Recently, Joy and I, along with our son Daniel, were eating in a local restaurant when a man I did not know unexpectedly sat down with us in our booth. Earlier, as we were being seated, we had passed by this man and his family at their table. He recognized me, introduced himself to me, and thanked me for a recent message he heard me preach at his church. I was also asked to share about our Williams Works program when I spoke at this church.
The Lord evidently used that message and my comments about Williams Works to encourage this man and his family. As he sat at our booth, he asked to pray for us, and we were glad for him to do so. After his prayer, he shared the following with me:
I want to thank you for the messages you recently preached at our church. The Lord used you to minister to me and my family. Thank you for letting God use you.
I also want to thank you for the work you are doing at Williams. Your work program is something special – I don’t know of another school in Arkansas that is doing what you are doing. Williams Works teaches the importance of work in your education of our young people. Your school values hard working people – people like me.
Williams is for people like me and my family – working people who want to know we are respected and appreciated. Your school honors hard working people. You are not only giving a great education to our young people – you are also teaching them how to work.
I have a cousin who is a student at Williams. She is working on your farm. This is her opportunity to get a college education. She likely could not get a college education without Williams Works. I am truly grateful to you and the rest of the employees at Williams for what you are doing.
Williams is for people like me.
I confess, I was emotionally moved by this dear brother’s testimony – his comments touched me deeply. Even now, I am still moved by his unsolicited remarks. God used this man to encourage and reiterate to me the importance and value of our mission.
Since that encounter, I have regularly reflected upon the statement, “Williams is for people like me.” What exactly does this mean? Although I don’t want to read more into my friend’s remarks than what he intended, I do think two or three observations can be gleaned from his comments.
First, Williams is creating an affordable way for the average, middle class Arkansan (whether blue collar or white collar) to get an exceptional Christian education. We are striving to provide a way for students to work their way through school. Students who follow the program can graduate debt-free.
This is unique in the landscape of higher education. There are schools who provide tuition-free programs, but most of these are offered only at elite institutions or are associated with certain degree programs. Additionally, these programs have significant restrictions, limiting accessibility. We at Williams are working to provide a pathway for Christian higher education that is available to any student who meets our admission and program requirements. If you are a student who is willing to work hard and responsibly, Williams is for you.
Second, Williams values the biblical ideal of work and is strategically incorporating work into its preparation and education of our students. Over the past few years, I have grown in my understanding and appreciation of the place of work in God’s purposes for His human creation. Our God is a working God, and we are made in His image – we were made to work. Given this biblical truth, we at Williams believe true Christian education must incorporate the theology and practice of work in our academic preparations. We strive to instill a strong Christian work ethic in every student.
I believe this focus on work resonates with Arkansans. Many of us believe in the promise and value of hard work – whatever our profession. Many of us were taught how to work hard – by our parents, friends, mentors, or employers. Many of us believe that hard workers should be honored for their labor and contributions to our families, to our churches, to our communities, and to our nation. If you believe in the value of a strong, Christian work ethic, Williams is for you.
Third, Williams remains true to its most basic and important founding principle – we are unashamedly Christian, and we are unapologetically committed to the Bible to support, shape, and direct our mission. Our entire mission rests upon the living God and His written revelation, the Bible. Our purpose at Williams only makes sense when understood within a biblical worldview. We are not like other higher education institutions, and we do not aspire to be. We desire for God to fulfill His purposes through us to our students. If you believe in the living God and believe the Bible is still authoritative and relevant today, Williams is for you.
This idea of Williams Baptist University being for the “every man” and the “every woman” finds its roots in our founder, Dr. H. E. Williams. In those early days, Dr. Williams repeatedly affirmed the importance of building an exceptional Christian college for Arkansas Baptists. Under his leadership and vision, Dr. Williams led those early Baptists to create a school that would provide an exceptional Christian education and would be readily accessible to any student who desired to work and study hard. That was his passion, and the heart that birthed the founding of Southern Baptist College still beats at the school now known as Williams Baptist University.
My recent interaction with my new friend continues to resonate in my heart and mind. Knowing our work at Williams makes a difference in the lives of others always lifts my spirit. I believe God used this man to encourage me and the Williams family to press forward in our mission. This interaction was a gracious blessing from the Lord.
And in the spirit of this encounter, I want to express my appreciation to Arkansas Baptists for your continued prayers and support. And I want to wholeheartedly and lovingly encourage you:
- If you love the Lord Jesus;
- If you believe the Bible is God’s written, authoritative revelation;
- If you believe that Christian higher education makes a difference in our communities;
- If you believe in the value of a strong Christian work ethic and hard work;
- If you believe making disciples of the upcoming generation can change our world;
Williams is for you!