A fruitful ministry in a dry land
Panhandle State University BSU student preachers filling pulpits from one end of the Panhandle to the other
GOODWELL—Driving through this small city, few would know that it is the Saddle Bronc Capital of the World, and home to world champion bronc riders Billy and Robert Etbauer and National Final Rodeo qualifiers Dan Etbauer, Craig Latham and Brett Franks.
With a population nearing 1,500, Goodwell is located in the heart of “No Man’s Land.” The Rock Island Railroad was responsible for creating Goodwell, and the town was named by railroad workers who were fond of the good, soft water that came from the well they had drilled on the town site.
To the naked eye, there is not much in the lazy Panhandle town which covers 1.2 square miles. Heading west through the town, what stands out are huge grain elevators, lots of mobile homes and a large horse pen. As the eye searches, there is a gas station/restaurant/grocery store, a Mexican restaurant and a storage rental building. So much for Goodwell, you say, as you reach the western outskirts.
But wait . . . on the right is a large ground-level brick sign which reads: Oklahoma Panhandle State University. Turning to the right, you cross the railroad tracks, and suddenly, you are in a different world. Facing you is a modern university campus with up-to-date buildings on each side of a tree-lined boulevard. Students meander through winding walkways to classes in five academic schools: agriculture, business/technology, education, liberal arts and science, mathematics and nursing.
The four-year college, which celebrated its centennial in 2009, describes its environment on its Web site as hot in the summer, cold in the winter with frequent snow and windy almost year round.
Most of the 1,200 students have come because of the affordable excellence the university offers, and the 18-1 student to faculty ratio as well as the three-time National Collegiate champion rodeo team. The school also sports a world-class certified instructor, one of only 10 in the world who has his expertise in computer graphics and a computer information systems teacher, who for the last nine years has been in the top 10 in national competitions 65 times, as well as 12 graduates who are employees of NASA.
On the east side of campus sets a nondescript building with lettering across the front which reads: Baptist Student Union. Through this building come students, faculty and administration from all walks of life. They may be involved in a cowboy Bible study on Mondays, praise and worship on Tuesdays, lunch encounter or Fellowship of Christian Athletes on Wednesdays, Fellowship of Christian Educators on Thursdays or any number of other activities and Bible studies that radiate from this campus-wide ministry.
“People from every walk of life come through here, and we have a chance to share Jesus,” said BSU director Jay Kindsvater, who has been at Panhandle State for seven years.
Not only does the BSU share Jesus on campus, but students spread across the Panhandle preaching, giving their testimonies and working with high school students.
“The Panhandle isn’t very wide, but it’s long,” said Kindsvater, “and our guys have preached from one end to the other.”
A unique thing about these “preachers” is that none of them is preparing for the pastorate, and none preached before coming to college.
However, churches in the Panhandle are becoming aware that the Panhandle BSU is an oasis from which they can draw when they need pulpit supply. One church in particular, Bethel, near Hardesty, is extremely grateful for this BSU ministry.
Bethel’s pastor, said Kindsvater, got bumped by a cow, and while in the hospital had three heart bypasses. Since that time, BSU students have been preaching at Bethel full-time.
Nathan White, a Texhoma, Texas sophomore, said he preaches there about once a month.
“I like preaching,” said White, who started leading worship at the BSU while still in high school. “It’s made me study a lot more.”
Jay Dan Roseboro, who came to Panhandle State from Charlotte, N.C. on a football scholarship, said he rededicated his life when Kindsvater took him to an FCA meeting in Norman his freshman year.
“When I got involved in ministry, I gave up football,” Roseboro said. “I feel preaching is a calling. I can’t stop. I find myself preaching to myself in my backyard during the summer.”
Roseboro said he at first tried to make every sermon a home run, but realized God talks in a still small voice. He said his father got him into the Word as a child when he made Roseboro tell him what each Bible chapter he read meant.
“That childhood experience taught him expository preaching,” said Kindsvater.
Jordan Flanagan, a Texhoma, Texas senior English major, said he prepared his first sermon like he would an assignment for a speech class.
“I don’t see myself as a pastor, but this has put me in a good environment,” he said.
David Rotteveel, back-up quarterback for the Aggies football team, does plan to go into full-time vocational ministry, but is looking to youth ministry.
“My biggest fear is speaking in front of people, but I’m willing,” he said.
Hector Cabos Leon, a senior fine arts major from Guymon, said his preaching experience started with giving his testimony at the BSU and at Goodwell Church, which does a college night every week.
Jacob Edmond, from Stratford, Texas, who is going to be an agriculture teacher, said he preached his first sermon on greed, following a lot of prayer and asking friends to help with Scripture to go along with his topic.
Bethel’s congregation averages around 70 years of age, said member Virgil Gibson, who moved back to the area after working as a chef in New York and Chicago.
“They love the kids,” said Gibson of the Bethel members. “Each one brings a different perspective and type of preaching. And they love giving them a chance to preach.”
Kindsvater said he watches the kids before he asks them to preach.
“Jacob is a story teller,” he related. “I could hear him telling parables like Jesus did. And when Jay Dan shared his testimony with me, I knew he had something special.”
More than 10 percent of the students on campus are involved in the BSU, with the Wednesday lunch encounters bringing in 160-225.
“The Methodist student group and the Church of Christ also serve noon meals, but we are the only one who gives a devotion,” Kindsvater said.
Texhoma (Okla.), First has been bringing meals for the event for 25 years. Thirty lunches are served each school year.
In addition to its other ministries, the BSU ministers to a nursing home in Elhart, Kan.
“This was started by Connie Butler, a non-traditional student, a single mom with two sons, who has an aunt in assisted living at this facility,” said Kindsvater. “We do ministry twice a week and provide worship every Sunday afternoon.”
During Spring Break, a five-member team from the BSU went to Lake Havasu City, Ariz. to minister to college students gathered there for the break. The Oklahoma students offered free shuttle rides as they walked the riders through the Gospel using “power bracelets.” The group gave out 700 power bracelets, and in addition to college students, led a 60-plus-year-old man to Christ and baptized him on the shores of Lake Havasu.
The BSU was instrumental in starting the FCA group as well as a new group on campus—Fellowship of Christian Educators.
“It’s for all education students at OPSU,” explained Kindsvater. “Some of them will be going into places where Christianity is accepted, and others where there is a challenge to sharing their faith. We want them to know there are legal ways to teach Christian values without being overt.”
At the final FCA meeting of the year, assistant football coach Mark Rutledge encouraged the athletes to stay in the Word during the summer.
“Just because we have a summer break doesn’t mean we can take a break from the Bible,” he admonished. “Get involved in church camps, revivals, nursing homes. We need to be growing our faith so when we come back, we don’t have to start again from zero.”
Kindsvater said the success of BSU work is a personal relationship with the students.
“You have to have quality time with the students if you’re going to have a ministry with them,” he said. “We spend a lot of time counseling with students and praying with faculty.”
Kindsvater said he defines winning as a love relationship with Christ, investment in others, a value of biblical living, equipping for ministry and sending students out into the world to make a difference.
“We help the students catch a vision, then they find places to invest,” he said.
The BSU has a ripple effect with former students in places like East Asia with the Peace Corps and Argentina strengthening the ministry of local churches.
“The most vital mission field in the world is the college campus,” said Kindsvater. “It’s where leadership is being formed. It’s a great opportunity and a great challenge, where we are setting the pace for the next 40 years in terms of Christian work throughout the world.”