Uncanny Comic Expo

By Assistant News Editor, Caleb Brown

The first ever Shawnee comic book convention is officially coming to town.

The Uncanny Comic Book Expo will be located at the Fire Lake Arena. The convention will be held March 9th, beginning at 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Tickets for the event are $5 in advance and $7 at the door. The event is being put together by Oklahoma Baptist’s own associate professor of Music Theory Dr. Peter Purin.

“I have been selling comics at conventions for a few years…,” said Purin. “I love the atmosphere of a good convention with all the great nerdy stuff to buy, panels and shows, and awesome costumes and fantastic art to see. I thought that it would be really fun to bring one to our community.”

Vendors for the convention will be Oklahoma-based business showing off some of their merchandise and giving away some limited edition prizes.

“We have awesome vendors.” said Dr. Purin. “Lots of comics, toys, and other collectibles, artists who offer prints, book art and more! There are so many great Oklahoma-grown vendors who offer fun and unique products.”

There will be official game tournaments held at the Expo, which will include an entrance fee of $15 in advance and $17 at the door. The fee will also pay for admission into the convention.

“There will be sanctioned gaming tournaments,” said Dr. Purin. “A Super Smash Bros. ultimate tournament, a Dragon Ball Fighter Z tournament, and a Magic the Gathering Tournament starting when the first 8 people sign up.”

The sign up for the Super Smash Bros. tournament ends at 11:00a.m., with the actual tournament starting at 12:00p.m. The Dragon Ball Fighter Z tournament will start at 2:00p.m. after sign-ups end at 1:00 p.m.

“For video games, bring your own Switch controller,” said Dr. Purin. “There are cash prizes for the top 4 places.”

Cosplaying plays a major part of any comic convention. Dr. Purin who has been a cosplayer for the Star Wars 501st Legion since 2005, will be joined by other cosplayers such as Courtney Mills and Marley Adams.

“I currently have a pretty epic Darth Vader costume,” said Dr. Purin. “I love making kids of all ages smile and feel that sense of wonder when they see a character they love from a favorite movie.”

A Cosplaying contest for kids and adults will be available at the Expo, which will be sponsored by Chick-fil-a.

“We have one costume party for adults and one for kids,” said Purin. “Chick-fil-a is providing some adorable prizes for this!”

The convention is aiming to be family-friendly, with an emphasis on being inviting and easy for newer con-goers to not feel overwhelmed.

“I think all of us have some nerd inside us,” said Dr. Purin. “I hope those who have never experienced a comic convention will give it a try and see how much fun it is to let your inner nerd out with others. I hope those who have been to conventions will find this to be an excellent show with fin things to do and an excellent selection of collectibles to purchase.”

General election voting excludes homeless

By Jonathan Soder, Features Editor

It’s no secret that downtown Shawnee is a district fraught with contradictions. It’s a place for many students, of aesthetic and spiritual beauty.

Every other Thursday night, students congregate together in the Ritz Theatre for an hour-long worship service.

The amalgamated concrete-brick walls are also popular backdrops for impromptu photoshoots.

On the other hand, downtown is also home to many of the folks who make up Shawnee’s homeless population, a people group who are often left voiceless.

Just yesterday, this population found itself mere blocks from one of Shawnee’s voting centers, Pottawatomie County Courthouse, during this year’s general elections.

Brandon Bryant is one of the homeless men who can be found downtown. At age 39, he’s now been homeless since June 2018.

Before Nov. 6, Bryant most recently voted in the 2016 presidential elections.

He said he’s rooting for democratic candidate Drew Edmonson, though he likely wasn’t going to have the opportunity to vote. This was in part due to the obstacles he faces as a homeless man.

“[One obstacle is] trying to get on and make sure that I’m registered to vote and stuff,” Bryant said. “I didn’t have all my documents with me.”

Gaining proper documentation is of particular difficulty for homeless citizens.

In order to receive a voter I.D., citizens must fill out a form that requires both a physical and mailing address – both of which homeless people tend not to have.

Another of Shawnee’s longtime homeless citizens, Jose, who’s requested his last name not be shared, has spent between 5-7 years homeless throughout the span of his life.

Contrary to Bryant, he said he had no intention to participate in this year’s general elections.

“I figure, well okay, if I do vote for the person, are they going to go sit in the office and do what they’re supposed to do in the office, or are they going to do something else, you know?” Jose said.

Though the men differed in their attitude toward voting, both said that they believe their voice matters.

“Every vote counts,” Bryant said. “Every vote matters.”

Jose echoed this sentiment, adding that, if someone wants something done, there are different voices to be heard on that issue.

Another perceived problem for homeless people during campaign seasons is keeping up with political campaigns and discussions.

However, Jose said that he was able to keep up with campaigns.

“Elections are different times of the season, you know, they’re not all the time,” Jose said.

Bryant, who said he had a little harder time keeping up, got most of the information he had on the elections from the news and the newspaper, though he did not specify any specific channel or publication.

Major aspects of American political campaigning are the “big issues” – those topics which prove most vital for candidates to have a favorable answer to in order to garner votes.

Another important issue for many Americans is the validity of a candidates bid in regards to several factors – trustworthiness, capability, etc.

Jose expressed these issues and not “big issues” are his top priorities when considering candidates?

“Are they qualified to do what they’re supposed to do,” Jose said. “Do they really want the office and [to] do what they’re supposed to do, or are they just running for that office just to be running for it, and then [they’ll] get in there after they’re elected and do something that they’re not supposed to do?”

At the time of this publication’s printing, the results of the general elections were yet unknown.

It’s doubtless that many of Shawnee’s homeless citizens had no say in the outcome, though whether that was due to lack of documentation or abstention from voting is less clear.

In either case, the voice of the homeless population in Shawnee is a large one which isn’t being heard from.

Blue Zones Project continues to better Shawnee

Ashton Smith, Assistant Features Editor

Blue Zones are areas in the world where people are known to live longer. An organization known as the Blue Zone Project is working towards increasing the Blue Zone areas all over the world, and part of that has started here in Shawnee, Okla.
“The Blue Zones Project encourages changes in our community that lead to healthier options,” according to the Blue Zones website. “From our worksites and schools, to our restaurants and grocery stores – the small changes contribute to huge benefits for all of us: lowered healthcare costs, improved productivity, and ultimately, a higher quality of life.”
By changing these aspects of our lives, we leave room for healthier habits to take root.
On the Healthways website, the author goes all the way back to tell the readers who invented the Blue Zones and how they came about.
“Blue Zones Project was born out of National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner’s eight-year examination of communities across the globe where people were happily living the longest. A team of medical researchers, anthropologists, demographers, and epidemiologists uncovered nine common characteristics that help identify a path for up to 12 extra years of life, regardless of geographic location.
Since then, 42 communities have joined, 1,685 organizations are participating, 165,028 pledges have been taken and over 2,250,000 lives have been impacted because of this national project. One of the 42 participating communities is here in Pottawattamie county. The organizations website for Pottawattamie county is full of different ways to get involved in the project, such as their page full of serving opportunities and workshops that are being held around the area.
Along with that, there is a tab on their website about the different local organizations in Shawnee that are committed to operating on Blue Zone premises. Different places to eat, shop, go to church and go to school are located on this page so people in the area can find them easily.
On the main Blue Zones website, the secrets to living a better, healthier and longer life are there for all to see and read about. It has what the Blue Zone Project calls the Power 9®.
“[We can] improve where we live, work, learn, and play, we make it easier to get up and move, eat healthy, make new friends, find a reason for being—and live longer, better,” according to the website.
By providing the community access to materials that detail these nine health improvements, the Blue Zones can spread to new areas of the globe and promote health and happiness to more people.

Capstone project becomes community outreach

By Jonathan Soder, Features Editor
Sometimes, in fact most of the time, classes stay on campus. Classrooms are on campus, professors have offices on campus and students do homework, though not exclusively, on campus.
Naturally, campus is the epicenter for class life, but what about classes that are specifically focused on going out instead of staying in?
Last semester, several students in Dr. Galen Jones’ Intro to Evangelism responded to the Matthew 29:19’s mandate to “go” and took their class to downtown Shawnee.
For the capstone project, junior cross-cultural ministry major Jordan Sheehy, sophomore Biblical studies major Caleb Stewart, then-sophomore cross-cultural ministry major Sam Creasy and junior something major David Gonzalez began a homeless outreach ministry.
Originally, Sheehy and Creasy planned to start a discipleship group in Agee dorm, but the plan never came to fruition.
Meanwhile, separately Stewart hoped to serve the homeless in Shawnee. After hearing about Stewart’s idea, Sheehy approached him about merging the two, and the Good Samaritan Project was born.
“I didn’t have any idea what I was going to do or how stuff was going to work,” Stewart said. “So with him [Sheehy] being able to cut hair, then the idea of grilling, it all just came together [to] have free haircuts, free food and fellowship.”
With a rough plan, the team began work. First, they made posters and hung them up downtown several weeks in advance of their first visit.
The free dinners were set for every Thursday at 6 p.m. Then they purchased and prepared food for the first Thursday night and headed downtown with a pair of shears, a chair and an amateur barber.
“We started out our first week with four people, and we were really scared [thinking] that, ‘This is all we’re going to reach for the next three months,’” Sheehy said.
With food enough for 25 people, the men returned to campus, refrigerated what wasn’t eaten and returned the next to find 10 new faces greeting them.
“That next week we had 14, so that was exciting, but literally the week after that we came back and there were 45 plus people that showed up,” Sheehy said. “It was just amazing to see how many people were in need, how many people couldn’t feed themselves that even, that wouldn’t have gotten a meal without us being out there.”
For the next month, the Good Samaritan Project continued to serve upwards of 45 people every Thursday night.
“They continuously told us, ‘This is not all of us. There’s twice what you’ve see here. They’re just busy or at some other place eating right now,” Sheehy said.
Only one group among many who serve free dinners for the homeless in Shawnee, Sheehy, Stewart, Creasy and Gonzalez aimed to do more than just provide free food.
One way they achieved this was through the free haircuts Jordan offered.
“I realized that one of the easiest ways for me to serve them is by giving them something they [normally] have to pay for for free,” Sheehy said. “A haircut’s always just something that makes you feel fresh, makes you feel new [and] puts a smile on your face, so I wanted to take my gifts and utilize those to bring enjoyment to people’s lives.”
These haircuts, and the meal, were part of the larger goal to “live life” with the homeless people in Shawnee.
Much of the inspiration for their ultimate goal came from Stewart’s sociology class.
He remembers reading through a portion of his textbook, “Generous Justice,” that highlighted the emphasis in the Old Testament on the Israelites’ responsibility to treat the downtrodden with dignity and compassion.
“Another thing in that book was that, instead of just giving tokens, like, ‘Here’s some money. Go buy some food,’ build them back up,” Stewart said. “Help them get jobs again. Help them find a home.”
One way Stewart and the others hope to achieve the long-term goal of building the homeless up is to pair with local churches to establish permanent involvement with the homeless community downtown.
“We want to provide a church for these families in need to go to that’s in their area, that they don’t have to drive across town for, that are welcoming and wanting them to come as well,” Sheehy said.
“We want them to not just fund us, but also make appearance[s] sometimes and introduce themselves to the families around them because it’s so much easier to go into a church when you already know someone than to just walk into a door.
“We want them to not just fund us but also make appearance[s] sometimes and introduce themselves to the families around them because it’s so much easier to go into a church when you already know someone than to just walk into a door,” Sheely said.
This type of community involvement would ensure the continuation of this ministry even as students have to leave.
However, this wouldn’t necessitate that graduating students cease helping.
Creasy, who’s taking a semester to work back home, has continued to support the group financially in anticipation of his physical absence this semester.
He also hopes to take part again when he returns to campus in the spring.
For him, the experience was more than a class project.
“[I learned] how fortunate I am to have what I have,” Creasy said, “and how many people there are that feel like they aren’t worth anything and feel like people have given up
on them, that need someone to show them how valued they are by Christ.”
At this point, it’s undetermined when the weekly meals will take place.
However, Sheehy, Stewart and Creasy all agree that it should continue, despite schedule conflicts and new responsibilities.
(The Bison was unable to successfully reach Gonzalez.)
“It’s still one of the things the Lord is convicting me of,” Stewart said. “And, just the other day, I went to that Momentum conference that lasted the whole night. We sang that song ‘Great Are You Lord,’ and I was just thinking, ‘Everyone doesn’t know how great the Lord is.’
“That got me thinking about the homeless ministry again, and so we need to keep on sharing the Gospel and telling others how great the Lord is and that he loves them.”
This is another goal that is yet to be realized.
Last year the four men sought to build relationships.
This year they hope to move into explicitly religious conversations that will lend themselves to outright Gospel presentations.
For now, Sheehy said that the group, now called Purpose 50, plans to hang up flyers Tuesday, Sept. 18th after deciding on a time to meet.
Any students interested in learning about the project further, or even donating, can visit purposeforthepoor.com

City, campus works to help the homeless

By Mya Hudgins, Contributing Writer  (Courtesy photo/The Bison)

In 2015, writer Scott Keys wrote an article entitled “Welcome To Shawnee, Oklahoma: The Worst City In America To Be Homeless” for the website ThinkProgress.

In it, he criticized the city for not developing additional shelters for the impoverished. He argued that without an overnight shelter available for the homeless, Shawnee didn’t prioritize that demographic.

However, that assertion may not be entirely accurate.

Pottawatomie County has around 236 non-profit organizations, and roughly less than half of those organizations help the poor, needy and the homeless.

In fact, according to Data USA, “22.9 percent of the population in Shawnee live below the poverty line, a number that is higher than the national average of 14.7 percent. The largest demographic living in poverty [in Shawnee, Okla.] is females between the age of 18-24.” That number has gained the attention of city leaders and its residents.

For many years now, the Shawnee community has been trying to help the plight of the homeless, and that effort extends to Bison Hill as well.

OBU has taken a stand to help those in need with the “On the Ground Ministry.” Such a ministry allows the campus to find ways to serve the community in which it stands—and there is a need.

“There is a substantial amount of homeless in Shawnee,” said Ashley Ellis, co-chair of On the Ground Ministry for Mission Shawnee.

“It is a problem that is noticed by many but helped by few. We often tell others that we are trying to help break the cycle of poverty that many of the people who are homeless are born into. Most of the homeless aren’t taken seriously and looked down upon even though most of them who we see on Sundays once had jobs that were well looked upon, but due to unfortunate events they either got laid off, sick or fell into substance abuse.”

Continued homelessness and an increased number of those living below the poverty line has gained the attention of this organization which endeavors to address the issue. Their most immediate issue at hand is basic food.

“At On the Ground Ministry, we feed meals to the homeless every Sunday,” Ellis said. “Local churches host each meal which can vary from home-cooked meals to the once a month pizza Sunday we have. Also, volunteers that are there are able to serve and help the homeless both physically and spiritually.”

Helping the impoverished in the community is their number one priority, she said. But their outstretched hand offers more than just food and other basic physical needs.

“This organization helps give people who are written off by society a sense of community and fellowship,” Ellis said.

“People come and go week by week, but there is an abundant amount of people who come every single week and have become friends with the volunteers and other people who attend. Every Sunday they know that there will be a roof over their head, a smiling face caring about them and a hot meal. That is something that money handed to them on the side of the street can’t always give them.”

Ellis said her heart goes out for those who are in need of food, shelter and love. She said many people have a hard time opening themselves to “those kinds of people.” People make excuses like “they should just get a job” or “is it not their own fault?” instead of just putting their self aside and helping.

“The homeless should be helped because we are all created in God’s image and someone’s social status, past mistakes and current struggles should not dictate whether they are worthy of the same help we would want to be given to us,” Ellis said.

“People who are in homeless situations often do not have the connections or the resources to get out of the situation like many of us think. Many people think they should just go get a job, but it’s hard to get a job when you don’t have a vehicle or a place to shower or any clean clothes to wear.”

Though this issue may not be discussed often among college students, there is a need for that very demographic to volunteer and show love toward those who need it.

“College students can volunteer their time to simply visit with the homeless,” she said. “Also, any sort of clothes and food donations are always appreciated.”

For On the Ground ministry, these college volunteers can try to meet the needs of these people. Ellis gave some examples of the biggest needs for the homeless.

“Skills training, clothing and just relationships to help with accountability. Many of the people simply need to know that someone cares about them and a source of motivation to get out of the situation that they are in.”

As On the Ground Ministry has been active for around four years; there is hope for more involvement in the future, and students can meet other volunteers each Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. in Montgomery Hall.

“I would like to see more community involvement in actively helping the homeless get jobs and also have more respect for the homeless,” Ellis said. “I don’t want people who are homeless to be looked down upon simply because of the circumstance[s] they are in.”

As OBU student volunteers are putting a foot forward in helping, so has the 151-year-old organization, The Salvation Army.

“The Salvation Army is a church, the denomination of Christianity, [and] what we do is offer people soup, soap and salvation…we spread the gospel and help with utility bills, clothing and food vouchers and a place to say,” said Vergil Savage, social service director at The Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army is always trying to help those in need, no questions asked.

“There are no criteria; anyone who needs help, needs help no matter the situation they’re in,” Savage said. “You never know what happened to someone—if they need help they come in and apply to get some help.”

This organization also understands that sharing the gospel with the homeless and people in need helps them spiritually. Many of them respond better to the Gospel after their physical needs have been addressed.

“They don’t want to hear about Jesus when they’re hungry and stinky or don’t have a roof over their heads or even meet their basic needs,” Savage said. “After I’ve done that, then I want to tell them about Jesus.”

Just like On the Ground Ministry, The Salvation Army runs on volunteers every single day.

“We have a total of about twenty-five volunteers, so daily we need about ten to fifteen volunteers,” Savage said. “If you come in and fill out an application, we will put you to work wherever you have a passion for.”

Both organizations focus on providing many different kinds of aid, but Ellis said volunteers must remember to treat their charges with respect.

“I think it’s important for everyone to put themselves in each other’s’ shoes,” Ellis said.

“While we all can agree that being homeless would definitely be an undesirable and scary experience, not many of us think about the fact that the homeless are most often viewed as lazy people who deserve where they are because they made the wrong choices, that most homeless are druggies and that you need to be careful and stay away from someone who is homeless,” she said.

“I don’t think that many of us could imagine a life where our fellow human beings looked at us as though we were less than them simply because we have less than them. If people walking down the streets diverted their attention and their path to simply not come into contact with us or make eye contact with us. Being homeless carries shame in itself, but having others cast more shame on you instead of helping you hurts as well.”

Snapshot of community, local art: Japanese garden mirrors sister city across the globe

By Jessa Chadwick, Assistant Arts Editor  (Photos by Jonathan Soder/The Bison)

“To promote peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation—one individual, one community at a time.”

This is the mission statement of the program Sister Cities.

As many know, the Japanese garden by the airport track is in honor of Shawnee, Okla.’s Sister City, Nikaho Japan.

Delegates from Shawnee schools have been chosen to go to Nikaho and represent Shawnee while students from Nikaho will spend a week in Shawnee as representatives of Nikaho.

The chairman for Shawnee is Michael Canaday who will be traveling with the students to Japan.

Taren Taylor, the delegation chair, is helping to prepare the students for their travels.

The concept of Sister Cities is for locals to experience other cultures while bringing their own culture overseas.

The official website, sistercities.org, goes into more detail.

“Sister Cities International was created at President Eisenhower’s 1956 White House summit on citizen diplomacy,” according to the website, “where he envisioned a network that would be a champion for peace and prosperity by fostering bonds between people from different communities around the world. President Eisenhower reasoned that people from different cultures could understand, appreciate, and celebrate their differences while building partnerships that would lessen the chance of new conflicts.”

For more information, check out the Sister Cities Facebook page or website.