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Unexpected education culminates in ministry career

By Margaret Colson

June 13, 2013


NASHVILLE, TENN (FBC)—When an 18-year-old Laura Allen Erlanson entered the University of South Florida (USF) in 1993, she expected a quality academic education. The unexpected education she received, however, was what she learned about herself and about Southern Baptists, compliments of Baptist Campus Ministries (BCM).


Both educations have served her well in her 10-year career as operations coordinator with Baptist Press, a daily international news service in Nashville, Tenn.


Raised in a Christian home, Erlanson immediately gravitated to BCM after first arriving on campus. There, she found “a great source of fellowship and friendship within my first month of being a college student,” she said.


Throughout her college career, her involvement with BCM and its impact on her life deepened. Along the way, Erlanson gained a “wonderful ally and mentor” in Greg Floyd, then director of BCM at the South Florida university.


“Never had anyone pushed me spiritually like Greg did,” said Erlanson.


Floyd, who served as BCM director at USF from 1990-95 and currently serves as pastor of Seminole Heights Baptist Church in Tampa, encouraged her to take on leadership roles and tasks such as worship leader and a one-semester stint as BCM president, she recalled.


Providing such leadership opportunities is one strength of BCM, he explained.


“God used and continues to use BCM not only to reach students for Christ but also to teach them how to lead,” he said.


Erlanson uses these leadership lessons today, years later, at Baptist Press, where she “brings a unique perceptiveness to our team about so many facets of life,” according to Art Toalston, Baptist Press editor.


Erlanson credits her BCM experience with helping her to grow spiritually and to learn “a lot about ministry—loving people, serving and working together. Those are the kinds of skills that help in any job, especially one like mine at Baptist Press that allows me to work with so many people,” she explained.


Students involved with BCM also learn, both directly and indirectly, about Florida Baptists’ cooperative approach to missions.


“My BCM time was also my initiation into the world of cooperative missions. I saw firsthand the power of churches working together to do ministry, send missionaries and make disciples.


“I became a big supporter of the Cooperative Program,” she smiled. Today, the Cooperative Program underwrites her vocational role in Southern Baptist life.


Erlanson’s unexpected education through BCM has now come full circle in her career, according to Toalston, who acknowledged that he could not “imagine our office without Laura’s interactivity and contribution to everything we do.”


As Erlanson puts her education to work, thousands of others are educated through Baptist Press stories, he said.


“There’s nothing better at communicating an idea than a story. Jesus told stories. Baptist Press strives to tell important, interesting stories to encourage believers in their faith and help them better engage their culture,” said the young woman who helps collect, proofread, post and transmit those stories.


“Each day’s posting of Baptist Press is a form of Christian education on an array of topics, and Laura is a vital part in our effort to provide the best possible witness for Southern Baptists in the media,” according to Toalston.


The educational platform of Baptist Press has a wide-ranging audience, with 10,700 subscribers and about 200,000 visits to its website each month. In 2012, Baptist Press posted approximately 2,500 stories.


Erlanson’s significant role in Southern Baptist life is no surprise to her early mentor.


“You see some people and know they are going to make a difference for the kingdom of God. Laura is one of those people. It was my joy to watch her blossom into who God wanted her to be,” Floyd said.

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