May 6, 2023, was a day of polarities for the Williams community – a day of contrasts. On the one hand, we were graduating the second largest class in our history. This was a day filled with excitement and joy as families and friends filled our gym to celebrate this milestone event in the lives of each graduate. As I looked out over the large number of those gathered, my heart was filled with gratitude and joy for the privilege of having had the sacred opportunity to invest four years of teaching, mentoring, coaching, and equipping these young men and women for a life of service to God in their families, churches, and communities. It was a great day!
On the other hand, May 6 was a day tinged with sadness and grief. Earlier in the week, one of our freshman students was tragically killed in an auto accident. She was a member of the women’s junior varsity basketball team. She was a follower of Jesus – her father serves as a bi-vocational pastor at one of our ABSC churches. This young woman loved animals, rodeo, and WBU. As I looked out over the large numbers of people at graduation, I was reminded of the large numbers of people who had gathered to comfort the family and grieve together over the loss of this young women’s life.
These contrasting experiences have many profound implications for various facets of life. As I have reflected upon these events, God has reminded me of several important realities about our mission at Williams. First, each student entrusted to us is a precious life valued in the sight of our God. Our efforts to educate and equip our students for life in the world must always be shaped by this core truth. From the moment a student first steps onto our campus until he or she steps off the campus and into the world, every student comes to us as a sacred trust from their families. Their lives matter to God, and their lives matter to us.
Second, our mission at Williams must have a sense of urgency. We do not know how long these students will be with us – some will be with us for four years, others a bit longer, and others a bit less. Regardless of the time, every moment we spend with them must count. God has ordained each life to have a purpose in this world. In the short time we have with each student, we are tasked to have a hand in shaping and preparing each one to fulfill his or her providential purpose. We certainly want our students to have fun, cultivate friendships, and have a Christian college experience, but we also have a divine obligation to steward our time wisely to ensure we are doing everything we can to educate and train them for their God-called purpose.
Third, we must maintain our focus on our mission. Ultimately, a Christian college/university exists to assist our churches to make disciples of our children. Now more than ever, we as the Church must intentionally, strategically, and biblically train the next generation of Christian leaders. The age range of 18-22 marks one of the foremost periods of personal transformation for a person. This is the period when values are identified and embraced; when faith is strengthened (or, God forbid, rejected); when husbands or wives are found; when callings and vocations are discovered; and so on.
As followers of Jesus, we must be thoughtful and deliberate in helping these young adults prepare for faithful living and leadership in a fallen, sin-sick world. If we do not “capture the university student,” secular beliefs and value systems most assuredly will. Therefore, we cannot – we must not – fail in our efforts. Although each man and woman must ultimately decide matters of faith and paths for their lives, we must continue to be biblically faithful and “conviction-ally” passionate in our mission to educate and equip the next generation of Christian leaders – Williams Way leaders. in
The Lord used both human experiences to reiterate to me the profound importance of the disciple-making mission for His Church and, by extension, for Williams Baptist University. These events remind me, and hopefully all of us, of the need to press forward, investing our lives in the lives of our sons and daughters at this most critical time in their lives.
I am grateful to Arkansas Baptists for the vision that birthed WBU and for your continued commitment to support our mission. Williams derives its existence and purpose from the cooperative support and faithful prayers of Arkansas Baptists. Because of this partnership, we collectively make disciples of the next generation, equipping young men and women to be “salt and light” leaders who will serve the Lord Jesus in word and deed. Our Gospel mission is a shared mission – a sacred trust we as Arkansas Baptists must not neglect or take for granted. Too much rests upon our obedience to be faithful to this holy calling.
Please join us in our prayers for the class of 2023 as they embark upon the next chapter of their lives. Also, please pray for the family of this student whose life ended so tragically. They love the Lord and continue to faithfully serve Him, but their hearts are surely heavy as they continue down the path of grief and healing. And pray for WBU as we press forward in our sacred task – to be, as Dr. H. E. Williams fondly stated, “A Campus of Christian Purpose!”