in the States and as professors at Grace Bible College. Becky and I were thrilled to see Bill and his wife, Sue, graduate from GBC and go to Congo as missionaries where Bill headed up the theological education program of the Grace Churches. He also wrote many books in Swahili for our church leaders. Bill and Sue are now working in Malawi helping in the development of the church leaders for our grace churches in that country.
Thirty-nine years are now behind us since our return to the States to teach at Grace in 1976. The year after our arrival I began my graduate studies receiving my doctorate in 1985 months before I assumed the position of president of GBC. (Becky also upgraded her diploma from MBC to a BRE at Grace Bible College graduating in 1981 with our daughter-in-law Sue). I thank the Lord for Evy Beyer (registrar) and Dale DeWitt (academic dean) who juggled my class schedule so I could teach my classes at GBC as well as study part time for my masters at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary and then my doctorate at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
One of the most important accomplishments that took place during my term as president of the college was attaining regional accreditation under the capable leadership of our academic dean, Dr. Marlin Olson. This has made it possible for GBC to expand its offerings and for our students to more easily transfer to other educational institutions as well as continue their graduate studies.
Becky and I have been blessed through our years together to see God’s hand of blessing upon us and the ministries He has entrusted to us. We definitely were led to Africa as missionaries in 1955 with the intention of serving there for the rest of our lives. But God led us, using His servants, to return to the States and teach at Grace Bible College. After fourteen years at GBC we again sensed the leading of the Lord when the board of Grace Ministries International asked us to assume the position of executive director of the mission. Our love for missions, our experience in Africa, and my doctoral studies in missions caused us to move into that ministry with the assurance that this was where God was calling us. The only job we ever applied for was to become missionaries. Teaching at GBC, becoming academic dean, then president and then director of GMI, were positions offered us by the leadership of GBC and GMI and which we accepted as God’s leading for our lives.
After twenty-two years as executive director of Grace Ministries International, Becky and I felt that it was time for me to step down which we did on June 30, 2012. Immediately I was offered to teach as adjunct professor at GBC and began teaching in September 2012. I thank the Lord for the privilege of serving Him in this way. I love to teach and I am thankful to the Lord for the privilege of teaching two classes of freshmen and one of upper division students every semester. With Andrea Crouch I can truly say, “How can I give thanks for the things you have done for me, things so undeserved yet you give to prove your love for me. The voices of a million angels cannot express my gratitude, All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe it all to you.”