Through a trek of faith, God has led Hillary Powell (Th.M. 2002) from small-town Georgia to Milan, Italy—two opposite extremes in culture, language, and belief system. And Dallas Seminary is the training ground He used to prepare this southern girl for ministry in Western Europe.
Although Hillary grew up in the Bible belt, she is not sure if she ever heard the gospel in her younger years. Her junior year of college at the University of Georgia, she was elected president of her sorority, which caused a crisis point in her life.
“The girls elected me because I made good grades, but still liked to have fun,” she said. “But to me it meant that 140 girls were now looking to me as a role model, which should include some sense of morality.”
Hillary’s search for answers was fueled not only by her new role, but also by her own existential questions about the meaning of life, her own existence, and so on.
“I expected the search to end with a discovery of how to become a good leader.”
Campus Crusade for Christ invited Hillary to a coffee held for new presidents and chaplains of sororities and fraternities on the University of Georgia campus. She enjoyed meeting the other leaders and accepted an invitation to a Greek Life Conference on leadership.
“‘Perfect,’ I thought. That’s what I need.”
Adolf Coors, Jr. shared his Christian testimony at the conference. He described the God-shaped void he had in his life and shared the gospel with a room full of fraternity and sorority leaders.
“I said, ‘That’s my problem. It’s not a leadership problem or a moral bankruptcy problem … it’s a sin problem. I am a sinner, and I need a Savior.’”
Hillary came back to school a changed person, and some of her sorority sisters felt betrayed because she was not the girl whom they had elected. It was a time of intense growth for her in her faith because of the mixed reactions she received.
“I would enforce some of the sorority’s rules about behavior, and many of the sisters perceived these actions as forcing Christian practices on them.”
She took courses in Spain before graduating in 1995 with an international business degree.
“I felt an affinity for Western Europeans and recognized how spiritually dark that region is. The stark difference between spiritual darkness and light in my own life was fresh in my mind as a new believer, so my heart broke for them.”
After graduation she moved back home to keep the books for at her mother’s physical therapy clinic. In her small hometown she said there was really nothing to do besides ministry, so she got involved in leading Bible studies and teaching Sunday school. She listened to Moody Broadcasting on the radio at work all the time, and began to feel the call to go to seminary.
“I was growing like a weed. Some of my favorite speakers on the radio were Howard Hendricks, Tony Evans, and Joe Stowell—all DTS guys.”
As Hillary investigated her educational options, Dallas Seminary’s Th.M. program stood out from the rest. “I really didn’t know anything about the Bible or theology, so I decided I needed the longest, hardest program available … I had no idea what I was getting myself into!”
Toward the beginning of her training, she took a class on world missions from Dr. Mark Young, who is known for his challenge to students to “go unless you feel called to stay.” Since Scripture says to go and make disciples, he states that you need a good reason to stay in the U.S. It was also during this time that Dr. John Piper came to speak at the church Hillary was attending. His challenge was, “Go, send, or disobey.”
Between all of her studies, Hillary made summer trips to Italy, New Zealand, and Guatemala to find out where God might be leading her. She declared a missions minor, in addition to her Old Testament concentration, and even traveled on a DTS recruiting trip to Urbana (a nationwide missions conference held in Illinois).
But even still, it was not until the 2003 World Evangelization Conference that it all came together, and Hillary realized that it was time for her to go.
“There were a lot of little steps along the way, but that week the Lord confirmed His call to me and I joined Unevangelized Field Missions [UFM].”
After only 4 months of support-raising, Hillary is headed to Italy for two years. She will be involved in discipleship and evangelism with college students at three of the five major universities in Milan. Being postmodern and post-Christian, the Italian culture is a challenging one in which to work, but Hillary is confident in God’s provision.
“I firmly believe that those they Lord calls, He equips.”
The mission of Dallas Theological Seminary is to
glorify God by equipping godly servant-leaders
for the proclamation of His Word and the
building up of the body of Christ worldwide.