Oklahoma Baptist University students have discovered a way to share the love of Jesus with the Shawnee community - through a mission called "Good Shepherd," led by one of their professors, Dr. Bob Dawson.
Good Shepherd Chapel is a continuing mission of Immanuel Baptist Church that had its start in the fall of 2003. The ministry began with a small group of neighborhood kids meeting for basketball, pizza and Bible study on Sunday afternoons in the Family Life Center at Immanuel, led by Dawson, WMU professor of missions.
"By January 2004, we added worship to the mix and started calling it Good Shepherd Chapel," Dawson said. "OBU students quickly learned about it, and were involved as teachers from the beginning, as were members of Immanuel.
"I've always had two interests in serving in churches: Reaching the unreached low-income community, and working with children," Dawson said.
The mission of Good Shepherd Chapel is to be like Jesus: to do the things, such as evangelism and social ministry, that He would do if He was physically in Shawnee.
"We strive to meet the needs of the total person, no matter their background or story, with hope," said Tony Tyler, Good Shepherd Chapel youth pastor and OBU director of men's housing.
Since the beginning of the mission, 25 to 30 OBU students have served in various areas within the ministry. Sunday morning and evening Bible studies, a Tuesday afternoon Shepherd's Club and Wednesday evening worship services offer students the chance to get involved in the community to make a lasting difference. For each service, a meal is provided, along with the opportunity for worship and Bible study. OBU faculty, staff, alumni and parents make up the vast majority of the permanent leadership team of Good Shepherd.
"To the degree to which it can be said that churches are led by human beings, Good Shepherd Chapel could be classified as an OBU-led church," Dawson said.
One outreach project within Good Shepherd is the operation of a food pantry. Good Shepherd also operates a Summer Lunch Program which feeds more than 100 families and children every summer. The ministry works to give hope to those in need because many of the members come from low-income families and broken homes. Each holiday season, members distribute Thanksgiving baskets and, during Christmas, people can contribute through an Angel Tree. Through these opportunities, people are able to find hope through the Good Shepherd ministries.
"It's our responsibility and joy to give a hug, provide a word of encouragement, to challenge or critique, and to effect change in the systems of injustice and marginalization that are present in Shawnee," Tyler said. "The Angel Tree provides an opportunity for us to meet real, tangible needs with the hope of Jesus. We are learning so much, and it's our joy to give it back."
While providing for tangible needs such as food, clothing, toys and money for utilities is an important part of what Good Shepherd seeks to do, evangelism is the centerfold of the ministry.
"Good Shepherd Chapel was recently recognized by the Pott-Lincoln Baptist Association as being a 'baptismal leader' for having the best ratio of baptisms to members - approximately five to one. In the first four months of this current church year, we have reached and baptized more than in the 2007-2008 year," Dawson said.
The ministry is continuing to give hope to the people in the Shawnee community week after week through the vision of a few faithful followers of Jesus Christ striving to fulfill His Great Commission in their local community.
Chad Ward (left) and Jeremy Fisher (center) offer some quality attention at Good Shepherd Chapel in Shawnee to children who attend, including (from left) Diego Posada, Kevin Simpson, Grant Blythe and (in front) Epsilon Simpson.