Distinguished Leader Imparts OBU’s Missions Legacy

Longtime global missions leader Don Kammerdiener recently challenged Oklahoma Baptist University students, faculty and staff to reaffirm the university's historic missions involvement.

Kammerdiener, who graduated from OBU in 1958, discussed OBU's heritage of missions education and involvement as he presented the 17th annual J.M. Gaskin Lectures in Baptist History and Heritage on the university's campus March 23.

"For most youth today, history is boring and irrelevant," Kammerdiener said. "But a person or institution without a sense of history soon loses the way through a wilderness of change. Today we see assaults on every value and historical understanding which are the foundations of our civilization."

Now retired, Kammerdiener invested his career in Southern Baptist missions work. He served as executive vice president for Southern Baptists' International Mission Board from 1990 until his retirement in 2001.

In the first of two lectures, Kammerdiener discussed ways OBU has maintained and advanced missions education and involvement, including examples of alumni who have contributed their careers to world missions. The university's mission statement says OBU transforms lives by equipping students to pursue academic excellence, integrate faith with all areas of knowledge, engage a diverse world, and live worthy of the high calling of God in Christ.

"If a school loses its commitment to its heritage, it may not seem drastic in the first year," Kammerdiener said. "But given time, it will change the character of the institution."

OBU's campus, he contended, has been a focal point for international missions. He referred to a report released by the International Mission Board which showed OBU has more alumni serving as IMB missionaries than any other college in the world. The missions agency reports more than 800 OBU alumni have been appointed by the international board.

"OBU's contribution to the world wide mission efforts of Southern Baptists is more than numerical strength," Kammerdiener said. "There is among those missionaries a rich diversity of spiritual gifts and cultural backgrounds. Many of the missionaries have been noted for their pioneering courage and evangelistic zeal."

His second lecture, titled "Keepers of the Flame," discussed the motive for OBU to keep the education and ongoing support of missions at its very core.

"OBU is a small school in a low-population state, land-locked and far removed from many of the currents of international events," Kammerdiener said. "Where does this century-old vision for the world come from?"

He attributed the University's missions emphasis to its founding purpose, as stated in charter documents, to carry out the Great Commission, and its dedication and mission to fully developing students' spiritual lives. He applauded every generation of professors, "marked by outstanding individuals who inspired students to adopt the Christian world view and to follow Christ's calling to the world." He referred to entire academic departments, including music, business, history and foreign language, which give students a firm foundation for a variety of missions-service platforms.

"The missionary spirit on campus has been enriched by the presence of international students in the student body," he added. "The presence of international students serves as a window to the world and to a more realistic understanding of the challenges of missionary service."

Kammerdiener noted OBU's population of missionary kids (MKs), who bring their world experience and understanding to Bison Hill, and missionaries-in-residence who share their experience through teaching and counseling. Other positive factors, he said, include OBU's unusually high number of mission trips available for student participation, the adoption of a people group in South Asia, and the creation of OBU's International Graduate School.

"The missions environment at OBU took another significant step forward with the establishment of the Avery T. Willis Center for Global Outreach," he said. "In a large institution, the attention given to any emphasis can ebb and flow according to current fads and the particular interests of administrators. The Global Outreach Center is a means of locking the fact that OBU believes in and participates in the carrying out of the Great Commission."

Following their graduation from OBU in 1958, and his graduation from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Kammerdiener and his wife, Meredith, were appointed Southern Baptist missionaries in 1962. They served in Costa Rica, Columbia and Argentina. For two decades, he was part of the leadership team of the International Mission Board, before moving into the executive vice president role for 11 years.

Kammerdiener received the OBU Alumni Association's top honor, the Alumni Achievement Award, in 1987. He received an honorary doctorate from OBU in 1994. In 2005, OBU honored Kammerdiener with the opening of The Don R. Kammerdiener Center for Missiological Research, an online data base with information about countries, people groups, religions, languages, bibliographies and practical knowledge related to missions.

Friends of Dr. J.M. Gaskin and advocates of the preservation of Oklahoma Baptist history and heritage established the J.M. Gaskin Lectureship. The objectives of the lectureship are to provide and sustain a series of lectures which will preserve and promote the study of Oklahoma Baptist history and heritage. Gaskin has written 15 books about Oklahoma Baptists. The lectureship recognizes his contributions to the preservation and promotion of Baptist History and Heritage.