Written by: Lynn-Holly Wielenga
Oklahoma Wesleyan is a unique university, comprised of gorgeous Spanish style architecture, a nationally recognized faculty, and a diverse student body. But these are not the only distinctive markers of the University. Oklahoma Wesleyan University is unique in the strong stance it takes for its faith. The very foundation of the university can be described in four well-known P’s—the primacy of Jesus Christ, the priority of Scripture, the pursuit of truth and the practice of wisdom. We believe our faith in Jesus Christ affects everything we do. We teach our students that their faith must be integrated into every area of their life, regardless of their major; and after visiting with several of our alumni, I think we have been successful. These alumni work in many different fields, but are alike in the way they have integrated their faith with their work—there is no segregation. They are great examples of what Bob Briner would call a “roaring lamb,” as they have carried their faith with them to the marketplace of their careers.
Joy graduated in 1981 from Oklahoma Wesleyan University, then known as Bartlesville Wesleyan. Coming to this university was a last minute decision for Joy. She already had a job at a bank was doing quite well. Many advised her not to go to college, and to continue working at the bank in her hometown in Arkansas. Instead, she did both. She decided to go to school full-time and to work full-time at a bank in Bartlesville.
Joy is a hard worker, diligent and proactive. She had to be intentional with her time while working and going to school- she carried her books everywhere. She is also driven and determined to succeed. She graduated with her degree with only $300 in debt. She said, “People told me it couldn’t be done, but I proved them wrong.” After graduating from OKWU, she returned to Fayetteville, Arkansas, continued working at a bank and excelled expectations. But once she realized there was nowhere for her to move up at that institution, she switched careers to work in the insurance industry.
After marrying Dennis Haltom, she moved back to Bartlesville. She took a break from the insurance agency to grow their family. In 2001, after her fifth child started school, she decided to return to work. By August 2004, she was number 11 in the state for Farmers Insurance Group for selling life insurance.
Following a change in management in 2004, Joy decided she was ready to strike out on her own. She opened up shop in 2005, and now is the CEO of one of the largest farm and ranch agencies in the state—Haltom Insurance Company. The company is growing rapidly. She already has 8 employees, 19 agents, and customers in multiple states. When asked of her success, she replies, “God has blessed us. If you do what you’re supposed to do, He will do that.”
Working in the insurance industry has given Joy a unique opportunity to speak into people’s lives. When people want to get their finances in order, she has the chance to ask them if their spiritual life is in order. Joy Haltom is passionate about sharing her faith and speaking the truth. She said, “As Christians, we need to be reaching out into our community. It is not someone else’s job. We shouldn’t wait for someone to ask, we should be looking for opportunities. We need to be bold.”
She is what Bob Briner would call a “Roaring Lamb.” She carries her faith with her into the marketplace, and the very culture of her city and community has felt the difference.
LISA LORD- NURSE
Lisa Lord graduated from OKWU in 2012 and is now a nurse in St. John’s Emergency Room in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Lisa grew up knowing she wanted to work in medicine, but she did not know in what capacity or what college she would attend. Initially, Lisa attended a small school near her hometown of Lawrence, Kansas, but didn’t feel like it was the right fit. Then, she considered attending Kansas University. Her pastor recommended she attend Oklahoma Wesleyan University, but she still was unsure. Eventually, an offer from the cross-country coach of Oklahoma Wesleyan University and a phone call from the university President, Dr. Piper, tipped the balance, and she came to Bartlesville.
Lisa grew up in a Christian household, but was stubborn. The Lord started working on her heart when she was a junior in high school and attending the Wesleyan Church, and her time in college helped her grow in her newfound faith even more. She described OKWU as, “a great place for me to grow as a young Christian. I was glad to be surrounded by so many people who could provide me with a positive influence. It was very beneficial to be surrounded by that large community of Christians.”
After majoring in nursing at Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Lisa went on to work in St. John Emergency room, a Level II Emergency and Trauma Center. Originally, Lisa had liked the idea of working in home health, which is vastly different from where she currently works. When I asked her what she thought of working in the ER, she said, “Working at St. John’s Trauma Center was something that the Lord totally worked out. I have been really well trained and educated there. And when I am working there I am constantly in situations that I would not be able to handle without Christ.”
When I asked her how her faith affects her daily life, specifically her work, she responded, “My faith in Christ is what really gives me stability. I know that no matter what happens in the emergency room, I know that it is not the end all. I have a savior that will help me and I will remain His. I am there to serve. No matter what happens, I know I am there to serve.”
Working in the emergency room has given Lisa a chance to share her faith in unique ways. She said that she often finds moments to encourage people and serve them. Recently, she had the chance to pray with a patient and the patient’s family, and remind them that God is a God of comfort.
Her advice to students about to graduate is “prepare to be humbled. Whatever field you end up in, you won’t know everything. You will have to learn. You start at the bottom. It is a good thing though, so don’t be discouraged. It is an opportunity to grow.” Besides learning the ins and outs of your field, Lisa always encourages students to be sure that they are living out their faith. “Everywhere we go we’re being watched—at the grocery store, when you’re driving, and even when you are at school. You represent Christ everywhere you go. Also, know the reason for your hope in Christ. As 1 Peter 3:15 says, ‘Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.’ Be able to share with whoever you encounter.”
JEREMY DENNIS- CRM ADMINISTRATOR
The next alumnus actually works right here at Oklahoma Wesleyan University’s Tulsa campus as the Customer Relationship Management Administrator (CRM Administrator.) Jeremy Dennis came to Oklahoma Wesleyan University by way of Rhema Bible College in Tulsa, Oklahoma. After graduating from Rhema, he transferred to OKWU and finished his undergraduate degree in 2010. He continued at OKWU and earned his Masters of Business Administration degree while working as a graduate assistant in the marketing department. The graduate assistantship led to a full-time position in enrollment services, and working as a recruiter as well as working with the customer relationship management system. Recently, he was promoted to his current role as the CRM Administrator.
As CRM Administrator, Jeremy manages the information that is entered into the University’s student database, trains other people how to use the system, and then builds reports to support the admissions department, the financial aid department,
and the marketing department.
He also has the opportunity to organize events for his co-workers, like men’s luncheons for discussing what it means to be aChristian man in modern society, and daily devotions from Oswald Chamber’s book My
When I asked for his advice for students about to graduate, he responded that it is important to “live with a with a holistic perspective of your faith and purpose. We live in a society that openly promotes duality of personal and professional life, but it is an absolute fallacy to think we can compartmentalize our lives in this way or to think that some areas of our lives don’t affect others. Stay connected with God to that what He wants for you can and will flow through you.”Upmost for His Highest. According to Jeremy, “It is easy to get caught up in the daily grind, and let the concerns that are immediately in front of us become all we see. It is important to take time each day with God, and allow Him to speak to you in prayer and through His word. He will give you an eternal perspective. Viewing your concerns from God’s point of view will give you great confidence and a kind of macro worldview.”
SARAH BOYER- MISSIONARY IN MACEDONIA
Sarah Boyer was sixteen, and on a short-term mission trip to Russia, when she first felt the call to missions. She came to Oklahoma Wesleyan because of the Global Studies degree, and her experience at OKWU helped shaped the direction of the rest of her life. While attending OKWU, she met her husband who also felt the call to missions. Dr. Mike Fullingham, one of her professors, helped direct them to Macedonia and what the Wesleyan church was doing there. She and her husband and their nine-year-old daughter have now lived in Macedonia for four and a half years.
When I asked her about their time in Macedonia, she said that her schedule might look different than other missionaries, as her day also includes homeschooling her daughter. It became clear to me when we were talking that for her, mission work is not just a job; rather, it is a way of life.
Sarah earned her masters in Teaching English as a Second Language, and, when they first moved to Macedonia, she taught English. Now she spends her time teaching her daughter, meeting people for coffee, and continuing the slow process of planting seeds. She said that sometimes sharing the gospel is a slow process because of Macedonia’s complicated history of communism. She and her husband partner with a young Macedonian church plant, and for them, missions is not a quick process, but instead, it is about building relationships. She said that her favorite moments are the ones where she can see trust being built.
She said, “Our relationship with God gets us through the rough times of loneliness, discouragement, etc. We structure our work around what we believe makes a difference in the kingdom of God in Macedonia. Our hope and desire to see people come to know the Lord changes the course of our days and weeks as we seek to build trust and share Him with the people around us.”
Her advice to students preparing to graduate and enter the workforce is to incorporate their faith into their daily lives from the very beginning. “Be open about who you are and what you believe. If you start with that attitude, people will know what you are about and will be watching to see the difference in you. This means, however, that you have to be seeking God and following Him. Otherwise, your lip service will do more harm than help.”
This is the attitude Sarah and her family have adopted in Macedonia. Their faith is a part of every aspect of their lives. Her family’s prayer for the country is that God would continue to break through walls of unbelief and bring people to Himself. As a community of believers, we ask that our OKWU family believe with them in prayer.
DAVE BROWN- STATE SENATOR OF MINNESOTA
It has been a pleasure visiting with our alumni all across the world and hearing their stories. The connection between their faith and their daily lives is undeniable.
One of my last interviews with Minnesota Senator Dave Brown was no different. Dave graduated from Oklahoma Wesleyan University with a Bachelors of Arts in Behavioral Sciences in 1983. After graduating college, he worked for Word Entertainment, a Christian Music company based out of Nashville, Tennessee. Dave had always been interested in politics, but had not yet moved in that direction.
It was not until Dave was at a Christian concert that he thought about making a career change. During the praise and worship, he felt strongly that he was supposed to go into politics, but at that point he was unsure of what that meant. It was an interesting series of events that has led him to where he is today.
After the initial sense of calling to politics, Dave felt a strong desire to attend the Republican caucus meetings in Minnesota. Unfortunately, the timing conflicted with work, or at least it did conflict with work until the entire sales team was laid off. Dave said that he was probably the only one that was excited. When Dave attended the caucus, he discovered there were no Republicans running for the State Senate at that time. He told his wife Deb that he was going to run.
Dave ended up being one of five Republicans running for the office, and he was not in the top two. However, he still felt strongly that this was what he was supposed to be doing. Everything changed when the top runner withdrew and endorsed Dave Brown. Dave Brown went on to be Minnesota’s State Senator in 2010 and was reelected in 2012.
There is no way that Dave could have known what God had in store for him. But because he trusted God and was obedient, he has now had the opportunity to share the gospel in many ways, including on the Senate floor. When asked how his faith impacts his daily life, Dave responded, “My faith is my daily life. Jesus Christ calls us to be His witnesses through our words and actions. While I often fail, I try to show His mercy and forgiveness to others and to speak up regarding Biblical principles.”
When I asked him what Christians could do to impact the culture, his response surprised me. He responded that Christians should know what politicians from their area are Christians and support them. State politicians often make little money and work second jobs, so if we want to keep Christians in office, we should consider supporting them. It is important to know what is going on in your area politically and support those who are in line with your beliefs. Many Christians have left the political sphere, which means that the potential for impact is lessened.
There is no duality in this Senator’s life. There is no separation from his beliefs and his job in politics. The people he works with know that he is a Christian. When I asked him if his faith impacts his job as a Senator, he responded, “My faith defines who I am and guides my daily decisions.”
THE CONNECTION OF OUR FAITH AND OUR DAILY LIVES IMPACTS CULTURE
Christians must stay engaged and participate in the marketplace, whether it is in the sphere of politics, media, art, education, business, or medicine. We must not back away from the battle. We must not try to separate our faith from our daily lives in order to not offend. Like Matthew 5:14-16 says, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Whether we work in business like Joy or Jeremy, in medicine like Lisa, in missions like Sarah, in politics like Dave, or in any other field, there must be a connection between our faith and our daily lives. It must show in our careers, our families, and our communities. We must live fully integrated lives. Now, more than ever, we must let our light shine before men. It is time for our faith to impact our very culture.