Vision, both literally and figuratively, is a gift from God. Have you ever wondered why the Lord gives visions and/or reveals Himself in that way to some and not others? I certainly have, and I can tell you that I have only had two distinct times in my life when the Lord gave me a clear vision of something.
The first had to do with baptisms during a revival service at a church I was pastoring over 20 years ago. That vision led to me having the privilege of baptizing two dear friends on the same day. It was one of the greatest blessings of my pastoral career.
The second vision was given to me a little over six years ago and had to do with the Oneida ministry. When I started out as OBI's president, if you had asked me what my plans were, my answer would have likely been pretty generic and probably something along the lines of "simply finding my way, surviving and helping Oneida continue our wonderful work." However, just a few months into this role, the Lord gave me a clear vision. I had a vision of the young people of Clay County, Ky., lined up single-file and coming from the surrounding hills and "hollers" to our campus. I've allowed that vision to drive decision-making in the last six years.
The first move was to send someone into our community to recruit students, meet families, raise awareness, etc. Oddly enough, the person I asked to do that was one of those two friends I mentioned baptizing earlier. All those local students we began to bring back attend tuition-free, and we are blessed to be able to provide our services without funding from state or federal government.
Step two was to run daily bus routes — something we hadn't done since 1980. This was also a huge commitment of both personnel and finances, but the Lord has blessed this effort. Our three routes now bring about 60 of our 100 commuting students to campus each day.
Step three was reopening our kindergarten through fifth grade to local kids — something we had not done since the 1950s. All of these things led to our local student population growing from nine to 100 and signifies a return to our roots and early mission. As we look ahead and continue to transition through the impact of the coronavirus, I can certainly see how the presence of our commuting students becomes even more critical to the work and calling of OBI.
I love all of our students — domestic boarding, international boarding, staff kids and local kids. However, a few years ago, Clay County, Ky., was named the worst place in the United States to live. There is a tremendous mission field right here around our campus, and that is where our work begins. Then we spread out and minister to other areas, just as Acts 1:8 instructs us to do.
God is good and I am grateful. He gave me a vision that we have now seen come to fruition. God is always faithful and we must simply be obedient to Him and His leading. Thank you for helping us reach so many local kids and families, and thank you for your love for all the students of OBI.
Larry Gritton is president of Oneida Baptist Institute in Oneida, Kentucky.