What if a bunch of students . . .?
by Rob Allen
Director of Communications
Sitting in his office filled with books, pictures, and his guitar next to his paper-covered desk, John reflects. He writes names in his ever-present journal, number 75. The previous 74 sit within an arms-reach on the bookshelf next to desk.
Jim Johnson. David Stringer. Paul Chitwood. Joe Gossett. Randy Stevens.
Two full pages in his journal; names of people who have nurtured him since deciding to become a teaching elder.
On Wednesday, February 4, the Austin Seminary Association (ASA) will honor John Williams, Cheryl Kirk-Duggan and Mike Cole with the ASA Award for Service The association recognizes alumni who have distinguished themselves through service to the church.
Kirk Duggan is the professor for theology and women’s studies at Shaw University, Raleigh, N.C. and Cole is the general presbyter for New Covenant Presbytery.
“I am honored, humbled. Anytime I am on the same list with Cheryl Kirk-Duggan and Mike Cole, I must be doing something right. That is really good company,” said John.
John might feel he pales in comparison to the other two people receiving the award, but he has been making a difference in the church with his ministry to the students at Austin College.
John does not hold back in nurturing the students of Austin College in his role as chaplain and director of church relations. He provides a lectio divino bible study for the students mid-week. Later in the week, several students meet with John to plan the upcoming Sunday evening worship which the Bible study discussions influence.
Since 1995, the students under John’s mentorship have provided leadership for youth and adult retreats in 20 presbyteries in 13 states.
This impressive legacy started with an invitation to provide leadership for a Sante Fe Presbytery youth event in Albuquerque. John and five students successfully lead the event for 37 youth and their sponsors.
Before that first event, Grace Presbytery invited John to lead a junior high event at Gilmont, but he was committed to another conference that weekend in Louisiana. He thought, ‘Why can’t these students do it? They are talented, with passion and commitment to see it through.’
Grace Presbytery agreed and 15 students went to Gilmont to lead another successful event.
Twenty years later, they will lead their 600th event at a camp outside of Austin. Many of the students have gone on to serve the church in other areas: Young Adult Volunteers, serving as teaching elders or Christian educators, or as leaders in their congregation.
On his drive home from the first event in Albuquerque, John wrote a word in his journal that described the group: Activators – a group of 519 students who have traveled over 160,000 miles to nurture the faith of 48,000 youth and adults.