In late January, 1951 Gene graduated from college, at the age of eighteen. That was on Saturday. On Sunday, January 21, he made public his entrance into the ministry, and on Monday he enrolled at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He was, at that time, the youngest college graduate ever to enroll in the school of theology at SWBTS.
In the meantime, Helen was offered a job at the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board in Nashville. At the same time, Gene was offered the privilege of being the one American selected to be the student representing America at the European International Baptist Theological Seminary in Zurich, Switzerland. He arrived there in September of 1951, about the same time Helen moved to Nashville.
His first full year of theological training was in Europe, in the very city that was the site of the beginning of the Anabaptist movement. Most of the courses he took while in Zurich were on church history. That summer he traveled from Zurich to the Holy Lands. That trip was providential. Before Gene was 20 years old, he had visited virtually every place Paul ever went to.
“I went fourth class, which meant I slept on the deck of the ship. I thumbed my way through the Holy Lands. The danger of hitchhiking in nations at war, six of which hated Americans at the time, did not occur to me until years later.”
Returning to Europe from Israel, Gene spent a long time living in Rome. He spent his twentieth birthday doing what no twenty-year-old Protestant had ever done. He spent the day in the Vatican doing research!