OSU campus ministry clears ground for transformation
A girl rides 4-year-old Popcorn, led by Taylor Reed, on the Wesley Foundation property in Stillwater. The miniature horse also posed for selfies with guests.
BY HOLLY MCCRAY
Lucian Cretiu drove from Houston to Stillwater for one purpose.
The Romanian native said he wanted to attend the Oct. 8 groundbreaking at the place he always will call home: the Wesley Foundation at Oklahoma State University.
His bond to that United Methodist campus ministry reflected how many in the crowd felt that day, gathered on a rocky lot at 823 W. University. With fanfare, the Wesley began construction of a three-story ministry center, following the demolition of a structure in service more than 60 years.
"This place was where I made my decision for the ministry almost 44 years ago to the day, October, 1972," wrote retired Oklahoma clergyman Bob Younts on Facebook. "It needed to go, but it is kind of sad for me."
It was 2005 when Cretiu and his wife arrived at OSU from Romania to pursue master’s degrees. They had $1,000 in hand, he said. Through the meals the Wesley served up for students, he connected with campus minister Michael Bartley.
The couple lived in the basement of the Wesley about three years. In exchange, Cretiu helped maintain the aging building. Both completed their post-graduate study and now work in the engineering field. They attend a Houston church.
"We come with great affection and memories of this place," Bishop Jimmy Nunn told the 200-plus people at the groundbreaking. He linked the Wesley’s ministry to Jesus’ call for Christians to be the light of the world (Matthew 5).
• Light bends. "We bend to meet people where they are."
• Light reflects. "We seek to reflect the light of Christ."
"Congratulations on your vision," the bishop said.
The Wesley is familiar to OSU President Burns Hargis, who lived beside it as a student. He spoke about the multiple construction projects under way on campus and thanked "all people who have donated to make this reality."
Joe Hall, a member of the Wesley Board of Directors, quoted the founder of the Methodist faith, John Wesley: Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can.
Hall and his wife, Vickie, live out that teaching in their lives, he said.
"Lots of Methodists contributed" to the successful $6.5 million capital campaign, which was Phase 1 of the building project, he explained. He provided commemorative medallions to those present.
He and Vickie "hope and pray" supporters step up to raise $3 million more by year’s end. That will make possible student housing on the third floor of the new building.
Some additional gifts were received Oct. 8, according to Janina Graves, the Wesley’s associate director and coordinator of student ministry.
Bea Paul chairs the Wesley board. She particularly thanked Rev. Bartley as the project’s visionary.
She said, "His love of young adults has pushed us to IMAGINE," the campaign’s theme.
Bartley said he often is asked: What does the Wesley Foundation do?
That’s "both the easiest question to answer and, more profound, to contemplate always," he said. "As a pastor in a university setting, the commitment is to befriend, uphold, and challenge young adults. The new facility has been designed around Wesley Foundation core commitments, including hospitality and shared community."
Home seemed so far away for OSU student Catherine Westfahl when she arrived as a freshman. She remembered the first time she entered the Wesley’s doors — to bake cookies for a student cookout. Today she readily takes on student leadership roles at the ministry that’s become her home away from home.
Most important, the young woman said, the Wesley’s ministry to her has "led me to a faith so real" that she can introduce others to God.
She admitted "mixed feelings" about demolishing the original building, but "there will soon be a new set of doors for students to walk through."
Burns Hargis, OSU’s president, delivered greetings to the crowd of 200-plus.
Dressed in OSU colors, spirited participants dig in at the Wesley groundbreaking before the Cowboys football game Oct. 8 in Stillwater. Campus minister Michael Bartley is third from left.
Photos by Holly McCray