Oklahomans savor a moment at NEXT, a recent campus ministry event in St. Louis. In front are, from left, Elizabeth Horton-Ware, Katelyn Trobaugh, and Angela Smith. All are named in the story.
Fifteen college students and four campus ministers from Oklahoma were blessed with the opportunity Nov. 9-11 to attend a new United Methodist conference in St. Louis, Mo. The program’s name: "Imagine What’s NEXT."
The Oklahomans traveled from Cameron University (Lawton), Southwestern Oklahoma State University (Weatherford), Northwestern Oklahoma State University (Alva), and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College (Miami).
Among topics presented to the 560 people attending NEXT were: fighting human trafficking, giving $100 to help a student start a ministry, building interfaith community on campus, and learning how students in the Middle East pushed for change, reported Vicki Brown of the UM General Board of Higher Education & Ministry. An additional 149 people watched sessions live online at www.umsm.org
Students were asked to do more than listen, Brown stated. They were asked to make their own plans and fill out pledge cards with what they "imagine" is next for their lives and ministries. Those cards will be mailed to them to remind them of their plans.
"We left knowing that our ministry calling could be fulfilled whether we are called to be a lay person or an ordained minister," said NWOSU student Jonathan Washington.
The event consisted of concerts, small-group sharing, Communion, worship, and touring landmarks. Students were continually encouraged to be involved, with many outreach opportunities.
According to their ministry interests, students chose among "affinity groups," a key segment of NEXT. In each group, ideas flowed and support resources were offered, which students can use within those areas of interest back on their home campuses. The affinity groups in which the Oklahoma students participated were: public health, arts, legal justice, human trafficking, music, homelessness/poverty, and discipleship/spiritual formation.
The Oklahomans welcomed the wide array of affinity groups and found them informative and interesting. They enjoyed meeting people from campuses around the nation. They agreed campus ministry enables great experiences that lead students to be involved and stand up for what they believe.
Attending from Oklahoma were, from SWOSU, Katelyn Trobaugh, Aaron Hesler, and campus minister Elizabeth Horton-Ware; from Cameron, Bobbilyn Owens, Delvis Simmonds, Peter Machis, Courtney Barden, Ja’Lyn Yarbrough, Nolan Ellis, Shautee’ Hicks, Byron Phillips, and campus ministers Galeda and Montie Jones; from NEO, Hank Pippen and Angela Smith; and from NWOSU, Jacey Ford, Josi Hasenauer, Jonathan Washington, and campus minister Deb Corr.
(Jonathan Washington, NWOSU, contributed to this report.)