It’s no exaggeration to say that James and Alicia (England) Winn’s time at Oklahoma Wesleyan was life-changing.
Alicia hails from a long line of Wesleyans, with three generations of her family connected to OKWU, but coming from her small hometown to a University with a global focus opened her eyes to a bigger world perspective, giving her the confidence she needed to move halfway around the world. For James, the OKWU story was unique. He moved to Bartlesville right after high school to coach and play table tennis. Word to the wise: don’t challenge him to a ping-pong duel unless you’re very, very prepared. James’ host family at the time offered him a home if he chose to go to college while in Oklahoma. To this day, James said, he’s not quite sure how he became an OKWU student, but somehow, what began as a college tour ended with a meeting in Dr. Bob Bonner’s office where he found himself signed up for classes. “It was basically divine intervention,” shared Alicia, because James joined OKWU as a nonbeliever, but through friends at the University and Bartlesville First Wesleyan Church, he came to faith as a sophomore.
James graduated with an Elementary Education degree in 1998, married Alicia that summer, and began teaching in the Bartlesville Public School system. Alicia finished at OKWU a year later in 1999 with a degree in Cross-Cultural work and a Linguistics Minor, and the couple signed on to go overseas. In 2000, they packed their bags, and shortly were getting off a plane in Central Asia, where they have spent the last eighteen years working and raising their family of three girls Jerah (15), Janae (13), and Juliana (10).
While in Central Asia, the Winns worked for World Hope International (WHI), a Christian relief and development organization working with vulnerable and exploited communities to alleviate poverty, suffering, and injustice.
Just this June 2018, the Winn family packed their bags to return to the States again, where James serves to mobilize others to overseas service and Alicia serves in Leadership and Learning, helping train workers around the world.
When reminiscing on how OKWU shaped their lives and careers, both Alicia and James recalled the global-focus of the University. “Even though my topic was education, my professors instilled a passion for the world,” shared James, “whether it was in a prayer breakfast with Dr. Mike [Fullingim], the classroom with Professor [Charissa] Dunn or Professor [Mary] Manness, or even way-too-early-in-the-morning biology with Professor Macintosh.”
While the couple met in that biology class, it was a trip to the Russia Youth Camp just after the fall of the Soviet Union that brought their relationship full circle, and gave them both a taste for serving overseas. “While the trip wasn’t necessarily OKWU-sponsored, many students and folks from the University went—the atmosphere on campus was very globally-minded, and it was really cool to be able to serve with our classmates.” said Alicia.
All Four Pillars of the University are clearly seen in the lives of the Winn family, as they have spent their careers serving in places where many have never heard the name of Christ, leading by example in their Pursuit of Truth and Practice of Wisdom.
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