Faith in the in-between: Recent grads on finding a career

By Hannah Lounsbery, Faith Co-Editor

Oklahoma Baptist University’s class of spring 2018 graduates in 30 days. With a month left to go, graduating seniors are juggling capstones, exams, chapel credits and extra-curricular activities along with a more daunting prospect: job hunting.

Looking for a career, trying to decide what city to live and work in and worrying about the transition into the adult world can be overwhelming, and in the midst of all this life-planning, the natural human response is to desire a plan.

How can we have faith in the Lord’s plan in a transition where it seems like everyone in our lives expects us to have it all figured out?

“I am a full-fledged planner and God knows it too,” Alyssa Sperrazza, fall 2017 graduate, said. “There have been so many times I’ve jumped the gun or tried to plan things out and Jesus is just over there going, ‘what are you doing? I got this!’ Patience and trusting in His plan are certainly not my strong suits.”

Sperrazza started searching for jobs the summer after her junior year. She is currently interning at the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting in Washington D.C.

“I’ll be honest, when I first moved to D.C., it was not the smoothest transition,” she said. “I was moving to a different part of the country, all by myself, barely knowing a soul. Leaving all my family and friends behind was rough.”

Sperrazza said that she learned how to rely on the Lord in her transition period because she had no other choice.

“It took a few months, but when I finally reached a place where I could call D.C. home, I was so thankful for those weeks where God taught me total reliance on Him,” she said.

While some graduates, like Alyssa, find paid internships after graduation, some grads go straight into the career field. Lia Hillman, who graduated in the Spring of 2017, started working a week after graduation.

She’s currently working for a company that produces newspapers for four small communities.

As some of her fellow grads were still submitting applications, Hillman was thrown straight into the stress of the working world.

“Within a few months, we had several people quit for various reasons leaving just two of us in charge of every little aspect of running four newspapers,” she said.
“I had a lot of growing up to do with all the sudden responsibilities. It’s been draining, overwhelming, fun and exciting all at the same time.”

A few months after she started working, Hillman’s 16-year-old cousin was killed in a car accident. Shortly after, she started working 70-80 hours a week.

“I started immersing myself in work and didn’t spend any time with family or friends. I even had to miss my family’s Thanksgiving because I was behind with work. After that, I decided that I wasn’t where I wanted to be in my life at this particular stage of my life,” she said.

“And ever since I reminded myself to breathe and take a break every once in a while, things have been much better! I do know that I never want to be in the position where I neglect my family and friends because of work.”

Hillman doesn’t know what the rest of her life will look like, but said that she has been comforted by advice from her family and the Lord’s promise.

“It’s hard to want to have faith in God’s plan,” she said. “I want to know what my life is going to be like in five years so I can know that what I’m doing will be worth it. But that’s impossible! So right now, all I can have is faith and trust in His plan.”

Katie Gilbert, spring 2016 graduate, needed to have faith in that plan not only in her career, but in the period of searching that it took to find it.

She looked for full time jobs while working at Falls Creek the summer after graduating. After three months of searching, she started working as a multimedia technician at the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.

“It isn’t what I imagined for myself for sure. Sometimes I think I made the wrong choice honestly, but God has really worked in me to be content where I am at and understand he has a future for me,” she said.

Gilbert said that even though she occasionally doubts the choices that brought her to her current position, she believes those feelings are normal.

“The current generation in college tends to think that once they graduate they have to have THE job that they dreamed of or planned on. Some people do and some people don’t; God has a funny way of teaching us patience, though,” she said.

Andrew Thomsen, who graduated in the fall of 2016, waited for a full semester before finding his career.

As a future educator, he didn’t want to start teaching in the middle of the school year. He said that looking for a long-term job wasn’t nearly as stressful as trying to decide what to do in the in-between period.

“I had three really good options that I had considered at length leading up to graduation. All three could be easily used to point to Him, which made the choice difficult,” he said. “Fortunately, God knows I like to procrastinate, and also that I’m terrible at making decisions.”

The interview process for his short-term job was short enough to force him to make quick decisions, and Thomsen said that he had more peace with the decision as he got closer to the position.

“As for my teaching career, I do not think there was really any conflict with God’s plan,” Thomsen said. “I knew sophomore year of college that I was supposed to go into education. The only issue upon graduation was determining where to teach. I had a strong passion for my home community and its schools, years before I felt God’s calling to be a teacher.”

While he hoped to teach at Carl Albert High School, one of Thomsen’s old teachers encouraged him to apply at the middle school as well, where he was eventually hired.

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10

Gilbert
Courtesy photo/Katie Gilbert

 

 

“Seniors! Don’t feel like you have to have ‘it’ whatever that is right after college. Yes, some people magically have the Instagram perfect life, but we are all going through different things. Be content with where you are, understanding God has a plan or purpose, but be ready to pick up and leave at His calling.”

 

 

 

Lia
Courtesy photo/Lia Hillman

 

 

“Keep going. You don’t have to have life figured out. I’ve learned that even the most seemingly put together people don’t know what they’re doing all the time. You may think you know exactly what you want to do now, but in three months or three years, you may find out that you love something else. Just keep going, and keep doing good in the world.”

 

 

Andrew
Courtesy photo/Andrew Thomsen

 

 

“I would advise young adults to not take their college environments for granted, and then when they graduate, young adults should not over-extend themselves to too many commitments that take their time away from having the opportunity to meet more people around their age. You have to work to have money needed, but do not be so consumed with making money that you do not leave ample social time.”

 

 

Alyssa
Courtesy Photo/Alyssa Sperrazza

“My advice to graduating seniors would be to apply for anything remotely close to what you want to do. Also, don’t limit yourself to where you apply. When I was looking for jobs, I made sure to look at all 50 states and abroad. There’s plenty of time in your life for you to be picky, but while you can, go anywhere, see new places, continue learning new skills and worry about the smaller details later. Also, if you don’t get your “dream job” right away, don’t be discouraged. Chances are, the people that inspire you the most didn’t get there’s right away either! Be willing to grow, willing to learn, and enjoy this time where you can go and do anything you can imagine!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Editorial: Remembering MLK as a Christian example of social justice

By Hannah Lounsbery, Faith Co-Editor

April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed standing on a hotel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee. Prior to his assassination, the Nobel Peace Prize winner faced threats from white supremacists, who firebombed his home in 1956, and from J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, according to articles from both the New York Times and Washington Post.

Dr. King is most often remembered for his work to end segregation and fight for th rights of African Americans during the civil rights movement with peaceful protests including the Montgomery Bus Boycott, sit-ins and marches.

The battle for the rights of African Americans, however, is not the only thing that he was fighting when he was killed. King was in Memphis to support the city’s striking public workers as they fought for their right to a union that would ensure safe working conditions and fair wages.

“Do you know that most of the poor people in our country are working every day?” he said in a speech two weeks prior to his death. “And they are making wages so low that
they cannot begin to function in the mainstream of the economic life of our nation.”

King’s appearance in Memphis was not a one time show of solidarity. Throughout his work, King spoke out against economic injustice and the ever-widening gap between
rich and poor in America. He saw a connection between the working poor and African American citizens and strove to advocate for them both.

King also spoke at a convention for the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations December of 1961.

“Our needs are identical with labor’s needs — decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old age security, health and welfare measures, conditions in which families can grow [and] have education for their children and respect in the community.”

King was fighting for the rights of American workers just as fervently as he was fighting for the civil rights of African Americans.

Some will say that King aligned himself with the labor issue simply as a way to raise support for civil rights issues. After all, many of the unions that King worked alongside donated funds to those fighting for civil rights and showed their support for sit-ins and freedom rides, and economic freedom for the working class was necessary for African Americans to have equal opportunities with their white peers.

“What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn’t earn enough money to buy a hamburger and a cup of coffee?” King said in March of 1968.

While all of these elements likely played a role in King’s fight for poor American laborers, his faith may have played a bigger role. Religious language was widely used in King’s public speaking, notably in the “Mountaintop” speech that he gave the night before he was killed.

“I just want to do God’s will,” King said. “And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!”

Through his faith, and not just his political ideals, Martin Luther King Jr. moved hearts and changed minds across the nation. Through the lens of his belief, King saw a group of people who were marginalized and mistreated – just like the people that Jesus chose to spend his time with.

He was willing to view the issues facing his people and his time period through the lens of Scripture and determined that the Lord demanded he do something about
it. And he did. Are today’s Christians willing to do the same?

Social justice issues stand at the forefront of life today, but not at the forefront of the church. While segregation no longer exists, racism still does. In this conversation and many others, Christians are remaining silent.

While church members are sorting through their beliefs regarding gun control, women’s rights, immigration and homosexuality, the church is providing no opportunities for members to discuss them.

Christians need to discuss these issues with fellow Christians. They need to pray together for immigrants and argue with one another about the second amendment. They
need the spiritual authorities in their lives to tell them that it’s okay to talk about this issues in their lives and that through Scripture and the Holy Spirit, it is possible to find solutions.

Churches and the believers within them are meant to change the world. Martin Luther King Jr. died 50 years ago because the Word told him that the current state of his world was unacceptable. If men like King can die trying to change the world, the church can at least talk about it.

Feminism and the church: Women search for their place in Christian leadership

By Hannah Lounsbery, Faith Co-Editor   (Photo by Reagan Thatcher/The Bison)

The movement: where did it come from?

Women’s History Month is over, but the fight for equality is not.

Across the globe, women are fighting for equal pay and respect in the workplace and, in many nations, women are fighting for their safety, access to education and the right to their own lives.

This battle has been raging in the hearts and minds of many feminists since the early 19th century, and the movement has seemed to gain traction and new momentum in recent years as women march to be heard.

In the wake of the big moves the women heading the current women’s movement are making, many Christian women are left wondering where they fit in the feminist narrative.

In order to determine whether or not Christian and feminist doctrine can work together, it is important to first figure out what feminism really means.

Alexa Rutledge, senior phycology: pre-counseling major said that the feminism today isn’t the same as it was at the beginning of the movement.

“Feminism is divided into waves,” she said. “The current wave is the third wave.”

Each wave since the original movement, which focused on expanding the franchise and allowing women to vote, has been able to focus on narrower aspects of equality.

As a result, feminism has split into a multitude of different sub-movements, which is why it’s so difficult for one to land on a precise definition of feminism and its goals.

“Feminism has a different definition depending on who you talk to,” Rutledge said.

This confusion in turn makes it difficult for Christians to decide whether the ideals of the feminist movement align with biblical truth.

“Yes, in the sense that woman and man were both created in God’s image, deserve mutual respect and that violence against women should not be tolerated,” Rutledge said. “[But] with the third wave not all of their agenda does. For example, this third wave fights for abortion. I do not believe that Christian doctrine supports this notion.”

The church: where is it going?

National political issues aren’t the only cause for discussion. For many, church politics come into question as well.

As a Christian and the wife of a youth pastor, Ruth Ivers, senior creative writing major, sees how some church policies give a distorted view of the church’s attitude toward women.

“I’ve…heard women say to me that the Bible is misogynistic and that churches are misogynistic,” she said.

While this isn’t true, the church structure rarely has female leadership, which can leave women without a voice or a way to use a call to service.

Churches often leave women out of any official leadership position that doesn’t involve children, which is difficult for women who are called to service and have no desire to be around kids.

“Women for so long have been seen as either the children’s director or the one who’s in charge of the nursery or in charge of VBS or taking care of the children,” Ivers said. “And while that’s great and wonderful…men should be able to comfortably take on those roles as well and women, for the most part, should be able to step into leadership roles.”

While Ivers said she believes that the head pastor of a church should be male, she doesn’t see any reason why women shouldn’t be serving in other leadership positions.

“I think that in some instances women and men have separate but equal roles in the church, but I don’t think that means that a woman can’t do something that generally is seen as a church as a man’s job, like a deacon,” she said.

Her husband, J.C. Ivers, serves as youth pastor at Countryside Baptist Church. In his time there, and in his past church experience, J.C. has seen women serving faithfully where ever they can.

“Other than RAs, which is specifically a boy’s thing, I didn’t have a male Sunday School teacher,” he said. “If I was waiting, for my youth group, to find male leaders, I would still be waiting…I have male students. I don’t have any male leaders.”

He has seen women teaching men for their entire lives up until they reach adulthood, where women have less opportunity.

“I think it’s pretty clear women can preach. I mean preaching is proclaiming the gospel, and I think women can do that,” he said.

Dr. Kaylene Barbe, professor of communication studies, has served as a deacon since 2008.

“Honestly, when I was asked and approached about becoming a deacon, I really thought about it for a long time before I said yes,” she said.

Barbe said she spent quite a bit of time in prayer and in scripture before deciding to accept the position.

She looked at the Biblical requirements for the position as well as the examples of women leading in the Bible, like Deborah.

“If someone really knows me,” she said, “I think they know that I didn’t really make that decision just willy-nilly or to make a statement or because I have an agenda.”

If the Lord hadn’t given her peace and a logical, Biblical precedent for her service, Barbe said she would not have accepted the position.

While her gender may allow her to serve in the position in slightly different ways than a man might, she does not believe that gender differences matter in service to the church.

“Those differences don’t matter in the kingdom of heaven,” she said.

The conversation: how should we have it?

Erin Guleserian, resident director of WMU, said she believes that Christians must be careful not to be separated by the gender debate.

“When you’re looking at the Church and a Christian context, if there’s any perceived division between men and women it’s not the Lord’s doing,” she said.

In the effort to keep gender issues from dividing the church, it is important to not to disparage or disrespect men.

“I think what we have to be careful of as Christian women is being angry and being angsty,” Guleserian said. “I think sometimes the misconception is the angrier you are, the more you’re heard…That actually stirs up more dissension, more hatred, and that’s not what the Lord asks us to do.“

In place of this angry attitude, Guleserian believes that it is just as important for women to advocate for their brothers as it is for men to advocate for their sisters.

“Me advocating for my brothers is just as important as me advocating for my sis-ters,” she said. “And if my brothers aren’t advocating for me, that’s going to turn around and hurt them too because we’re the same body.”

In her own walk with Christ, Guleserian has had to search to find her identity as a woman and as Christian.

She warned about the tendency to let the current cultural climate interpret the meaning of scripture.

“I’ve been able to see that Jesus tells me who I am, not the world, but it was easier for me to look to the world and say “Who am I as a woman? Am I bold? Am I powerful? Am I brave?”” she said.

Guleserian said that the Lord answered her difficult questions about her place in the world through time spent under the guidance of other Christian women as well as time in prayer and scripture.

“He says I can be bold and I can be courageous, and I can be strong, but I don’t have to be mean and I don’t have to be manipulative,” she said. “I believe that the Lord answers those hard questions, and we shouldn’t be afraid of asking.”

Many have said, and will continue to say, that the church doesn’t need to worry about issues that are on the surface merely social and political.

These issues, however, are a part of daily life. Every day, in every issue, faith must play a role in how Christians approach social problems that are dividing believers.

“Grace is the great leveler. At the foot of the cross, we’re all the same, but I think we have to advocate for each other when it comes to a really fallen and broken world,” Guleserian said. “I think if we don’t advocate for each other, the world can cause division amongst us even as brothers and sisters.”

International Women’s Month inspires reflection: Spiritual gifts impact the mission field, families and faith

By Hannah Lounsbery, Faith Co-Editor

I sat through many hot, sticky tabernacle services in an adolescence saturated in the traditions of the Southern Baptist Church.

These services called me and my comrades to service for the Kingdom, telling us all how Christ has equipped us to serve.

Even though all of those lessons, one man’s words stand out to me as I look back.

“Men,” one speaker said, shouting over the stage band’s impassioned melody. “Tonight you may be called to be missionaries, youth pastors or pastors. Women, you may be called to be pastor’s wives.”

In two sentences, this man relegated half of his audience to a position in which they would be unable to fulfill a call to ministry without a man to guide them.

Women who, even in high school and middle school were already feeling the pressure to marry, were told their marriages would bring them into real, full-time kingdom service— not their spiritual gifts, not their hearts for Christ, but their husbands.

Of course, marriage is sacred and blessed by our Creator.

Of course, women can serve as part of a partnership and be unified with their spouses.

But. . .many still believe that a woman can only serve Christ effectively if she is a “helper” of sorts.

Women have been proving this idea wrong for nearly 170 years. In fact, in 1849, the first single female missionary was sent to China by the Southern Baptist Convention.

Harriet Baker did not serve long, and after she returned to the United States in 1853, the “experiment” involving a single female missionary was considered highly unsuccessful.

This is true, in part, to her poor health and inability to start a school while she was there.

According to an analysis of women and missions by the Baptist Press, the Foreign Mission Board even declared officially in 1859 that they would generally avoid sending single women into the field.

This didn’t entirely exclude women, however, and left the door open to ministry for Edmonia Moon in 1872 and, a year later, her sister Charlotte.

Charlotte “Lottie” Moon was 32 when she left for China.

She was an accomplished woman in the states, according to the International Mission Board’s biography of her.

Moon was one of the first women in the South to earn a master’s degree. When she left for China, she left a proposed marriage, a teaching career and her family.

In her 39 years of ministry, she suffered with the people of that nation through war, famine and extreme loneliness before her death in 1912.

Lottie Moon was not alone in her service.

Annie Armstrong was the first executive leader of the Women’s Missionary Union in 1888 in a Southern Baptist Convention that was still unsure of female service in a public setting.

As Moon served overseas, Armstrong was a champion for missions on the home front, traveling the country visiting missionaries and using their stories to raise funds across the nation.

She wrote unceasingly, forming letters and leaflets to support the WMU as well contributing to various missions publications and Sunday School curriculums.

These are women that we know; the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and Annie Armstrong Easter Offering are staples of Baptist holiday tradition.

There are so many more Christian women, both single and married, whom we don’t hear about.

For example, Ann Judson was the first female Ameri-can missionary when she left with her husband for India in 1812, then Burma, where she and her husband learned Burmese so to write tracts that would help the people understand the concept of an everlasting God.

She faced the death of a child, personal sickness, and the imprisonment of her husband before dying at 37 in the wake of their struggles.

Her contribution was just as valuable as her spouse’s, and her legacy has endured just as well.

Other missionary role models include Helen Barrett Montgomery, who studied Greek and was the first woman to have her translation from Greek to English published professionally in order to make the text more accessible to young boys from the street.

She worked alongside Susan B. Anthony for social reform and advocated for education for women.

She was licensed to preach in 1892 and was the first woman to be elected president of a religious denomination in America, in this case the Northern Baptist Convention.

These women and so many more fought for their right to serve the Lord as they were called.

They worked to prove that a woman’s “place” can be just as impactful and lasting as their male counterparts.

Their actions and tenacity prove to modern women that we can serve the Lord in many ways, and in many countries.

Scripture also encourages both genders to seek God’s will and embrace our evangelical potential.

Galatians 3:28 embraces the idea of unity in purpose and action.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Women and men have specific gifts and purposes within their gender, yes, but above all, men and women are servants of Christ and heirs to the kingdom as one body and one church striving to be more like Jesus.

In honor of International Women’s Month, take a moment to recognize the women who have impacted you—and try to emulate their fearlessness, tenacity and kindness.

Op-Ed: Student contemplates dealing with loss

“I felt like I had lost a bit of my identity when I lost my father”

By Hannah Lounsbery, Faith Co-Editor

Generally, the risk that comes with writing about the deceased is relying too heavily on dramatic, emotional platitudes: the “I feel his absence like a phantom limb” kind of sentiment.

For me, the risk in writing about dead people involves an over-reliance on humor. Humor has always been my go-to coping mechanism, even when others might deem my timing inappropriate or insensitive. Some people cry, some people get angry and some people simply accept loss; I crack jokes.

For example, my dad started dying in May of my junior year in high school. By that November, he was gone. By that December, I was making jokes. Dead dad jokes were very popular between my sister, my brother-in-law and me, but others weren’t so keen. “It’s not fair,” they would say. “It’s funny, but you’re the only one who can laugh without feeling bad!” I even had a joke for such remarks. “You get live parents,” I’d say. “And I get to laugh at funny jokes. I think it’s a fair trade.” Humor may have been a crutch, but it was a necessary one—one I still use.

I’m going to be honest with you for a second though- those six months, and the ones that followed, were anything but funny. My dad had an aggressive brain tumor, and doctors tried to treat it with standard chemo and radiation.

I think the chemo might have been worse than the cancer; it made him sicker than I ever could have imagined. He was exhausted, swollen and his head looked like a patchwork quilt. I left for a three-week camp at the beginning of that summer, and when I came back, he didn’t look like my dad anymore.

By the end, he didn’t act like my dad anymore either. My dad was known for being gregarious and social.

He had a wallet full of business cards with phone numbers scribbled all over them (mostly because he didn’t know how to work his flip phone). Those cards were important to him; the people who gave him the cards were important—he loved to keep in touch with the people who crossed his path.

In fact, he would start a conversation in every checkout line he found himself in, bought a piece of candy for every sad child he encountered and usually kept us for hours after church had ended, just chatting away.

I spent the Saturday mornings of my childhood in the front seat of his truck, driving around town ‘visiting.’ If someone, anyone, called and needed something, he went and filled that need. I never saw that man say ‘no’ to any request, conversation or chance to meet a new person—until he got sick.

The day Mike Lounsbery said that he didn’t feel like seeing people, that’s when I knew it was over.

Up until that point, I was so sure that he was going to get better, that he would improve, that he would continue visiting, continue being. But he didn’t.

Everyone has to deal with losing a parent someday, but I never expected my loss to happen so soon in my life. I never expected to carry the weight of grief at such a young age, and it was a significant weight. For so long, everything was just so hard.

My grades suffered, I was unable to enjoy the things that used to bring me happiness and I felt like I had lost a bit of my identity when I lost my father.

Even the people close to you start to drift away because they don’t know what to do or say. That isn’t a criticism—it’s hard to know how to console someone who lost so much.

For me, I think I turned to humor to cope with not only the loss of a parent, but the loss of friends and support as well. Grief can be very isolating; people sometimes choose to say nothing just because they fear saying the wrong thing. In that absence of words, we try to fill the void as best we can.

Because of my experience, losing my father at such an early age, I do think I am uniquely qualified to help others navigate grief and to help others be supportive of the grieving.

There are a few guidelines that will help you be a better friend, to be the kind of support system that would have helped me, so many years ago. The next time you have an opportunity to console someone, keep these thoughts in mind.

Rule number one: Don’t treat the person who is mourning like he or she is going to fall apart. All they want is for life to return to normal, and treating them like they are made of glass doesn’t help find that new normal. For me, many people would be afraid to mention their own parents around me, afraid they would exacerbate my pain. But those obvious omissions are LOUD.

Rule number two: don’t say that it was all in God’s plan. He foreknew- but I know for a fact that God didn’t look down on me and say “I don’t want that girl to have a dad anymore.” My father is dead because sickness is a consequence of the sin that has its greedy little claws dug into our world. I don’t want you to become paranoid about mentioning God, of course not. But I do think comforting words should be thoughtful and intentional. Sometimes clichés can be hurtful just because they are so easy. God knew what was going to happen to my father, but that didn’t mean I was ready to just stop grieving and chalk the whole experience up to a platitude. Grief is just larger than that.

Rule number three: If people do mention their lost family members/friends, it’s okay to talk about it. Please talk about it. We have a lot of reminders that our parents are dead— talking about them reminds us that they were alive. Don’t assume that we want to avoid the topic. . .sometimes when you lose someone, the pain is even more intense because not only is the person missing in your life, but you feel as if you aren’t supposed to discuss them anymore. That just intensifies their absence, so let us talk. Don’t let your own awkwardness overshadow a great opportunity to be a friend.

Rule number four: They’re never not dead. It never gets easier; don’t expect us to be fine because it’s been two years, or five years or seven. We’re not going to be sad every day, but sometimes, grief just hits out of the blue. It’s not your job to make us feel better, and many times you can’t. Sometimes, remembering just hurts, and that’s okay. It seems many people kind of give you a grieving timetable, an unspoken expiration date on being sad. Just because the funeral is over and life has gone on does not mean the absence is any less real.

Rule number five: Be the same friend you were before all of this happened. A death rocks your entire world, so be something stable. You don’t need to have the right words or do the right things. Just be there.

Rule number six: Try not to judge how we cope. I used humor, and I know some may have found that shocking. So work to not apply your coping mechanism onto other people. Let them find their way, and just go along for the ride, whether that be with irreverent jokes, prayer or a mid-night taco trip.

If you are reading this and YOU have lost someone close to you, I am so sorry. I promise, it gets better. Your old normal is gone, but you will find a new one. It will be okay, but it doesn’t always have to be. Fall apart. Cry. Mourn. Pray. I stopped praying for so long because even though I knew that God was still good; I was angry. Yell at God- He can take it. He knows what you’re feeling whether you tell Him or not, and He is the one constant.

Psalms 75:3 really resonated with me then and it still does today: “When the Earth and all its inhabitants shake, I am the One who steadies its pillars.”

Your world is shaking, and tremors will catch you off guard for the rest of your life, but I promise you, they call Him the solid rock for a reason. He will always bring you peace, rest and comfort. He will always bring the best out of your worst. This situation is anything but good, but I promise, even out of this, He can bring good.

Center for Discipleship seeks to connect students

By Hannah Lounsbery, Faith Co-Editor  (Photo by Hannah Lounsbery/The Bison)

The title of “disciple” carries quite a bit of weight in the mind of believers. Many think of the twelve disciples of Jesus, the men who walked directly beside him as He did ministry here on Earth.

Since June 1, the Center for Discipleship has worked to demystify the title here on campus; the center also encourages students and faculty to answer the call that Jesus placed on the lives of all believers, not just those of his original disciples.

For some working in the Spiritual Life office, the launch of the Center for Discipleship has been anticipated for quite some time.

“The OBU Center for Discipleship has been a dream for a number of years,” Dale Griffin, assistant vice president for spiritual life and dean of the chapel, said. “The current dean of students, Odus Compton, and I have been talking about how to launch a center within the last ten years.”

The realization of this dream comes from a donation specifically for the project.

“These things are dependent on donors,” Griffin said. “We had a donor come on the scene maybe two years ago, and we began a conversation about what it would look like to launch a center, and he committed to three years of support.”

Those three years of support are split into three specific stages: Discovery, Design and Deployment.

“The first year is what we’re calling Discovery,” Clay Phillips, director of student ministry, said. “That’s where we’re really finding out what all the needs are at OBU, and how many people are currently in discipleship relationships, and we’re also encouraging students to be in discipleship relationships.”

Molly Munger, OBU alumnae, serves as the logistics coordinator for the center, helping to keep track of people on campus seeking discipleship, like the women who attended the IF:Gathering.

“The women that came [to IF] filled out a piece of paper saying that they were being discipled, desiring to be discipled, discipling somebody or wanting to disciple somebody,” she said. “And so we’re able to kind of gauge where women are at on campus discipleship-wise, and some people maybe aren’t interested right now, but there’s a lot of people who are.”

The first year of donor funding has allowed the center to find 350 to 400 students who are either already involved in discipleship or are interested in getting involved.

While the center does help connect people who want to disciple and be discipled, a large part of their ministry is providing assistance and guidance to those already in discipleship relationships.

“We want to be here to invest in the people who are investing,” Munger said. While the center provides resources, it doesn’t provide a pre-packaged, step-by-step guide to discipleship.

“We’re not a discipleship program,” Phillips said. “We’re not telling students how to do or what to do–a method. We’re a center, so we’re a resource for people doing discipleship… We want to foster discipleship, so we want to encourage discipleship. We want to teach people about discipleship, and a lot of students have questions about discipleship, so we want to help them in that.”

While those resources are helpful, they aren’t the key to a healthy discipleship relationship.

“It’s too easy to think that if I go through a curriculum then I’ve been discipled, when actually I need a relationship with Christ that’s encouraged through a relationship with another person. That’s where discipleship takes place,” Griffin said. “The purpose of the center is to foster those relationships on campus and to find ways to engage faculty in discipleship with students, engage churches in discipleship with students, engage students further down the road than other students in discipleship with their peers, and then to foster relationships where students on campus are discipling people in the Shawnee area and around the world where we’re making disciples of all nations. I mean, that’s what it’s about.”

Speaking about discipleship as a community responsibility can help keep the relationships from being the foundation for one’s Christian growth.

“I think that’s the beauty of discipleship,” Phillips said. “It’s not propping up on one person, so nobody gets the credit except Christ, and it multiplies well and it changes lives. I think certainly it’s inevitable if we have true discipleship, it will change the campus.”

This change does not come easily, however. Griffin said the word ‘discipleship’ can be intimidating to some, making misinterpretations as to what discipleship looks like in real life a major roadblock.

“Personally I believe it’s the biblical foundation of Christianity,” Phillips said. “The Great Commission, one of the last things Christ commanded his followers, was to go make disciples of all nations. So at its heart, it’s reproducing the gospel… Discipleship acknowledges the fact that the gospel changes lives and as we go through life and as we’re going, we transfer the gospel to other people by doing life with them.”

The concept of ‘doing life’ with others isn’t the only defining factor of a discipleship relationship.

“[Discipleship] is community where we’re saturated in God’s Word and we love each other,” Griffin said. “Any discipleship relationship I think I’m in has to have the mark of scripture, and if it doesn’t have the mark of scripture then really we’re just talking…and the mark of the activity of the Holy Spirit in our midst is that we love each other.”

Within a discipleship relationship, part of that love is shown through challenges to grow in Christ.

“Those people are valuable; the people who will kind of put themselves aside and sit and listen to you and challenge you and press you to grow,” Munger said. “That, I think, is the conversation that we want to have, and we would encourage students to do and be a part of.”

With the help of the Center for Discipleship, this conversation no longer has to be a difficult one.

“While there are so many people on campus, like staff and faculty, who are willing to have this conversation with students, now there’s kind of a place maybe where we try to be in conversation and communication with people all across campus,” Munger said.

Those working within the center are passionate about discipleship not only because of its potential to make change, but because of their own experiences. Munger’s mentor during her time on campus showed her how important these relationships can be.

“Seeing her love for Jesus made me want to love Him too,” she said. “I think discipleship is important because we’re not alone.”

For resources or to get involved in discipleship, email molly.munger@okbu.edu or visit in person in the Spiritual Life Office in Montgomery Hall.

A review of IF: Gathering, Conference equips young women for discipleship

By Hannah Lounsbery, Faith Co-Editor    (Photo: The Bison/Hannah Lounsbery)

February 9th, Jennie Allen, founder of IF, sat on stage at the Moody Theater in Austin, with a candle, five years of experience and a women’s ministry that is about so much more than ‘women’s issues.’

According to their website, “IF exists to equip women with gospel-centered resources, gatherings and opportunities so they may learn more about who God is and disciple other women right where they are.”

The IF:Gathering, a women’s conference hosted in Austin, Texas and live-streamed to over 2,600 locations in 25 countries, carries out this creed by preparing this generation for a very specific mission: discipleship.

“Discipleship is the thing we have to do in the midst go the thousand things we have to do,” Allen said in a conference session.

While IF didn’t start as a conference ministry, the IF: Gathering has become a huge part of the organization’s identity and a means of accomplishing their discipleship goals.

The IF website states that the purpose of coming together for the Gathering is “to remind each other of the importance of following God and the reclaim the priority of discipleship as His means to change the world.”

While many women’s conferences leave women with a vague idea of refreshing, renewing and going back to normal life ready to live a little more like Jesus, the IF:Gathering is about gospel truth and the concern for social justice that truth brings, calling believers to no longer be content living a ‘this little light of mine’ lifestyle.

“I’m sick of little candles,” Allen said. “I want to become the generation of flamethrowers.”

In her first message to those gathered, Allen presented a plan: each woman would intentionally disciple two people a year, who would go on to disciple two people a year, who go on to disciple two people a year.

If 100,000 of the women watching and attending the conference- a tenth of the average viewing audience- follow this plan, within five years it will have affected over 25 million people.

Allen doesn’t believe this goal is out of reach.

“I think we could do it,” she said. “But we have to believe we have something worth throwing. We have God, and the world needs him.”

That weekend, Allen and the conference speakers proved to audiences across the world that believers in Christ have something worth throwing.

400 miles from the Austin theatre where the message was being preached, nearly a hundred young women were gathered to watch, listen and learn here on OBU’s campus. Before the conference started, junior cross-cultural ministry major Sarah Lee was anxious to spend some time in the Word.

“I’ve been going through a season of a lot of doubt, a lot of worry, so I’m really praying that this weekend will kind of show me that’s not how He wants me to live, and how who He is takes away my need to worry,” she said.

Throughout the weekend, and for many weekends to come with IF:Locals across the globe, women heard messages about the things that are truly effecting their faith and the world in which they are attempting to minister.

Jennie Allen and Rebekah Lyons spoke to those struggling with mental illness, reminding them that there is nothing that can prevent the Lord from working through and in them.

“God didn’t pick the wrong girl for ministry,” Lyons said.

“Satan picked the wrong girl to mess with.”

Esther Havens Mann and Ann Voskamp spoke on their work in refugee camps where thousands of men, women, and children are left feeling like nothing.

“Are there nothing human beings in the world because too many of God’s people are doing nothing?” Voskamp asked the crowd, going on to call Christians to see and treat refugees as the reflection of God, as are all created beings.

While topics like these, along with other big issues like Me Too and racial reconciliation within the church, are taking over conversations in today’s church culture, they were just points in a larger message: true and unwavering dedication to the Gospel.

In presenting the issues like this, the way in which Christians deal with these issues and assist those effected is nothing more or less than the duty placed upon each and every believer.

Speakers like Christine Kaine and Nick Vujicic preached messages of revival to a generation that desperately needs to step up and be the hands and feet of Jesus.

“Stop scrolling through everybody else’s lives,” Kaine said of social media, “and run the race set before you.”

Among these messages was one that resonated particularly with Sarah Lee: dealing with doubt.

“I feel like it was what I needed to hear,” Lee said.

“I think it’s very easy to get caught up in all the worry and all the doubt and it’s really easy to take your eyes off of Jesus and to think inward. I think the message that I’m taking away from this weekend is to stop looking inward and to start looking to Jesus again for everything.”

Throughout the weekend’s weighty messages, OBU’s Local Gathering opened up time for women to use conversation cards to talk with others at their tables.

Each woman who attended the event received a set of cards along with a journal and one of IF’s discipleship studies.

Erica Reed, junior elementary education major and one of ten student volunteers who works alone side an executive team of OBU staff to plan the event, said that the conversations were an integral part of the Gathering.

“A lot of IF’s goal is within discipleship relationships, you have vulnerability, so that can be a deeper relationship,” she said, “that women wouldn’t just talk with each other about the surface level things but that they would truly share what is on their hearts.”

With the discipleship center up and running in Montgomery Hall, discipleship is becoming more and more important on the OBU campus.

“A huge goal that OBU also wanted to get out of [the event] was a desire for discipleship on our campus, whether that be women seeking to be discipled [or] to begin discipling, that it would continue to become a deep part of OBU’s culture,” Reed said.

Part of learning to disciple others is looking back on who discipled you, according to Reed.

As part of the event, the young women gathered in the upper GC wrote the names of the women who helped build their faith on white tiles, symbolizing stones of remembrance.

“In Paul’s letter to Timothy,” Reed said, “he says to remember where your faith began, and remember your faith, because Christ is what you really need to remember.”