During my junior year at Oklahoma Baptist University, I was introduced to a fairly new discipleship series called MasterLife. I spent the better part of that year going through the weekly homework and meeting with a small group at 6:30 a.m. Throughout the study I memorized scripture, learned the principles of discipleship, learned how to share my faith, and most importantly, learned the value of community with a group of like-minded believers.
What I didn’t realize at the time was MasterLife was the introduction of a relationship with the author, Dr. Avery T. Willis. For a young college student in the 1980s, Christian writers and authors were heroes of mine from a distance. I admired Dr. Willis from afar and continued to not only learn from MasterLife, but to also lead several groups through the study into my 20s. When Dr. Willis visited my church in the late 80s, I jumped at the opportunity to join him for lunch (along with about 20 other people!) I can remember shyly introducing myself and trying to explain the difference his Bible Study had made in my life.
Fast forward. Throughout the years I’ve continued to admire Dr. Willis and was thrilled when I was asked to serve on the Advisory Board of the Avery T. Willis Global Outreach Center at Oklahoma Baptist University. How fitting that I would be in his company on the campus that gave me not only a Biblical worldview, but instilled in me a passion for making disciples. For the past four and a half years, Dr. Willis is no longer someone I admire from afar, but he has become a friend. While he is in his 70s, Dr. Willis continues to allow God to give him passion and vision for reaching the world. He is an outstanding leader in the area of orality and continues to challenge others in the Great Commission cause. He not only believes in a Great Commission Resurgence–he lives it.
Today Dr. Willis faces a new challenge. Not long ago, he was diagnosed with leukemia. He is undergoing treatments and the doctors have already said it looks like the disease is in remission. His condition has caused many to take notice that now is time to honor this hero.
The news of his illness has prompted Oklahoma Baptist University to honor Dr. Willis for his contributions to the university and for his vision in the area of missions. A special dinner will be held on Thursday, March 4, in the Geiger Center at OBU. Would you join me and other global missions and discipleship leaders as we honor this living hero of our faith? For more information and to purchase tickets online, vist www.okbu.edu/willis or call 405.878.2706.