Willis Global Outreach Center Officially Opens

Making a difference in a diverse world is part of the mission of Oklahoma Baptist University. OBU’s convocation service featured a significant event in making this pursuit tangible with a ribbon cutting ceremony that officially opened the Avery T. Willis Center for Global Outreach.

Dr. James Colman, OBU senior vice president for academic affairs; Dr. Michael Martin, dean of OBU's Joe L. Ingram School of Christian Service; Dr. Avery T. Willis, Herschel H. Hobbs scholar-in-residence; Dr. Mark Brister, OBU president; Dr. Bob Dawson, WMU professor of missions; Dr. Randall Adams, team leader of BGCO Church Outreach Team; Dale Griffin, OBU campus minister; and M.W., Willis Center for Global Outreach coordinator participate in the ribbon cutting ceremony.

Avery Willis is synonymous with global outreach,” said Dr. Mark Brister, OBU’s president. “Oklahoma Baptist University, for 95 years, has been a resource for equipping leaders. Avery T. Willis is a product of this leadership. We understand that the international community is impacted by this university, and we have the rare opportunity to celebrate the confluence of these ministries with the creation of OBU’s Avery T. Willis Center for Global Outreach.”

Joining Willis and Brister in the ceremony were Dr. Randall Adams, team leader of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma’s Church Outreach Team; Dr. Bob Dawson, WMU Professor of Missions; Dr. Michael Martin, dean of Joe L. Ingram School of Christian Service; Dale Griffin, campus minister; M.W., coordinator of the Willis Center for Global Outreach; and Dr. James Colman, senior vice president for academic affairs.

“This center has originated in the hearts of the people who started OBU,” said Dr. Willis, who is serving this fall as the Herschel H. Hobbs scholar in residence at OBU. “The purpose of this university is to train people to reach the world for Christ, and (the Center for Global Outreach) is created to make sure we do that. I am pleased that students have a way to get involved in mission work right here in Shawnee, and we’ll be providing opportunities to serve around the world.”

OBU administrators stress that the center will offer multiple outlets for missions and service. The center was developed through the work of Martin, Griffin and Dawson. They envisioned a center which would “equip students for vocational Christian service any place on the globe; help students, faculty and staff to develop and live out a missions lifestyle; and serve as a resource center and training facility” for varied constituents as they prepare for short-term volunteer assignments.

The center also is structured to provide missiological research tools for students studying missions and those preparing for volunteer assignments; to serve Baptists in Oklahoma through missions conferences and developing missions education resources; to provide and coordinate both domestic and international short-term service opportunities for students, faculty and staff; and to link students to on-going local outreach experiences in Shawnee and surrounding communities.

Willis, an Arkansas native, is a 1956 OBU graduate. He and his wife, Shirley, served as missionaries to Indonesia for 14 years before returning stateside in 1978. Widely known for his work in creating the MasterLife discipleship materials, Willis headed adult discipleship programs for LifeWay Christian Resources before moving to the IMB’s administrative staff in 1993.

Willis also is the executive director of the International Orality Network, a partnership of major missions organizations committed to using oral strategies such as “chronological Bible storying” as a means of evangelizing and discipling approximately 70 percent of the world’s population which is functionally illiterate.