Students at Oral Roberts University partner with community organizations in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to reach out to the their community and show the love and redemption of Christ.
ORU Outreach and Missions encourages students to reach the community of Tulsa in a variety of different ways, from serving the homeless community, to working with nursing home residents, to mentoring children, through 13 outreach organizations and over 25 volunteer programs. Students are strategically placed with different organizations and are asked to commit to one specific area.
“Our mission and goal is to be a short-term investment into long-term kingdom work,” Andrea Hyre, Assistant Coordinator of ORU Outreach and Missions, said. “We don’t believe you can go do foreign missions if you can’t do it here in your own city. We believe firmly in building up our city and bringing the gospel to the places that need it most.”
Two of the organizations that ORU students work with are John 3:16 Missions for Kids and the Laura Dester Children’s Home for Foster Children.
John 3:16 Missions
John 3:16 provides after school and evening programs to at-risk children and youth who live in low-income public housing. ORU students help with two different John 3:16 programs, Thursday Nights Together (TNT), which serves youth, and Believers Living and Serving Together (BLAST), which serves children. They help some of the staff of John 3:16, Jason Flewellen and Brian Bost respectively, with weekly events, tutor kids in their homework, talk with them during snack time and play games with them before worship time.
“The consistency of [the ORU students] coming each week is a huge impact in [the children’s] lives,” Bost said. “They get to know them throughout the year, are able to help, talk to them one on one, find out what’s going on in their lives and pray with them.”
Flewellen agrees that the consistency of the ORU volunteers and their ability to build relationships with the youth are key to bringing them closer to Jesus. He has enjoyed seeing his kids open up to the ORU students, especially since many of them have trust issues because of past experiences.
Monica Bonilla, volunteer coordinator for children and youth programs at John 3:16, said they “believe the more connected a kid feels, the more likely they will be keep coming” and that the “ORU students serve as an example of what it means to follow Jesus as you grow up”. Many of the kids do not have stability in their home lives, so the student volunteers provide some sense of stability and share the love of Christ with them.
Laura Dester Children’s Home
National Data shows that Oklahoma has the third largest rate of children in foster care. Another group of students from ORU works with some of these children at the Laura Dester Children’s Home.
“[College students] have a positive influence on these kids,” volunteer coordinator, Tonya Mason said. She is grateful that they spend time with the children because she sees their heart for them, and feels that the kids fave fun when they are there.
About twenty students spend one to two hours doing crafts with the children, teaching Bible stories, and playing games. There is no set schedule, so they are able to create their own curriculum or spend time doing whatever the children want or need to do.
“I see how Jesus is taking back children who have been abused and neglected,” Analynn Salvato, a senior ORU student who helps coordinate student outreach at the Laura Dester Children’s Home said. “It is a good reminder that ministry doesn’t just happen from a pulpit every Sunday morning. Ministry can look like many different things to every age, ethnicity, socioeconomic group, and culture.”
Janelle is a junior Journalism major at The University of Texas at Austin. After college, she hopes to become a foreign correspondent to continue sharing people’s stories. Janelle is involved with the Baptist Student Ministry, Austin Stone Community Church, and is a Campus Renewal Media intern.