ORU students 'Live the Story' on missions

By Andrea Graff, Class of 2012

Live the Story. This is the vision statement chosen by the ORU Missions department -- a challenge for students to accept the mandate of the University given by God to Oral Roberts. The mandate inspires them to "go into every person's world" to spread God's light and healing power.

More than 45 years later, students are still accepting this mandate. In fact, the missions staff records 2011 as one of ORU Missions' strongest years yet. Throughout the spring and summer, 284 students participated on one of 26 teams that together reached out to 17 different countries. There were a total of 1,972 salvations and 53 confirmed healings.

Teams saw various people groups receive Christ, including Muslims in northern Ghana and Hindus in southern India. They reached an unreached tribe permeated with witchcraft in Tanzania and witnessed many more salvations and healings across the Americas, Africa, and Asia.

Many students attribute an increased understanding and an ignited passion for missions to their recent experience on the field. Current student body president Jentre Olsen said his team's trip to Zambia opened his eyes to the ongoing need for missions and inspired him to take action.

"Missions is every day. It never stops. I will serve wherever and however He wants," he said.

Lacy Davis, who served on the Uganda team, said the trip gave her a new perspective on the true location of the "missions field."

"The missions field is everywhere. What makes the difference is purpose and listening to God's voice," she said.

Many students were greatly impacted by the heavy amount of teamwork involved on the trips. They recognized the significance of each person in completing assignments effectively. Sarah Dinwiddie said that her trip to Brazil made this reality evident to her.

"Each person on my team had something unique and powerful to give. Without them, even just one of them, we would be crippled as a whole," she said.

Her teammate, Andrew Stodden, says that the trip solidified in his heart the confidence that God can work through any person, regardless of their ability.

"Though I may be an imperfect... person, that does not mean I am not the 'imperfect' person for the job. God calls the willing, not the perfect. Because He called us and we are willing, we can do all things with Christ as our leader," he said.

Paulo Chikoti-Bandua, who served on the Ghana development team, takes that truth even farther. He says that inability gives God room to work, and that is where the testimony is.

"God's ability to work is greater than my ability to fail. He's able to glorify himself even through my mistakes. It is God who ultimately works on the hearts of men -- not me," he said.

Though students journeyed to other countries to leave an impact on others, some maintain that they were just as impacted.

Joe Ninowski, a member of the Tanzania "Man Team," said, "Originally, we embarked on a journey to change the life of the African. Little did we know we would be the ones changed forever."

Guatemala team member Kaytlynd Spangler recalls the same life-changing experience on her trip to Guatemala.

"We may have gone to give, but we received so much more... This unity blessed us so much," she said.

Some students experienced life-change by being deeply challenged in their relationship with God while others were given entirely new direction for their lives.

Jon Moser, a Brazil team member, said that he reached a new level with God while on his trip.

"I can hear His voice more clearly, He is working through me more than I could have imagined, and I know more about His love now," he said.

Hannah Dunbar, Haiti team member, says that her trip sparked within her a greater vision for the future, and she's already begun to take action toward fulfilling that calling.

"I plan on earning [my] license as a physician and working on the missions field, possibly Haiti, because I saw the need for medical attention and it reignited my desire to become a physician. I'll be applying to med school this summer and will be attending by next fall. I'm excited about the future," she said.

While many students received spiritual healings, several received physical healings as well. Deanna Smeragliuolo says that she received a miracle while in Brazil.

"One of my legs was a bit shorter, causing spinal misplacement. My team prayed for me, and my leg grew out. I walk more stable now, and I've not felt pain in my back since," she said.

Though many students maintain that the entire trip was impactful, each was reminded of one specific moment that will mark their hearts forever.

For Aubrey Robinson, a trip to the red-light district in Germany offered that unforgettable experience.

"It was astounding and heart-breaking. But I was able to pray with drunks and prostitutes, and the Lord revealed to me that that's what we should always be doing -- serving the least of these," she said.

Joe Edens recalls a similar moment in Togo.

"A kid named Nadu lived at an orphanage specifically for kids who had been rescued from slavery. We built a strong relationship, and I will never, ever forget him. The Sunday before we left, he gave his heart to the Lord. So powerful," he said.

Jordan Lewis tells a story that woke him up to the reality of the need for the gospel in Tanzania and around the world.

"My most memorable experience was sharing the gospel with a man who had never heard it before. After sharing, I asked him what his thoughts were, and he asked me, 'What's the cost of joining your team?' We explained that there was no cost because Jesus had already paid it," he said.

Beyond the initial impact and culture shock a foreign culture can bring, India missionary Megan Easton found comfort in the fact that one thing will always remain the same.

"God is the same in India, America, and the rest of the world. It might be different than the way we do things, but the Holy Spirit is still the same," she said.