Shaw encourages students to be bold, pursue mission opportunities

Release Date: April 3, 2008

PLAINVIEW – Dr. Richard Shaw, assistant professor of religion and director of the Wayland Baptist University mission center, challenged Wayland students to be bold in their faith.

“Are you going to be the generation that says, ‘Here we are; we’re ready to go?’” Shaw said.

Dr. Shaw was the speaker for the McCoy Lecture Series chapel service at Wayland on Wednesday, April 2. The lecture series was developed by First Baptist Church in Plainview with an estate gift from Dr. Dorothy McCoy, professor emeritus in mathematics at Wayland and a longtime member of the church. The lecture series focuses on missions, a passion of Dr. McCoy’s.

Before coming to Wayland last November, Dr. Shaw spent 12 years as a missionary for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in Albania, Macedonia and Kosovo. Shaw drew from his experiences when speaking to students in chapel.

Shaw told the story of a woman, Shpresa, he met early in his mission work in Macedonia who challenged his faith like he had never been challenged before. After working for a while to develop and build relationship among the people of Skopje, Macedonia, Dr. Shaw and his wife, Martha, began holding Bible studies to teach the Scripture.

“It was our call to be the presence of Christ among the nearly 1 million Muslim Albanians in that city,” he said.

Shpresa attended the first few meetings, then one day showed up before the planned meeting. She asked for a “heart-to-heart” conversation with Dr. Shaw and his wife. Shpresa explained that she had been a good Muslim until about 8 years earlier when she and her husband began worshipping a new god, “white dust.” To meet their growing need for the drug, Shpresa sold her 12-year-old daughter for the equivalent of about $1,500 and had not seen her since. Once that money ran out, she began selling herself.

Shpresa then heatedly attacked Dr. Shaw questioning his audacity to show up and tell her that this God that she and all these other people had never heard of loved her and could help her. She said if Dr. Shaw was so sure about God, he needed to prove it.

“I had never been challenged this way,” Shaw said.

Dr. Shaw and his wife put Shpresa and her husband into a drug rehabilitation facility and took their three young children, who had been born to heroine addicts and had all the baggage and addictions that come with it, into their home and raised them for a year as their own. Dr. Shaw visited Shpresa every day. Three months into the rehab, she pulled out an old, worn picture of the daughter she had sold 8 years earlier and asked Dr. Shaw to find her.

“To an Albanian, if there is any hint of a positive in what you say, then it is a promise,” Shaw explained.

He began his search which led him to the seediest, roughest parts of town. He finally came across a man who recognized the picture and drug him through the red-light district to a house where young men and women practiced prostitution. Dr. Shaw was left waiting in the outer room while the man went upstairs. He soon drug a young lady down the stairs with him to meet Dr. Shaw. When she saw the picture, Dr. Shaw said something broke inside her. He bought her from her owner for a little more than $300 and took her to the rehab facility to reunite with her family.

“I cannot explain to you the scene in that room,” Shaw said, “the delight, the anger, the tears.”

Last summer, Dr. Shaw and his family returned to Macedonia. As they were worshipping in a church they had planted many years ago Shpresa and her family came in and offered this prayer: “Thank You,” she said, “for caring enough to send a foolish American priest to show me that You love me.”

“Be thankful for what you have,” Shaw challenged the students of Wayland. “There are countless people in this world who would do anything to be in your place. Most of you were born in this country. Many of you have Christian parents who love you and would do anything for you. Don’t take it for granted.”

Dr. Shaw closed with 2 Peter 1:10, “Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure.” He said that everyone is called to missions. It may not be this type of mission field, but “some of you have it in you to serve people like Shpresa.”

“Be bold.”