“Ask, and it shall be given you,” is a promise Jesus tells his disciples in the Gospel of Matthew 7:7. Since taking office as president of Faulkner University, Mitch Henry and many other staff and faculty members have prayed in earnest and asked the Lord for a spiritual awakening to take place on the university’s campus.
That request is being answered.
On August 7, 2023, 37 student athletes from the Faulkner Eagles football team gave their lives to Christ through baptism. The following day, Antonio Martin, also on the football team, was baptized at Landmark Church. It was by far the start of the largest spiritual event to take place on campus in recent history.
Since then, Faulkner’s SGA President Dessy (Destini) Gipson was baptized at 11 p.m. on August 15 at Dalraida Church of Christ and the following day two more students, Breanna Clark and Lydia Jackson were baptized into Christ Wednesday afternoon by Dr. Art Williams. That evening Faulkner student Richon Bogan was baptized at Landmark. Fellow student Vinny Fanelli was baptized at Dalraida Church of Christ on Thursday night after an evening of study with campus minister Nate Kidwell and Carly Walker was also baptized Thursday by Colt Mahana. Since then, student Gabe Brenneman was also baptized.
What led to these moments was a series of pleas, conversations and devotions since the time athletes and band members arrived early on campus August 1, 2023 for practices until the remaining new and returning students came back to campus for the start of the fall semester. A slew of welcome-back activities was planned for the students before their classes began August 14. A barbeque at the Billy Hilyer Stadium was one such event that was held Sunday August 6 and it was where Faulkner’s new Spiritual Life Minister Colt Mahana gave a moving message.
A few days later on Monday evening, football coach Randy Ragsdale led a team devotional for the group. Volunteer coach Brandon Johnson also shared his story of being a Faulkner football player who was baptized as a student by Landmark Church’s college minister Nathan Capps in Montgomery. Johnson now drives from Lineville, Alabama nearly every day to volunteer his time to coach young men on the team .
It was after Johnson’s message that 37 athletes said they too wanted to be baptized.
“I got a call from Coach Khalil Pope while I was at home in Pintlala, Alabama,” Henry said. “He said they had just finished a team devotional and about 40 players wanted to be baptized, and he asked me what they should do. Right away, I said to call Andrew Kingsley at University Church of Christ and open the doors to use the baptistry. I jumped in my truck and on the way to campus I called every church minister I could think of to help us.”
Once Henry arrive, the team was making their way inside the church next to campus, and they were being joined by church of Christ ministers from University, Dalriada, Vaughn Park, Southside, Eastern Meadows, Landmark, and Hunter Hills along with Faulkner coaches Reed Sutton and Patrick McCarthy and William Cooper and other faculty and staff members. Each one took a few members of the team aside to talk with them, answer any questions they had and to pray with them. Then one by one, Johnson and Pope baptized them.
Since classes began on August 14, the same spiritual emphasis has continued. On the second day of classes, every student received a new English Standard Version Journaling Bible.
“There is real value in sitting down undistracted and being able to meditate on the word of God,” said Smith, Director of Sports Information and Marketing at Faulkner. “There are so many things contained within this library that was inspired by the Holy Spirit that we hope you’ll come to know.”
The inaugural Bible Day will be held at the beginning of each academic year going forward to give every new student their very own Bible.
“This is indeed a spiritual awakening, and the year has only just begun,” Henry said.