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June 2009

Mission fields are wherever God plants you

SWAU professor of biology and geology Art Chadwick at a Wyoming DinoDig.

SWAU professor of biology and geology Art Chadwick at a Wyoming DinoDig.

Art Chadwick using his GPS device at the DinoDig in Wyoming.

Art Chadwick using his GPS device at the DinoDig in Wyoming.

The fossilized tooth of a Tyrannosaurus rex from the geology department’s Online Fossil Museum.

The fossilized tooth of a Tyrannosaurus rex from the geology department’s Online Fossil Museum.

A member of the DinoDig team dusts the dirt away from a fossil in Wyoming.

A member of the DinoDig team dusts the dirt away from a fossil in Wyoming.

Art Chadwick has always had a penchant for missions. When he was in high school, he talked to his guidance counselor, telling her he wanted to be a preacher in the mission field. “The mission field doesn’t need preachers; it needs physicians,” she told him.

So Chadwick studied pre-med at San Diego State University, in anticipation of becoming a missionary doctor someday. When he and a best friend converted to Adventism his sophomore year, they decided they should go to an Adventist college, and together transferred to La Sierra College. It was there that Lloyd Downs, a professor in La Sierra’s biology department, saw something special in Chadwick.

“All these others can become doctors,” Downs told him. “But you—forget about medicine. God has something important for you to do.”

Decades later, that same missionary mindset drives Chadwick to do what he does best—and what very few others can do. In addition to serving as professor of biology and geology at Southwestern Adventist University, Chadwick has directed ongoing groundbreaking research in dinosaur fossils at a Wyoming excavation site since 1996, which now includes the use of global positioning satellite technology to record the location of the bones found. He is director of the world’s only online fossil museum, which allows visitors to see thousands of fossilized bones in 3-D. And he travels extensively throughout the year, presenting Christians and non-Christians alike with scientific evidence to support creationism.

The Wyoming DinoDig gives Chadwick a subject that serves as an opening wedge for easy discussion with anyone. Each summer the DinoDig welcomes groups from the U.S. and overseas. A volunteer from Japan is now a regular to the site every year. A crew of six scientists work at the site every summer, and Trinity Christian Academy, a non-denominational school in Fort Worth, sends 20 to 30 students to the Wyoming dig for three days each year. Chadwick also says that several people joined the dig after hearing about it when he sat next to them on an airline flight. Later he discovered that one of them had been raised by his Adventist grandparents.

During one visit by Trinity Christian Academy, a father of a student arrived, wanting to set up Internet phones for the students. “His child was only there three days, but the father couldn’t thank me enough. He told me it was the most profound experience in his child’s life.”

In another situation, a Baptist woman returns every summer to the dig, eager to work, but also eager to talk about the Sabbath.

The DinoDig in Wyoming, the DinoLab at Southwestern, and the Online Fossil Museum also give Chadwick credibility as a scientist, although Chadwick says that other scientists tend not to bring it up. “What we are doing is a burr under the saddle of many scientists. We’re so far above the standard that they have to pay attention. But they’re embarrassed, because we’re creationists.”

Fossil work was being done on the Hanson Ranch in Wyoming before 1996, but the Hansons weren’t happy with the evolutionary bent that the research was taking. Chadwick was thrilled with the invitation to come work there, as it was later discovered that the Hanson Ranch contains the remains of between 10,000 and 25,000 fossilized animals, one of the largest deposits of dinosaur bones in the world. When the paleontologist who was there discovered that he was being replaced by Chadwick and his group of creationists, he said: “This is the last day that science will be done on Hanson Ranch.”

Regardless of the opinion of evolutionists, there’s no denying that science is being done at the DinoDig, and being done well. Prominent paleontologists who have visited the campus DinoLab have been strongly impressed with the work being done there.

Not one to run out of things to do, Chadwick supplements his teaching classes, administering the DinoLab and online museum, and directing the DinoDig with an average of 50 presentations a year, many of them at Adventist churches throughout North America. “I just tell them that God is the Creator, and I show them how I know that,” he says.

The university and its adminstration strongly supports Chadwick and his many endeavors. “Art is a persuader,” says Eric Anderson, university president. “He is able to explain complex scientific material to non-scientists. At the same time, he is doing work that is innovative and profoundly significant for scholars. I am delighted with what he contributes to Southwestern Adventist University.”

Chadwick has recently been named a research professor at Southwestern, and while he will continue to teach, his main focus will be on compiling and publishing the data he has collected through his research.

“This is absolutely a ministry,” Chadwick says about the many presentations he makes each year. Chadwick defines the missionary mindset as “believing that everything you do has significance. You are driven toward the goal of salvation, and wherever God calls you; that’s where you’re a missionary.”

Glen Robinson, SWAU professor of communication

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