Posted on : Thursday October 1, 2009

By Iris White, Managing Editor of BaptistLIFE

COLUMIBA, Md.—Jeepneys, taxis and tricycles speed through the streets of Davao City in Mindanao in the southern Philippine islands. Because there are 1.5 million people in Davao City, the streets are noisy and crowded. There are no lane markings and drivers zigzag in and out of traffic honking their way through. (In Davao City, horns seem to be more important than brakes.)

In spite of the fact that Davao is the second largest city in the Philippines, there are people who live there with no running water or electricity. They wash their clothes and bathe in the streams. Disease is common.

It is in Davao City that the Southern Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary is located. The tropical campus is naturally beautiful with coconut trees, palms and flowers in abundance. The seminary was founded to train men and women for “Christian usefulness,” according to its history.

Since its beginning in 1953, more than 1,000 Filipino men and women have been trained. The seminary’s mission is to equip and develop spiritually, academically and socially God-called men and women to recognize and use their God-given gifts and lead churches, associations and conventions to fulfill the Great Commission in the Philippines and Asia.

Abe F. Gigare is the president of the seminary, which now has 58 students and five faculty members, three of which are full time. With an annual budget of $5 million pesos (approximately $240,500 as of this writing), the seminary is supported by an endowment fund, which pays only about 40 percent of the faculty salary. The remainder is subsidized by tuition and donations. Some of the Theology students are offered scholarships and part-time work on campus.

The seminary offers nursery, kindergarten I and II, complete elementary education program, complete secondary education program with government recognition, Bachelor of Arts in Theology and Bachelor of Arts in Christian Education programs with government recognition. There are currently over 500 students on campus.

In August during Spirit Week, two hundred thirty-four high school students responded to the Gospel message. The response of that many high school students would be incredible on any campus, but, here at the seminary, it is a miracle because there are only 234 students enrolled in the high school program. All of them responded and many of them are from broken homes.

In the center of the campus is an open-air worship center. It is surrounded by buildings that house classrooms, the library, dining hall, music, kindergarten and elementary classrooms, dormitories, faculty housing, couples’ duplexes, and administration.

President Gigare is pleased with the growth of the seminary and the religious instruction, but says there is much more to be done. Because of limited resources, the seminary can not do it alone.

This is where Maryland/Delaware churches can help. Construction teams are needed to repair and renovate existing facilities and help enclose the open-air worship center. Visiting professors are invited to teach from two weeks to an entire semester. Elementary and high school teachers are invited to teach so students are exposed to natural English speakers. Medical teams are needed. School supplies are also needed such as chemistry and biology equipment, academic and library books, CDs and DVDs. Housing for visiting teams is limited, but the needs at the seminary are great and imminent.

Contact Freddy Parker at if your church is available to help.

The Lord used the evacuation of missionaries from China in 1953 to start this seminary in the Philippines. Miss Elaine Crotwell, Southern Baptist missionary, saw a leadership need of the churches in Mindanao, particularly in the Davao City area. She had a concern for those called by God into His ministry. Young men and women were anxious for Christian leadership training so they could better preach and teach in the churches.

Miss Crotwell, at the request of churches, began having regular credit length Bible studies in her home. After two years of study, the students asked for more training. Church leaders and pastors became concerned.

Several leaders began making plans. At the annual session of the Philippine Baptist Mission on June 8, 1955, Dr. S. Clyde Jowers made a report concerning the purpose and proposed plans for a Bible School in Davao City, which had been discussed with Dr. Baker J. Cauthen, Executive Secretary, Foreign Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention.

Plans were approved and on July 25, 1955, classes began at Davao Baptist Bible School, a branch of the Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary and Bible School based in Baguio and under the same Board of Trustees. Dr. Clyde Jowers served as Director.

A two-year course of study was offered with a Bible School diploma or certificate given to those satisfactorily completing the course. Approximately, one-half of the 1955 enrolment had attended college, but not completed their college education.

The enrollment for the first school year was 20 (12 full-time and eight night students). The first Commencement program was held in 1957 at Immanuel Baptist Church with 10 graduating students.

In 1964, the Board of Trustees voted to change the name of Davao Baptist Bible School to Mindanao Baptist Bible School. In July 1969, the school transferred to its new location at Puan, Toril, Davao City.

On Sept. 23, 1982, the Board of Trustees voted that Mindanao Baptist Bible School be given seminary status. The name was changed to Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary/Davao and in 1993 the name was changed to Southern Philippines Baptist Theological Seminary.

Much has happened since that time and over 1,000 men and women have graduated from the seminary. They are now serving throughout the Philippines preaching and teaching about the love of Jesus.