It's in the air. If you walk across the campus, you may find yourself humming some old yet familiar hymn. "Where did that come from?" you may say to yourself, and then the half-hour rolls around and the campus is inundated with the chimes from atop the Raley Chapel spire. It's in the air& the purpose and mission of OBU.
Setting To Work
"The person who makes it through OBU knows how to think, organize thoughts, apply knowledge, all in the context of faith. That's what I am here to champion," says OBU Campus Minister Dale Griffin. As a 1984 graduate, he had a dream to return some day to work with students. In 2002, Dale came to OBU from the local church. In his 20 years’ experience, Dale has served with the International Evangelism Association in Fort Worth, Texas; Tallowood Baptist Church in Houston; and with Baptist Student Union at Western Oklahoma State College and the University of New Mexico. In his last appointment before coming to OBU, Dale served as music minister at Northwest Baptist Church in Oklahoma City. "I had lost my hearing in one ear due to a tumor on the brainstem in 1994," Dale recalls. "The tumor was called acoustic schwannoma, and the doctors sacrificed the ear in surgery in order to take the tumor and protect my motor skills. So, here I am, with one ear, and half a mind to listen, and the opportunity to go to
Northwest Baptist as a music minister." Nonetheless, because the pastor desired someone with experience in a discipleship ministry who could also lead music, Dale began a five-year tenure at the church. "I was happy at Northwest. I loved the people; they were supportive and encouraging to me, so I wasn’t exactly itching to leave," Dale says, recalling when OBU invited him to interview. "But I began to consider& could the vision for campus ministry at OBU that I had thought about all these years indicate a call on my life?" Through much prayer and consultation, he decided to move his family to Shawnee. Now, he strives to see that vision for Campus Ministry brought to a reality.
As director of Baptist Collegiate Ministry, Jackie Wilks shares the vision for OBU Campus Ministry. Jackie came to OBU two years ago after working as a schoolteacher and counselor. "I’ve done a little of everything," she says. Jackie recently completed her Ph.D. "Just did that because I wanted to," she says. In addition, with experience in teaching New Testament, writing on a college level, and various other roles, Jackie brings valuable experience to bear in and on the lives of students. "I want to encourage students to be authentic," she says. Students are encouraged in their relationship with Jackie, exemplified in the many times she and her husband, Tom Wilks, professor of applied ministry, have opened up their home for fellowship times and dinner with students.
This type of relationship building fits the direction of OBU. "OBU is Campus Ministry," Dale says. "It is not a club or organization separate from OBU as a whole." As a result, he and Jackie introduced the philosophy of three integrated environments of worship, small groups and service/missions. "What we’re trying to do is communicate clearly that if a student has chosen OBU, they’ve made a decision to grow in faith and learning. Campus ministry is not something you join, but rather it joins you through the experience of Christian higher education."
Worship: A Lifestyle
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God this is your spiritual act of worship.ROMANS 12:1, NIV
The first of the three environments is worship. Senior Elizabeth Finke, co-chair of the OBU Student Worship Team, says that worship is the "acknowledgment of who God really is and who we are in light of that." She references Isaiah 6 for the description of a worship experience, and notes that the presence and revelation of the Divine should produce a genuine effect upon one's life. Finke states that after "we recognize sin and the need to be purified, we must rejoice in the Lord."
Since God is the Being who simply and mysteriously is "I Am," then worship is the opportunity given to his creation to recognize his presence and character. A state of awe, wonder, and amazement is the posture of true worship. Dale emphasizes that these "spiritual encounters [even] happen in the classroom." Elizabeth refers to this idea of worship as a "lifestyle of worship," where the whole of each day becomes an act of worship.
Intentional times during the week are dedicated to worship, the most obvious being weekly Wednesday morning chapel. Other occasions include Refuge, a worship gathering specifically for women; and late-night worship events. These activities create moments of reflection and ways to pursue spiritual things.
Wednesday morning chapel is designed to give students added contact with different aspects of living faith, complimenting the educational experience. It hosts the formal time for students, faculty and staff to participate in worship together. Although chapel is obligatory for students (at least 12 chapels per semester), many students naturally participate through music, drama presentations, and prayer. The schedule combines local, regional, and national speakers along with the talents of students and the College of Fine Arts as it relates to music.
Evening worship events and Friday Chapels are decidedly student-led. Senior Bryan Ratanasin, co-chair of the OBU Student Worship Team, says that these events allow students the opportunity to worship more freely, "not that they are not able to worship at other chapel services, but these specific events allow students to feel more comfortable and laid-back." The comfortable environment does not denote a lack of preparation. Elizabeth, Bryan and other student leaders meditate and pray prior to each event. Songs, scripture, and other presentations are thought out for each event. "I love these experiences because they are not something that you have to go to but something that you choose to go to," says Bryan. "I believe that these worship opportunities bring unity to this Christian campus; OBU students choose to worship with one another."
Senior Amanda Weeks helps coordinate the women's worship nights called Refuge. "Our mission statement states ‘Refuge is a place where women come together to seek refuge in Jesus Christ and encourage each other in our unique quest for God's glory.’ Our desire is to provide a place for the women at OBU to come and be refreshed through worship and the testimonies of other women on campus." Amanda says that she has already seen God challenge and comfort her personally and many other women at OBU.
Small Groups: Working out Faith
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. PHILIPPIANS 2:12-13, NIV
The second of the three environments is small groups. Many opportunities exist for students to participate in small groups including New Student Ministry, Network, and the Chaplain Program.
New Student Ministry began in 2003 spring semester. "Since OBU is campus ministry," says Dale, "it's important for new students to be given an ongoing sense of belonging and continued aid in the transition to college life from the onset." Senior Gina Verzani is co-chair of NSM with senior Owen Nease. "A leadership team was put together," Gina explains, "and we trained many sophomores, juniors, and seniors to be small group leaders. This fall we had more than 90 small group leaders, and we worked with the Welcome Week steering committee to allow NSM to be a part of Welcome Week. This made a first impression on the students and helped to establish relationships with them before classes started."
New Student Ministry consists of Tuesday Night Rallies that begin the first week of school. These gatherings provide all freshmen and transfer students a time to interact with NSM workers and other new students. Tuesday Night Rallies extend until the sixth week of the semester. "They provide direction as students develop ownership of their small groups through times of sharing and support," says Owen. This sense of ownership paved the way for several small groups to form after fall break.
"Friendships form to keep you accountable," says Gina. As a natural extension of the college education, small groups help "actualize the atmosphere." They seek to move beyond the relationships made in the classroom by providing a safe place for discussion and debate. "Especially for freshmen," says Owen, "the small group opportunities offer an immediate place of belonging, and aid in transition to a new environment. Small groups further offer an upperclassman mentor who exemplifies Christian leadership; a place that fosters genuineness, peer assistance, guidance, and encouragement in personal spiritual formation; and a community in which to discuss and grow in the Christian faith."
"Network," according to co-chair Marquette Bugg, "is intended to facilitate campus ministry within the dorms. Network provides one residence assistant with one Network person. This person basically acts as a prayer partner." The role of a Network person includes interacting specifically with the students that the residence assistant serves. By doing this, it helps to "displace the load a little bit by reaching every person on the hall," says Marquette. "We felt we needed to be reaching out to the campus as a whole." David Duvall and Marquette cochaired the introduction of Network to the campus this year.
The Chaplain Program is another way to reach out to the students on campus with the purpose of supplying a point person for athletic teams and other organizations or groups. The co-chairs of the Chaplain Program are Amanda Weeks and Matt Neal. "Matt and I are the current SGA Chaplains," says Amanda. "Our desire is to encourage the leaders of all sports teams, social clubs, and organizations. We base our foundation on Isaiah 45:2-3 that speaks about the Lord breaking through the barriers in our lives so that each of us comes to understand the purpose for which God has uniquely handcrafted us. We attempt to meet twice a month with athletic chaplains and once a month with social club and organizational chaplains." These student chaplains facilitate ways to build spiritual formation for, communicate to, and stay integrated with the groups they represent.
These are three ways small groups form at OBU. There are certainly a number of others including a Bible study for senior women, an annual marriage retreat, and a campus-wide women's retreat.
Service and Missions: Beautiful Feet
"How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!" ISAIAH 52:7, NIV
The third environment is service and missions outside OBU. Service opportunities abound in Shawnee and surrounding areas. Students have organized groups based around known needs in nursing facilities, the local jail and facilities for abused children to name a few. Many students
also participate in trips far away from the context of central Oklahoma. This year students will travel to Cambodia, Mexico, and the state of Utah, in addition to annual trips.
"We are there to be company and get to know them, which in the end allows us to share God's love as demonstrated through Jesus’ sacrifice. We share Bible verses with them as well," says junior Jeana Rogers about her work with Age to Age. Age to Age works with the elderly residents at the Shawnee Care Center every Monday and Thursday evening. The group often enjoys coffee at the Center's coffee dive affectionately called the "Coffee Corner." They also sing hymns by request.
Every Wednesday, The Oakland Chapel Service Team guides activities for children and teenagers. The purpose is to build relationships with the kids in the OBU neighborhood, especially those kids who do not usually attend church. Seniors Emily Lewis and Bethany Hilmer work as the children's activity leaders. "The friendships we have with our kids increase the impact of the Bible lessons," says Emily. "We hope and believe that what we say about the Bible is more meaningful to them because they know us personally."
Taken from Matthew 5:41, which says "If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles" (NIV), Second Mile is a group of students dedicated to go the "second mile" in their work with the children in the local North Rock Creek elementary and middle school. The primary focus revolves around four character assemblies performed throughout the year. More than 25 OBU students are involved with Jackie Wilks in presenting and teaching important virtues to the more than 500 kids, faculty, and parents who attend these assemblies. The important character traits of self-control, honesty, respect, and responsibility are presented through song, skits, and open discussion. In addition to the four assemblies, students spend time helping teachers in the classroom and building relationships with the young people. "Serving the community is our passion, and God has been so kind to allow us to serve in such a large capacity," says junior Ashley Wood.
The Hope House Student Team helps poor and abused children. The children at a government-funded agency for children from birth to 18 are involved in custody battles or abusive situations. Many run away from home. "We hang out with the kids for a few hours every week," says senior Brad Carter. "We try to get them out of the shelter and love them as much as possible. We want to show these kids that there are people out there who truly love them and care about them. The kids are in and out of the shelter constantly, but over the past years we have been able to establish some meaningful relationships with several of the kids."
"Every believer should be a servant, as Christ was a servant. We help students to serve where they can in our community," says senior Ryan King, who works with the Volunteer Action Committee or VAC. The group identifies local needs and hopes to "widen" the perspectives of OBU students by meeting those needs.
At times, more than 350 students work on these local projects that include volunteering in a community center, helping with maintenance, building projects in town, and tutoring in a local library. "People grow personally and emotionally when exposed to new situations and people," Ryan says. "We hope to get students outside their comfort zones a bit and stretch their abilities."
Students minister in the Central Oklahoma Juvenile Center, referred to as COJC (pronounced Ko-Jack). "We go into each of the units and do a Bible study," says senior Tambrea Tschida. There are six units in the Central Oklahoma Juvenile Center, five units for guys and one unit for the girls. Every Thursday, the students work within one of the units for an hour. "The Bible studies are voluntary," says Tambrea. "They come and share or just listen. They often ask tons of questions."
Junior Judd Reynolds and sophomore Katie Irwin are among more than 40 students who travel to the stockyard neighborhoods in Oklahoma City each week. They work at the Mission Center, a place that ministers to the families in those communities. "The voice of reason surrounds this ministry screaming that we can make no difference in the community," says Judd. "And though many times I listen to this voice and struggle to believe a difference can be made, I am constantly amazed with God and how he destroys the walls of human understanding and triumphantly marches through the streets of the community. It is truly a blessing that God has allowed us
to personally see the fruits of labor from the past generations of Mission Center workers."
Around the World
More than 200 students traveled to places around the world last year to do various types of ministry. This year, the Campus Ministry office will add student trips to Guanajuato, Mexico; Southeast Asia; and Salt Lake City, Utah. "We’re laying a foundation for how service and mission opportunities for students can expand in the future," says Dale Griffin.
In southeast Asia, Heidi Burkhart and Owen Nease are co-chairing a team of students that will be building relationships and teaching English to university students in that region. Heidi says, "It's a perfect opportunity to impact students who’ve never heard the claims of Christ."
In Mexico, Jackie Wilks will be returning to Guanajuato, where she traveled with a group of college students this past summer. "I was asked by the missionaries to return during J-Term, with another group of OBU students," Jackie says. "This area of Mexico has the same number of evangelicals as Iraq. There is a great need for these people to hear of God's love."
In Utah, students will visit Brigham Young University, the University of Utah Institute of Religion and Weber State University. Through open-forum discussions, OBU students hope to stimulate conversation about the Christian faith. The week concludes with a five-hour reflection and meditation time in the mountains of Utah.
In addition to these trips, OBU sends students to Xinjiang, China, through an international student program; a group of nursing students minister in Haiti each year; and OBU continues to be a leader in the Journeyman Program, part of the International Mission Board.
So what is the future of Campus Ministry at OBU? As senior Gina Verzani puts it, "Campus Ministry is having a larger role on campus and students are beginning to understand more the vision of a body of believers who grow in Christ and serve together." "Where are we headed?" Dale Griffin asks. "We want to flesh out Campus Ministry, so that when students experience OBU they will see campus ministry as a part of the natural vocabulary of OBU in the context of Christian higher education. The result will be continued Kingdom impact through this and future generations of OBU students."
Next time you're on campus, listen afresh to the sounds of OBU. Campus Ministry is in the air, from the hymns that ring from the Raley Chapel spire to the Bible studies in dorm rooms; from the service on the streets that make up Oklahoma to the mission opportunities that take OBU students around the world.