May 1, 2009
In a service dedicated to commissioning Oklahoma Baptist University students committed to serving in missions opportunities during the summer months, global outreach strategist Avery T. Willis offered encouragement from the biblical account of Moses during OBU's weekly chapel service Wednesday, April 29.
Willis spoke about Moses' miraculous interaction with God: how God called Moses through a "burning bush" experience, how God instructed Moses to throw down a common staff which became a snake, how God turned water into blood and other plagues against the people of Egypt, how God showed Moses' hand to contract leprosy - then be immediately healed, and how Moses attempted to avoid service altogether based on his stuttering speech.
While students might perceive their summer missions opportunity as a one-time experience, "God does not think about it that way," Willis said. "God is placing you in the grand scheme and plan that He has for this world and for all the peoples of the world. God has in mind for you - whatever you're doing this summer, an eternal consequence, that you can have a life-changing experience."
Likewise, God used Moses to affect all of history, Willis said. He said he has wondered what would have happened if Moses had ignored when God called him through the burning bush, missing the opportunity to serve.
"God, in His wisdom, has put some opportunities in front of you also," Willis said. "He's going to change your life and the lives of other people. But if you ignore those - and some of you have done that so far - if you ignore what God wants to do in your life, you might miss a ‘burning bush' experience with God."
When delivering His people out of Egypt, God used the staff in Moses' hand to separate the Red Sea. Willis pointed out that God often uses what people already have in their possession to fulfill His purpose. He reminded students of the biblical stories of the woman who had a small amount of oil and flour to make bread, of the shepherd David's slingshot to kill the giant Goliath, of the boy with two loaves of bread and five small fish which multiplied to feed thousands.
"God asks you, ‘What's in your hand?' because God takes ordinary things and ordinary people and does extraordinary things with them," Willis said.
Willis said God also asks people to do things that don't make any sense to them to fulfill His purposes.
"When God tells you to do something, even when it doesn't make sense, do it!" Willis said.
He pointed out that God may only tell a person what they need to know at any given moment, rather than laying out His entire plan. Even when a person obeys God, Willis said things don't always go smoothly or according to a plan. At such times, Willis said to be ready - God may be planning to do something unusual or extraordinary.
Willis also challenged students to willingly serve God, rather than avoiding His call.
"God accepts no excuses when He comes to you to get you involved in His plan to reach all nations of the world," he said. "The one thing you don't want to do is say, ‘Get somebody else, God.' Whatever God tells you to do, wherever God tells you to do it, however God tells you to do it, say, ‘Yes, Lord, I am your servant."
However and wherever students plan to spend their summer, Willis encouraged them to trust God's power, abide in His presence and align with God's purposes.
"God has a grand scope of things, and He has planned you as a very integral part of it if you will do what God tells you to do," he said.
OBU's Center for Global Outreach, named for Willis, will send students this summer to serve in South Asia to work among the Kai people and to Central Asia. The Kai people are one of the largest 600 unengaged and unreached people groups, the total of which numbers more than half a billion people. OBU "adopted" the Kai through a movement known as Finishing The Task, an effort of several mission organizations to engage these people where no present Christian witness exists. By adopting this people group, OBU and its Avery T. Willis Center for Global Outreach have committed to share the Gospel and plant churches among the Kai until at least the year 2025.
The Avery T. Willis Center for Global Outreach unifies Oklahoma Baptist University's efforts to provide academic study and hands-on field experience related to international ministry. The center provides resources for believers to equip themselves with academic preparation, organized global outreach ventures, and development of cutting-edge outreach tools through a creative think-tank resource.
A graduate of OBU, Willis has invested his life in international ministry. Through his field experience and visionary leadership, he has enabled evangelical groups around the globe to more effectively reach those who have yet to hear the gospel. Willis ministered in Indonesia for 14 years before serving as discipleship and family ministry director at LifeWay Christian Resources for 15 years. He then served 11 years as senior vice president for overseas operations with the international outreach board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Although retired from that board, Willis continues active international ministry involvement. He currently works 25 weeks a year overseas, training and mentoring international ministers and national leaders, as well as speaking and writing.