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Southwestern Assemblies of God University, Waxahachie, Texas

Wind across Texas

By Melinda Booze

The ever-present winds sweep across the central Texas plains. Thirty minutes south of Dallas/Fort Worth, Southwestern Assemblies of God University sits at Ellis County’s highest point in the historic town of Waxahachie, Texas. Students quickly learn to anchor every loose paper and strand of hair.

Students find another anchor at SAGU. Through classroom experience, outreach and campus life, students are inspired to anchor their lives and futures to Jesus Christ. A powerful spiritual wind is blowing across Ellis County.

"There’s something on Southwestern’s campus that is so amazing; it’s the Spirit of God hovering over this place," sophomore Nelz Samuels says. "I walked onto this campus, and there is one thing that I desire: more of God. I’ve gotten more of God every single day."

Senior Daniel Fields says, "Here, I’ve been able to define what I believe Christianity is — not just what I’ve been taught, not just religion, not just tradition. I look into the Word. Southwestern is kind of like an incubator — to grow in your spiritual life."

Less than 10 years ago, Southwestern’s future was uncertain. Enrollment was declining, with a low point of 596 students in 1991. This fall, enrollment is more than 1,600. New buildings, remodeling and expansion to a north campus to accommodate growth since the mid-’90s are physical proofs of answered prayers. The new, 111,000-square-foot Sheaffer Full Life Center houses a 2,500-seat chapel, a cafeteria, an athletic center, offices, classrooms and a prayer center.

In one of the first chapels held in the center, students fill the sanctuary with songs of praise and shouts of prayer. Time for prayer at the altar is a priority. "Feeling desperate today? Come to the altar and stay as long as it takes," the leaders say.

President Kermit Bridges is new to the top leadership post. He points to former president Delmer Guynes as "the steady hand of leadership at a rough time — a time when we were just scraping by. Guynes instituted an emphasis on prayer — intercessory prayer for the lost world. He understood that we need missionaries in every vocation. His vision went beyond the ability to anticipate the future. He shored up the real foundation — the spiritual dynamic."

An explosion of student ministry has resulted from the prayer emphasis. Students are encouraged to serve an hour each week in a variety of ministries. Most do that — and more. This spring, approximately 400 students committed their spring break to ministry around the world as part of Spring Explosion.

"What I like about the ministries and Spring Explosion is that they’re student-led," junior Sarah Moody says. "The professors help and guide us, but they let us minister."

According to Dan Langston, Bible and Theology Department head, "Students’ desire for ministry, the desire to do things for God, their compassion — it’s phenomenal." Langston is one of the mentors who offers accountability to student ministries. "Ministry is motivated by the students," he says. "They feel support from the school, so they take initiative."

Three SAGU-sponsored, student-led churches are reaching into the metroplex. Graduates Tony and Hanah Fundaro pastor Resurrection Center located in Deep Ellum, Dallas’ arts district. In 1996, Tony was one of a small band of students whom God led to make weekly visits to Deep Ellum to pray for and witness to the addicts, prostitutes, witches, runaways and others attracted to the lifestyle of this subculture. Tony was a freshman when the need of the people in Deep Ellum gripped him. Today, more than 120 people meet at Resurrection Center. Within weeks of the church’s beginning, Resurrection Center baptized four believers. Southwestern students continue to minister weekly in Deep Ellum.

All Nations Assembly of God on the University of Texas campus in Arlington and All People’s Assembly of God in Dallas’ Oaklawn area are churches planted and staffed by Southwestern students and alumni.

Within a three-mile radius of All People’s Assembly of God, approximately 300,000 ethnically and socially diverse people live and work. The world’s largest gay church is part of the community. All People’s pastor Jacob Rodriguez planned to start a Hispanic church in New Orleans after he graduated from Southwestern, but God changed his plans. "This is where God wants me right now," he says. "We are seeing God change people that we never thought possible."

Mary Campbell, director of teacher education, was faculty sponsor for a Spring Explosion team that went to a country unfriendly to the gospel. "We have to prepare students to go there to teach English, so they can plant the seeds," Campbell says. "Two students who went on this trip are called to go to this country as teachers." Campbell came to Southwestern in 1992 when there were 43 education majors. This year, more than 400 students will prepare for ministry and vocation as teachers.

"The presence of God is here," says sophomore Celina Rios. "I transferred to Southwestern from a secular campus. The professors here care about students; they care about where you are spiritually."

The phenomenal enrollment increase, the resources for facility improvements, the academic expansion, the explosion of student ministries — all indicate to faculty and students that the wind sweeping across Texas is the wind of the Holy Spirit.

"We have people from the top down who really seek the Lord," Campbell says. "That’s what makes the difference."

Melinda Booze is editor of On Course magazine.


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