Written by: Kedrick Nettleton, Staff Writer
Imagine that you feel God speaking to you, calling you to something that you don’t entirely understand. You’ve no idea how it’s going to get done, or even why it’s needed in the first place, but you obey anyway.
Donnie Bostwick, head coach of the OKWU men’s basketball team, felt like this when he discerned a call from God to host a worship event to set people free from anxiety, depression, and fear. It was January, and he was taking part in a yearly fast with his basketball team, seeking the Lord’s will for the new year. One night, as he was listening to sermons on his computer, Bostwick fell asleep. Autoplay kept the videos going, and he awoke in the early morning hours to a very specific message.
“I felt like, in my heart, that whatever was being said that time, I was woken up specifically to listen to it,” he said.
The speaker on the computer predicted an “attack” on the country when people would fall prey to fear, anxiety, depression, and anger. At the time Bostwick heard this, in January, he didn’t understand. Things at the time felt mostly positive.
“I’m thinking, ‘What do you want me to do, God? Why are you telling me this?'” he said.
“I’ll just say this: God was in it, at a level that I’ve only seen a couple of times in my life. I didn’t do much aside from just watch Him do amazing things.”
Laying the Foundation
Pre-COVID, it was hard to imagine any sort of spiritual attack coming, but Bostwick began laying the foundation for obedience anyway. He immediately thought to host an event—a night of worship and testimony proclaiming the Lord’s power—and started considering his options. Location was the first hurdle. After initially considering Pryor, Oklahoma, Bostwick found an opportunity in downtown Bartlesville. Then came the event itself—what artists could he find to play?
His most important concern was that the event be more than merely a Christian concert or music festival. It had to be a significant night of worship. “I don’t just want a concert,” he said. “I want an opportunity for people to be set free.”
And in March, the event’s need became apparent, with the COVID-19 pandemic and the shutdowns that accompanied it. People were fearful, they were anxious, and they were experiencing worry like never before. Bostwick saw this as an explicit confirmation of his calling. “God was saying: here’s the field,” he said.
When he wrote down his goals for the concert, Bostwick felt God calling him to put down the word messengers. At the time, he had no idea what it meant. “I didn’t think anything of it.”
It was only after he began asking around about what worship acts to get that he understood the significance of that word, because every person he talked to recommended the same group: We Are Messengers. At first, he shot it down for monetary reasons. But what could it hurt to ask?
“Financially, he’s God,” Bostwick said. “He doesn’t have to worry about it.”
After finally getting in touch with the band directly, they agreed to play the event. Bostwick rounded out the night’s lineup with Leanna Crawford, Kailey Abel, and Bobby Wade—a rapper who has strong connections to the OKWU program and who has ministered at FCA before. Since the men’s basketball mission trip had been canceled, Bostwick used this event—dubbed Freedom Fire 2020—as the team’s ministry opportunity, allowing him to run it under the OKWU umbrella. “That really opened a neat door,” he said.
In the days and weeks leading up to Freedom Fire, Donnie would often spend evenings downtown, praying circles around the area. Numerous things happened during these nights, some of them confirming and some unsettling, but the Lord was there in all of them. “God would show up down there in the coolest ways,” he said
Twenty-five people came forward towards the end of the event to be baptized in a fountain near the stage, and many who attended have since proclaimed freedom from sin struggles or addictions that had plagued them for years.
Setting the Captives Free
When Freedom Fire 2020 was finally held on September 19, over 1,000 people attended, adhering to social distancing guidelines. Churches and ministries from all over the community came together to worship, pray, and proclaim freedom. It ended up being exactly what Bostwick had imagined: not just a music fest, but something much more significant. “The experience was not a concert,” he said. “The experience was that we encountered God in a cool way in a time when most people across the world aren’t getting to worship.”
Twenty-five people came forward towards the end of the event to be baptized in a fountain near the stage, and many who attended have since proclaimed freedom from sin struggles or addictions that had plagued them for years. “I’m just up on stage watching everything I’d dreamed come true,” Bostwick said.
Kaz Ammons, a player on the OKWU basketball team, echoes how powerful it was. “From the beginning of the dream to its completion, God moved,” he said. “He used Freedom Fire to draw the OKWU basketball team and hundreds of others to himself. And the coolest part was seeing young and old alike getting baptized at the end, saying, ‘Yes, I want to follow Jesus.'”
Bostwick is humble about the experience, giving all the credit to the Lord. “I’ll just say this: God was in it, at a level that I’ve only seen a couple of times in my life. I didn’t do much aside from just watch Him do amazing things,” he said.
What happens next? While the timing of any future events is unclear, Bostwick knows that he wants to continue to be a part of the harvest that God is preparing. “Right now, I’m just open,” he said. “If God is moving right now, I want to be a part of that… the church has left the building. If we have to go to the fields, we’ll go to the fields.”
A follow-up Freedom Fire concert and revival will be held Sunday, November 15 at 3 PM, at Unity Square in downtown Bartlesville. The event will feature two-time Dove Award winner Beckah Shae, along with up and coming artists Lily Piekos and Bobby Wade. All are encouraged to attend.