Editor's Note: Oklahoma Baptist University alum Earl Bengs, a 1956 graduate, is a 2004 recipient of the OBU Alumni Association's Profile In Excellence Award. The award is given to a former student who has "demonstrated recognizable accomplishment in his or her profession, business, avocation, or life service in such a way as to bring pride and honor to the University." Each year, Profile In Excellence recipients are featured in OBU Magazine.
H. Earl Bengs, '56, has learned many important lessons through the years, both as a student at OBU and as a missionary serving around the world.
During the summer of 1953, Earl was part of a Tentmakers team that spent the summer in Fortuna, California. "Our work was to help the new church build a new building as well as do evangelistic work. We worked the second shift in the sawmills to support ourselves," he says. "I learned that God is faithful to us in our obedience. A faithful witness by word and especially in lifestyle leaves a positive impression in the minds of those among whom we work."
Earl was part of a youth evangelistic team the following summer. "That summer was spent in different churches. My wife-to-be gave her blessing to twice postponing our wedding in 1954 so I could be with another church. We were finally married in October 1954.
"Through the years, I have learned that God is faithful. When we depend on him and obey him, he allows us to share in what he is doing much beyond our own capabilities, " Earl says. "I have also learned to wait on the Lord for his choice of a marriage partner. My wife and I will celebrate 50 years of marriage this October."
Upon graduation from OBU, Earl was called as pastor of Vici Baptist Church in Vici, Oklahoma. He served two years then moved to First Baptist Church, Mooreland, Oklahoma. "In both of these churches, God put us in places that were less than harmonious. We began to consider overseas missions, but we could not sense God's call. I learned again that God is faithful. He brought the people of the church together in love and forgiveness and blessed them. We look back on the experiences in those first two pastorates and see that all God leads us to do is part of his immediate plan but also part of his preparation for the future."
Three months after Earl began serving as pastor of First Baptist Church, Cheyenne, which he calls "an opportunity to serve among people whose natural bent and history was to love their pastor and work together alongside him," the Bengses experienced separate and very distinct calls to the mission field. And even in this call, there were lessons: "God is sovereign. We must work off of his schedule and not our own. God is gracious. He allowed us a very good time of rich fellowship with people whom we still have contact and fellowship today. He also put us among people who not only affirmed us in our call but helped us financially to make our move to seminary to begin the next phase of our preparation for overseas service."
The Bengses studied at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary from 1963-67, and were appointed as missionaries in August 1967. Their first assignment was in Vietnam, where they worked in the city of Dalat until Vietnam fell to the communists in April 1975. "After our departure from Vietnam, we spent several months in Guam helping in the resettlement process for the Vietnamese who were coming to the United States," he says.
Upon completion of their responsibilities in Guam, the Bengses began an outreach to the Iban (Sea Dayak) people of Sarawk until the government made a decision in November 1976 that missionaries would no longer be allowed to live and work there. They returned to the U.S. in June of 1977 for a year of furlough "and to seek the next step in God's plan for our lives."
That plan came for the Bengses in September 1977 when they journeyed to Singapore as part of a new outreach to high-rise dwellers. Earl served as director of that ministry for two years and then was named coordinator of church planting. He resigned in 1989 to return to the U.S. for a one-year assignment and to prepare for the next phase of ministry. "We learned that our abrupt departure from Vietnam and the sense of loss we felt reinforced our awareness of the faithfulness of God. Learning difficult Asian languages, and working in different cultures have constantly refreshed our memory that the one who called us is the faithful one."
They returned to Asia in January 1990 and settled in Taiwan for a year and a half for language study. They left for Singapore in June 1991 and have been involved in working among the Hokkien-speaking people. Their work is in evangelism, church planting, and leadership development. "I have also had the opportunity to work with separate churches to help bring healing, health and hope during times of stress between the pastor and the people. It is a great joy to see these churches moving ahead and bearing a faithful witness in Singapore today.
"OBU provided a wonderful, nurturing opportunity for me. Mrs. Opal Cole influenced my life most strongly. She called on me to be myself, develop my gifts and respond to my call in the most positive ways. Whatever strengths I may have today in the area of public speaking and in preaching clearly, I attribute to her influence."
The next great challenge for the Bengses is to lay the groundwork and do leadership training in North Sumatra, Indonesia. We will have to wait to see what lesson he learns next.
Click the following link to view a full list of previous Profile in Excellence recipients.