Brantly grateful to be released from hospital

Kent Brantley, M.D. (’03) was joined at today’s press conference by his wife, Amber (Carroll ’06).

Kent Brantley, M.D. (’03), was joined at today’s press conference by his wife, Amber (Carroll ’06).

“Today is a miraculous day. I‘m thrilled to be alive, to be well, and to be reunited with my family.”

Those words – the first Abilene Christian University graduate Kent Brantly, M.D. (’03), has said publicly since he contracted the Ebola virus two months ago – came during a Thursday morning news conference at Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital.

Brantly’s hospital care team says he appears to have fully recovered and “can return to his family, to his community and to his life without public health concerns,” according to Bruce Ribner, M.D., an infectious disease specialist and professor in Emory’s School of Medicine.

“We are tremendously pleased with Dr. Brantly and Mrs. [Nancy] Writebol’s recovery and we are profoundly grateful for the opportunity to have applied our training, our care and our experience to meeting their needs. All of us who have worked with them have been impressed by their courage and determination,” said Ribner.

Emory University Hospital officials said Writebol, a nursing coordinator for Samaritan’s Purse, had been released Tuesday.

During his statement to reporters, Brantly spoke about the events leading up to his infection and treatment.

“We moved to Liberia because God called us to serve the people of Liberia,” said Brantly. In March, he and his team began “preparing for the worst” and started treating patients in June, taking every precaution to protect themselves from the disease.

On July 20, Brantly said his wife and children returned to the United States and redoubled his efforts to fight the epidemic. Three days later, his life “took an unexpected turn” with the first sign of his illness.

Over the course of nine days in bed while still in Liberia, Brantly said he prayed God would help him be faithful through illness. “I prayed that in my life or in my death, He would be glorified,” Brantly said.

He said he was moved to learn that there have been “possibly millions” of people praying for him around the world.

“I cannot thank you enough for your prayers and your support, but what I can tell is that I serve a faithful God who answers prayers. … God saved my life – a direct answer to thousands and thousands of prayers,” he said. “Thank you to my family, my friends, my church family and all who lifted me up in prayer, asking for my healing and recovery. Please do not stop praying for the people of Liberia and West Africa for a quick end to this Ebola epidemic.”

Brantly said he and his family are “going away” to reconnect, decompress and regain strength.

“Above all I am forever thankful to God for sparing my life, and I’m glad for any attention my sickness has attracted to the plight of west Africa in the midst of this epidemic,” he said. “Please, continue to pray for Libera and the people of west Africa, and encourage those in positions of leadership and influence to do everything possible to bring this Ebola outbreak to an end.”

Brantly became infected with the Ebola virus while serving a two-year fellowship for Samaritan’s Purse, working at a missionary clinic outside Liberia’s capital. He served his medical residency at John Peter Smith Hospital and attended Southside Church of Christ in Fort Worth before he and his family left for Liberia in October 2013.

Franklin Graham, president and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse, shared a written statement on the organization’s website:

“Today I join all of our Samaritan’s Purse team around the world in giving thanks to God as we celebrate Dr. Kent Brantly’s recovery from Ebola and release from the hospital. Over the past few weeks I have marveled at Dr. Brantly’s courageous spirit as he has fought this horrible virus with the help of the highly competent and caring staff at Emory University Hospital. His faithfulness to God and compassion for the people of Africa have been an example to us all. I know that Dr. Brantly and his wonderful family would ask that you please remember and pray for those in Africa battling, treating and suffering from Ebola. Those who have given up the comforts of home to serve the suffering and the less fortunate are in many ways just beginning this battle. We have more than 350 staff in Liberia, and others will soon be joining them, so please pray for those who have served with Dr. Brantly – along with the other doctors, aid workers and organizations that are at this very moment desperately trying to stop Ebola from taking any more lives.”

Follow coverage from Samaritan’s PurseCNN and USA Today here.


Moore asks grads to shower the world with love

Steven Moore 2014 Aug Commencement 600x400Dr. Steven Moore, associate professor of language and literature, was the featured Commencement speaker Aug. 8 in Moody Coliseum at ACU. A native of Prince William, Va., he earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1994, and a master’s (1996) and doctorate (2007) from the University of Nebraska. Moore was named ACU’s Teacher of the Year in 2004 and annually is one of the most popular professors on campus for the energy he brings to his classroom, which as his students know, can just as easily be a local restaurant or the Abilene Zoo or a missile silo as a more conventional venue.

Steven Moore 2009 200x300 1-1

As professor of American literature, I read numerous novels and short stories. I experience vicariously the diverse circumstances that have shaped the characters’ lives and am intrigued by the varied outcomes. However, tonight I want to celebrate your stories.  The astonishing, heart warming and moving stories of this graduating class inspire me. Tonight we celebrate those of you who never gave up on your dreams, and we look forward to the impact that you will have.

Sometimes it is hard to be optimistic about our futures because we live in very difficult times. We live in a stifling environment that is in serious economic decline; people are losing their jobs and their homes; and our country is bitterly and ruthlessly fighting against each other debating such issues as immigration, gun control, race, and gender.

We live in a world where there are brutal and senseless wars in countless lands; we live in a world where dusty bodies travel to lands of early graves because of the scarcity of food, clothing and shelter; we live in a world where incivility is walking hand in hand with apathy; we live in a world where greed is walking hand in hand with power. And we wonder why countless faces no longer believe in love, peace,and hope. However, as Christians we should not give up.

Philosopher and social critic Cornel West said, “… as Christians what we are required to do is to just love our neighbor, which means love especially the least of these – which means give their situation priority – which means talk about our present situation as a matter of national and international emergency in the sense of urgency so that the love takes the form of both thought as well as deeds and to bear witness.”

Since these are urgent and desperate times, we need Christians who are going to bear witness by showering their workplace, by showering their neighborhood, by showering their communities with the radical love of Christ, the kind of radical love that fights for the oppressed, the kind of love that fights for those who are powerless, and the kind of love that fights for what is right!

Crowd reaction to Stephen Moore

To the future CEOs, future professors, future artists, future writers, future theologians, future politicians, future scientists, future judges, future lawyers, future doctors, future nurses, future firefighters or whatever your calling may be: do not become cynical about the difficult times we are living in.

Instead, shower down the love of Christ in radical ways. There is a drought among us, and people are thirsting for love and kindness.

Pray for God to send you to those places where you will become a refreshing rainfall of change.

Pray for God to lead you to cities and towns – near and far – where you will become a reviving rainfall to those souls who are weary and exhausted.

Pray for God to carry you into arenas of disastrous disputes and convoluted challenges where you will become a revitalizing rainfall of wonderful hope and beautiful love.

My dear graduates: Since you all are glorious rainmakers, pray for rain and start carrying your umbrellas because this world is tired of this drought.

Carry your umbrellas and expect God to perform awesome miracles in your future careers.

Carry your umbrellas in the street, in your home, on your job, all alone, and in every hi-way and bi-way!

Carry your umbrellas and expect God to send the rain.

Congratulations on this phenomenal achievement!


Wildcat mom reviews inaugural football camp

We asked Amber (Gilbert ’99) Bunton, ACU manager of creative services, to describe her experience in the July 31 Football 101 Camp for Moms, an inaugural event on campus sponsored by the Wildcat football coaching staff. She is married to former ACU football letterman John Bunton (’94).

Amber (Gilbert ’__) Bunton

Amber (Gilbert ’99) Bunton

I am the daughter of Baby Boomers who lived during the women’s movement in the 1960s. I grew up wearing my Mom’s old “A woman’s place is in the House and the Senate” T-shirt. I appreciate Sheryl Sandberg reminding me to “Lean In.” I hashtag #likeagirl.

I have lived in small-town Texas my entire life and have spent my fair share of time around football. I’ve been to junior high school games, junior varsity high school games, varsity games, college games and powder puff games. I’ve even spent a little time at Jerryworld.

When I saw the advertisement for Abilene Christian University’s first-ever Football 101 Camp for Moms, my feminist side emerged. My first thought was, “So, head coach Ken Collums, do you think because I’m a woman I can’t possibly know about football?”

Admittedly, I only have a big-picture knowledge of the sport. I know the field is 100 yards long; that each team has an offense, defense and special teams; and that the goal is to score more points than the other team. I know the offense has four downs to move 10 yards toward the end zone or the other team gets the ball. I know a touchdown is worth six points with an option to score one or two extra points and a field goal is worth three points.

Assistant head coach Mark R____ prepares to engage ______ in a blocking drill.

Linebackers coach Mark Ribaudo prepares to engage Jana Gray of Abilene in a blocking drill.

I love to hear stories about females excelling in football at all levels. Women like Condoleezza Rice (former Secretary of State and member of the college playoff selection committee), Liz Heaston (first woman to play and score in a college game), Shannon Eastin (the first woman to officiate an NFL game), Amy Trask (former CEO of the Oakland Raiders) and Erin Andrews (journalist at ESPN and Fox Sports) prove that anyone can be a student of football. You. Go. Girls.

So, my second thought about a football camp for women was, “I want to check this out.”

At the sign-in table in the Teague Special Events Center on July 31, we were greeted by Kendrick Holloway (’10), assistant coach for wide receivers. I noticed a basket labeled “Questions” and asked about it. He explained we could write down a question in case we didn’t want to ask in front of the whole group. Feminist Amber laughed. I watched almost all of the other women sign in and ask about the basket and then laugh. I was proud to see this wasn’t that type of crowd. We were there because we figured we had some things to learn and weren’t embarrassed to ask the professionals.

Steven Thrash, assistant coach for tight ends, escorted us from the Teague Center to Room 114 of the Onstead-Packer Biblical Studies Building and promptly offered us water or a soft drink. I was impressed that the entire football coaching staff was there. Collums began by telling us we were meeting in the same room in which his team meets. I liked that it is in the Biblical Studies Building. Then he said, “I am more nervous about talking to this group of ladies than talking to a room-full of our guys.” I liked that he was nervous.

The schedule for the evening was to review the role each position plays, the role each official plays and to run some drills on the practice field. Collums creatively tasked each of the assistant coaches to compare their players to a particular breed of dog. We learned a quarterback is like a golden retriever, a wide receiver is like greyhound, the offensive line is like a pack of St. Bernards, a tight end is like a German shepherd, the defensive line is like a pack of Doberman pinschers, a safety is like a Weimaraner, a linebacker is like a pit bull, a cornerback is like a Brittany spaniel, a running back is like a Jack Russell terrier and a fullback is like a bulldog. The presentation was equally hilarious and informative.

Head coach Ken Collums talks with participants in Football 101 Camp for Moms.

Head coach Ken Collums talks with participants in Football 101 Camp for Moms.

Questions were welcomed and answered. We talked 4-3 defense and debated shotgun versus pistol formations. We learned the zones each official covers. After a lesson in play calling, Dr. Laura (Cleek ’88) Phillips, associate professor of management, suggested players get a language credit.

We got a glimpse at the intense strategy and nuances of the game. On the practice field we learned stances, hit bags and laughed. We had two-and-a-half hours of fun.

Beyond learning some technical aspects of the game, we witnessed what makes team sports such as football so important to people. We watched the camaraderie among the coaching staff. We saw the passion each man had for his work. We felt the responsibility the coaches feel to positively influence their team. We caught the competitive spirit that pushes players to do more than they think they can. We were reminded that one player can not win a game on his – or her – own. Every member of the team is essential.

My final thought about football camp for women was “Good job Wildcat football staff. I’d recommend this to any of my girlfriends.”

I hope that Volleyball Camp for Dads is as well received.

Go Wildcats!


VIA news: Office relocation work underway

IMG_0057

The north entrance to McGlothlin Campus Center is scheduled to reopen this Friday, Aug. 16, after crews finish installing an elevator and reworking the entrance patio and stairs.

When students return to campus this month, they’ll notice some changes as campus offices prepare for the eventual demolition of Chambers Hall.

Upon completion of fundraising for the $75 million Vision in Action initiative, 85-year-old Chambers (and a one-story building currently housing WFF custodial services) will make way for the new Halbert-Walling Research Center. But that means its occupants – psychology, and language and literature, as well as WFF – need new homes, and to make room for them requires setting up and knocking down a series of proverbial dominoes that ultimately involve seven buildings, on and off campus.

Here’s how it works:

  • The Department of Language and Literature is moving into the second floor of the Hardin Administration Building’s south wing, replacing the Graduate School, which mostly has moved into the third floor of Brown Library, replacing a suite of study carrels. Graduate School staff are working in their new offices as construction finishes up, while crews have finished repainting and laying new carpet for language and literature, whose faculty and staff began setting up their new spaces last week.

    IMG_0056

    Boxes of books have made their way from Chambers Hall to the Hardin Administration Building, new home of the Department of Language and Literature.

  • The Department of Psychology will move into McKinzie Hall, where it already has counseling space, replacing the Office of Student Life, which will consolidate all of its personnel in the lower floor of McGlothlin Campus Center, including the space formerly occupied by the bowling alley. Campus Center renovation is expected to be finished during the fall, meaning psychology will not move out of Chambers until after the semester ends in December.

  • WFF will move across Campus Court into the Nichols House, currently occupied by the Office of Technology Support Services, which will move into the second floor of Zellner Hall, replacing members of University Marketing, who began moving into the renovated Vanderpool Building last week.

Two other projects indirectly related to Vision in Action also are taking place on campus this summer:

In Brown Library, crews soon will move all books on the third floor into compact shelving on the bottom floor, opening up a common area east of the AT&T Learning Studio that will include additional Graduate School offices, including one for the new Graduate School dean, Dr. Stephen Johnson (’90). That project is scheduled for completion in October.

In the Campus Center, crews are renovating the north entrance as part of a project to install an elevator for easier access to the lower level. Along with making the north entry plaza and stairs more unified aesthetically with the surrounding landscaping, crews will shore up the walkway, which had begun to sink after decades of use. The north entrance is scheduled to be open by this Friday, Aug. 16, while Campus Center work is expected to be done in October.

Likewise, Phase 1 of the Vision in Action science component – the renovation of Bennett Gymnasium into laboratories for the Department of Engineering and Physics – is expected to wrap up in October, with classes beginning there in January.


Kinnaman to share research about Mosaics

David Kinnamon

David Kinnaman

David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group research firm and a best-selling author of books about trends regarding young people’s views of the church, will present “Your Role in the Faith Journeys of the Next Generation” at an Aug. 12 luncheon at Abilene Christian University. The content is especially designed for ministry professionals, church leaders, educators and parents.

ACU’s Siburt Institute for Church Ministry is sponsoring the event in the atrium of the Williams Performing Arts Center from 11:45 a.m. – 1:15 p.m. Seating is limited for the $20 event, which includes lunch.

In 2007, Kinnaman co-authored UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity … and Why it Matters. In 2011, he wrote You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church … and Rethinking FaithBoth books focus on 18- to 29-year-olds in the Mosaic generation, the first on how young outsiders view the church and the second on those from that demographic who have grown up in the church but are leaving it in large numbers. Kinnaman advises how congregations can begin to more effectively attract and retain them. From UnChristian:

“What are Christians known for? Outsiders think our moralizing, our condemnations, and our attempts to draw boundaries around everything. Even if these standards are accurate and biblical, they seem to be all we have to offer. And our lives are a poor advertisement for the standards. We have set the gameboard to register lifestyle points; then we are surprised to be trapped by our mistakes. The truth is we have invited the hypocrite image.”

From You Lost Me:

“In a misguided abdication of our prophetic calling, many churches have allowed themselves to become internally segregated by age. Most began with the valuable goal that their teaching be age appropriate but went on to create a systematized method of discipleship akin to the instructional model of public schools, which requires each age-group be its own learning cohort. Thus many churches and parishes segregate by age-group and, in doing so, unintentionally contribute to the rising tide of alienation that defines our times. As a by-product of this approach, the next generation’s enthusiasm and vitality have been separated from the wisdom and experience of their elders.”

Register online here by 3 p.m. Friday, Aug. 8.


Abilene worshippers pray for Ebola patients

Brantley Prayer Service 1 6x4 96More than 250 people gathered at Abilene’s Southern Hills Church of Christ last night for a prayer service on behalf of Kent Brantly, M.D. (’03), Nancy Writebol and others suffering with the Ebola virus. Both work for Samaritan’s Purse in Liberia; Brantly is a physician serving a two-year fellowship and Writebol is a nursing coordinator.

“Over the past few days, we have all thought many things and felt every possible feeling. Some of us have re-examined our lives and asked ourselves whether what we were doing mattered,” said featured speaker Dr. Mark Hamilton (M.A. ’89), professor of Old Testament. “We have wondered whether our compassion extends more to fellow Americans than to fellow human beings. Some of us have tried to become more aware of the suffering of other people, especially those who live in deep poverty.  And some of us have simply prayed for all who give their lives to bring healing of mind, body and spirit to others.

“This evening, however, we have come together not to work out all those issues, but simply to cry out to God for help,” Hamilton continued. “We cry out in prayer because we are answering a call from God to us, a cry that Jesus uttered long ago when he showed us what it looked like to touch the leper and heal the blind, for the Gospel is God’s promise of healing and wellness to all.  So let us come together to pray as men and women who seek God’s help in a time of need.”

Dr. Gary Green, director of Abilene Christian University’s WorldWide Witness program in the Halbert Institute for Missions, read this new message from longtime Southern Hills members Donnie (’77) and Lisa (Spann ’79) Carroll, the parents of Kent’s wife, Amber (Carroll ’06) Brantly:

“Even with this past week’s horrendous news of Kent’s exposure and contraction of the Ebola virus, we have seen and witnessed two incredible things – the power of God who acts on behalf of His people and the love of God’s people poured out on Kent’s and our families.  The peaks this past week have been incredibly high and the valleys have been equally low but through it all, God has been faithful to show Himself in such powerful ways. There are so many miracles that we have seen and are seeing that can only be explained as from the hand of God.

On behalf of Amber and our family as well as Kent’s family, we are amazed and humbled by the worldwide response in prayer to this crisis. We cannot share any news of Kent’s condition but please know that we believe Kent will be healed and that healing will come from the hand of God. To say thank you is so inadequate for what we’re feeling! We are humbled and simply blown away by the response.

Our family has experienced such an emotional roller coaster ride with the news this past Saturday of Kent testing positive for the Ebola virus and the birth of our third grandchild on Tuesday and the marriage of Keith and Morgan last night. We’ve laughed, cried, screamed in joy, and everything in between as we’ve shared together the experiences of the week. We thank you so much for sharing with us, especially in your prayers, the joys and trials of the past few days. We have been so touched and blessed by Kent and Amber’s partnership with Samaritan’s Purse as well as so many in the ACU community and the Southern Hills church family. Thank you!

Would you please continue to pray for Kent and Amber as well as Nancy and her husband, David, and the people of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone who have been tremendously afflicted and affected by the outbreak of the Ebola virus.”

Leading the service along with Hamilton were local dentist Mark Tate, D.D.S. (’80)Dr. Mark Phillips (’88), associate professor and chair of management sciences, and teaching minister of the Southern Hills congregation; and Robert Oglesby Jr. (’81), director of ACU’s Center for Youth and Family Ministry, and Southern Hills’ family minister.

Green led a prayer that included these words:

“… our prayer is not only for these that we love and know by name. We lift up to you thousands of others who suffer from this and other similar diseases, especially those in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Though we may never see their faces, you know each one by name. Though to us, they live in a distant land, to you they reside in your heart. On their behalf we pray for you to be involved. We ask for you to arise and move in visible ways to bring your mercy to the hurting masses. We also lift a special petition for those who – like Kent and Nancy Writebol – have used their gifts and abilities to step into the gap and bring relief. We ask for your protection upon all professionals and volunteers who confront this outbreak. Bless their efforts, guide their thinking and protect their bodies.”

Brantly arrived Saturday at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Ga., where he is being treated in an isolation unit created in cooperation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Writebol will reportedly be transported to Emory later this week. Today, CNN.com reported that Brantly and Writebol were given an experimental serum in recent days called ZMapp that had previously only been tested on primates by a pharmaceutical company in California. The National Institutes of Health offered the doses to Samaritan’s Purse.


New VA secretary faces a tough challenge

Dr. Rick Lytle and Bob McDonald

Dr. Rick Lytle and Bob McDonald

Editor’s note: Dr. Rick Lytle is professor of marketing and dean of ACU’s College of Business Administration. We asked him to offer some reflections on Bob McDonald, retired president and CEO of Procter & Gamble, who was approved this week to lead the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. McDonald was on campus last fall to speak to COBA students.

On Tuesday, retired Procter & Gamble president and CEO Bob McDonald was approved as the new Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. We know a little something about McDonald, who visited Abilene Christian University in November 2013 as the featured guest of a Distinguished Speaker Series luncheon sponsored by our College of Business Administration (COBA).

This annual speaker series – which will continue Oct. 14 when former Walmart CEO Mike Duke joins us – is an important event for COBA. As dean of that college, I look for men and women of character who have proven themselves in the marketplace as business leaders who reflect Christ by serving others.

I want our business majors – and the broader business community in Abilene – to have the opportunity to meet such people, get to know them, and hopefully be inspired by what they have to say. Some of them are colleagues I have met while serving on the board of the CEO Forum, an organization composed of more than 150 Christian CEOs from major corporations around the world.

In this new role, McDonald takes over a massive agency plagued by allegations of chronic mismanagement, stifling bureaucracy and – worst of all – delays to medical care promised to men and women who have served courageously in our armed forces. As he promises to right a ship that’s badly off course, I am reminded of words his recollections of serving as a West Point cadet. He spoke about the prayer he and his classmates were called on to daily recite:

“That prayer had a collection of words in it that was always very powerful, and I’ve tried to live my life by it: ‘Help me to choose the harder right rather than the easier wrong.’ I always thought there was a very powerful idea – the idea that if you’re doing something and it feels like it’s too easy to do, it might be the wrong thing.”

McDonald reminded us that business leaders are sometimes tempted to take shortcuts to trick colleagues into thinking key goals are being reached. “The harder right is to resist doing that kind of thing,” he warned. Now, as he heads to this new role in Washington, D.C., we’re learning more from media reports that VA staffers falsified schedules and manipulated data to hide delays so it would appear they were hitting their target goals.

Bob McDonald speakingIs he the right leader to reverse such behavior in a large government organization? Time will tell. But we were impressed to hear McDonald tell our students, “I think the fundamental values that were implanted in me by my parents are the Christian values, the biblical values, and I think those values are the foundation of everything in our life.”

He also spoke last November about his appreciation for ACU – for the way this university trains “leaders of consequence and character – leaders of values.” He talked about meeting students who exhibit strong leadership skills and demonstrate “the willingness to march to a different drummer, to say the unpopular thing, to do the harder right versus the easier wrong.”

Those are the kind of young people we need marching out into the world – and the kinds of leaders we need in all walks of life, from government officials in our nation’s capital to business entrepreneurs of the smallest startups. Bob McDonald has a tough assignment but from what I have seen and heard, he brings the right mix of values and experience to the challenge.

Here are excerpts of an interview he did while on campus last fall:


Brantlys follow heart, faith in missions field

kent brantly

Kent Brantly, M.D., and his family

ACU missions faculty describe Kent Brantly, M.D. (’03) as a compassionate physician whose work early in his medical career shows the natural outflow of his desire to follow God’s lead even into potentially dangerous territory.

Brantly was serving a two-year fellowship with the relief organization Samaritan’s Purse in Liberia when the Ebola virus broke out. He contracted the virus last week and is undergoing intensive treatment at the ELWA Hospital near the capital city of Monrovia. Samaritan’s Purse reported this morning that even as he battles to survive Ebola, Brantly is still focused on the well-being of others.

“Yesterday, an experimental serum arrived in the country, but there was only enough for one person. Dr. Brantly asked that it be given to Nancy Writebol,” Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse, said on the organization’s website. “However, Dr. Brantly received a unit of blood from a 14-year-old boy who had survived Ebola because of Dr. Brantly’s care. The young boy and his family wanted to be able to help the doctor that saved his life.”

Dr. Gary Green, director of ACU’s WorldWide Witness program, and Dr. Chris Flanders (’89), assistant professor of missions and director of the Halbert Institute for Missions, spoke with media Wednesday about the challenges posed by the missions work Kent and many other ACU graduates and students are engaged in around the world. Out of respect for the wishes of Brantly’s family, neither Green nor Flanders addressed details surrounding his medical condition.

Brantly and his wife, Amber (Carroll ’06), spent a summer interning overseas through WorldWide Witness. The program gives students from all academic backgrounds a short-term, focused vocational missions experience that shows them how to effectively serve God and others wherever their career takes them.

Here’s what the Brantlys’ former professors and mentors had to say:

Dr. Gary Green:

“Everyone here who has been connected with Kent knows him to be someone who is very compassionate, considerate and always upbeat in all he does – the kind of guy who always has a smile on his face. Kent and his wife, Amber, are both very capable, intelligent people who are able to handle cross-cultural stresses in amazing ways. [Their work in Liberia] is a natural progression of who they are and their ability to see a need and to try and fill it with the gifts and talents that they’ve been given.

Kent’s the kind of guy who would weigh benefits versus risk, then try to take himself out of the equation so that he would be thinking, ‘What do I bring to the table? Is the risk [I face] worth taking because I can benefit so many people?’ That’s just the way he is and the kind of person he is in his heart.

It’s never an easy decision to go somewhere like Liberia to work, and we always encourage our students to think about three things. We encourage them to spend a lot of time in introspection. Who am I? How am I wired? What can I handle? What call has God placed in me? We ask them to do a lot research. God gave us a brain and he expects us to use it. Then we ask them to take [their plans] to a community that understands them and understands the environment.”

Dr. Chris Flanders:

“We train students to open [themselves] up to new situations, learn the culture [where they’re going], and then try to place [oneself] in a position of vulnerability. That opens up opportunities to connect and serve. Sometimes when you do that, you run into situations of severe crisis, but [it’s] a natural extension of putting yourself out there in a world that sometimes is dangerous.

We never seek to put people in situations of danger, but sometimes the commitments people have lead them inevitably to a place that is potentially dangerous. We think that’s what is going on here.

We could point to multiple examples all over the globe of people doing similar kinds of work – people who are [working to fight the] trafficking in women and children, then suddenly they find themselves a target because the people who are benefiting from that sex trade now realize there is a threat. This is just an extension of being moved by the love of Christ.

Kent’s work is really an extension of this notion [we see in] 2 Corinthians 5:14, that says the love of Christ controls us and compels us. Sometimes when you follow God’s lead you find yourself going into places that are not safe.

If you look through Christian history, you see that many times it was the compassion of believing Christians who were caring for the sick that led the world to stand and take notice. It’s just a natural extension of what we see in the life of Jesus, that He was willing to follow God’s leading even to the very end, even to the ultimate sacrifice – the giving of His life. So those of us who follow Jesus want to stand in line with that ethic and say, “No matter how risky it is, if we feel that this is where God is going to use us, we want to have the courage to be able to step into that situation regardless of how dangerous it might be.

This is a dangerous world and sometimes God puts us in situations that are dangerous, and as much as we would like it to be otherwise, God doesn’t always exempt us from danger and death. That Kent put himself in that position is sad and unfortunate, but I don’t know if given the opportunity to do things differently, knowing the kind of person he is, that that would have changed things. This was the path that love compelled him to take.

Pray. Pray for Kent’s well being, pray for his family’s well being – for those who can’t be with him right now, but also pray that this opportunity will result in people being alerted to the fact that there are those who put their lives on the line to help others. That’s a noble calling and we need more people like that. Maybe his situation can serve to illuminate opportunities that exist all around us – to step out of our comfort zones and into situations of great danger in order to bless others. That’s what Kent’s example seems to me to be teaching all of us.”


Alvarez, GSR helping refugees in McAllen

Abel Alvarez is minister of the Harvey Drive Church of Christ in McAllen.

Abel Alvarez is minister of the Harvey Drive Church of Christ in McAllen.

The U.S.-Mexico border near McAllen, Texas, is on the front line of a humanitarian crisis that continues to drag on while legislators in Washington, D.C., figure out how to address it. Abilene Christian University trustee Abel Alvarez (’82) and others from his 100-member local congregation – Harvey Drive Church of Christ – are assisting by helping up to 1,000 people a week through one of several shelters in their city.

Abilene-based Global Samaritan Resources, where Danny Sims (’85) is executive director, is pitching in as well.

Alvarez said most of the Spanish-speaking refugees immigrating across the border are fleeing Honduras. Many of the volunteers are not bilingual, so Alvarez and others help interpret.

“The refugees either turn themselves in to the Border Patrol or they are caught,” Alvarez said. They are, in turn, delivered by immigration officials to bus stations in border towns and cities such as McAllen and El Paso. People wait there for hours at a time for a family member in the States to buy them a ticket. When concerned local families began to invite the refugees into their homes several months ago, Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley stepped in to help. A local group, Faith Communities for Disaster Recovery, called a meeting to discuss the roles local churches could have in a humanitarian effort beyond any one congregation’s ability to staff.

“There are not a lot of things Catholics and Protestants cooperate on with each other,” Alvarez said. “So it was interesting to be in an initial meeting where leaders of kinds of churches – Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Church of Christ, the Salvation Army – were present to discuss what they could do to assist. It was good to be in a room where no one was arguing about the situation. We were just trying to figure out the logistics of helping people.”

The Sacred Heart Catholic Church shelter where Alvarez volunteers is on 15th Street, two blocks from the bus station, and one of several overseen by Catholic Charities. It needs 190 volunteers a day to provide each refugee with a hot meal, clean clothes (shoes, socks, underwear, jeans), access to a hot shower, a place to rest, medical attention (including Pedialyte to treat dehydration in infants and children), and a backpack with supplies for the rest of their journey. Alvarez said a Baptist church provides laundry service and the Salvation Army operates a kitchen in the shelter.

Clothes, sorted by size, are prepared for refugees to choose from at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen, Texas.

Clothes, sorted by size, are prepared for refugees to choose from at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen, Texas.

The refugees are largely women and children; two women gave birth in recent weeks at the shelter, which houses 90 people each night. McAllen sees a need for two more shelters; last week Catholic Charities began asking other churches in town if they would agree to be an overflow site.

Alvarez said it feels most days like the need will be “never ending,” which creates a lot of uncertainty among the volunteers.

“Politically, I’m not a fan of the current administration and the way it’s handling this situation, but I’m pretty clear on what the Bible says Christians should do to care for aliens among us,” said Alvarez, who grew up in poverty in Mexico before his family immigrated to South Texas when he was a young boy.

Sims was part of a team from Global Samaritan that delivered 230 cots and blankets to the shelter in mid-July. GSR will make another trip to the South Texas city after a current drive in Abilene ends this month to collect clothes for women and children at the border. Online donations for the effort can be made on the GSR website or the website for Catholic Charities.


Wildcat Caravan rolled through Texas last week

Caravan 7

Dr. Amy (Berry ’95) Fuller (middle) visits with Pam (Kennedy ’78) Speights at the Wildcat Caravan event in Houston.

Pound for pound, it may be the biggest road trip of the season.

ACU coaches and administrators fanned out across Texas last week for the fourth annual Wildcat Caravan, a series of high-energy, if not high-calorie, get-togethers at some of the state’s best eateries with Wildcat alumni, fans, families and friends to collectively cheer on the upcoming athletics season.

The fun began with barbecue on Sunday night, July 13, at Toyota Stadium in Frisco; continued Monday at legendary Joe T. Garcia’s in Fort Worth for lunch and Blackfinn Ameripub in Austin for dinner; and concluded Tuesday at Rudy’s Bar-B-Q in San Antonio and Guadalajara Hacienda in Houston. We weren’t always hungry, but we took one (and sometimes two) for the team, hearkening back to a classic line uttered by former Wildcat letterman and ACU’s 2008 Outstanding Alumnus of the Year Lance Barrow (’77): “Sometimes you gotta eat hurt.”

We came bearing gifts. In addition to doling out football helmets, T-shirts and items from The Campus Store, San Antonio’s Stacy Canavan – whose daughter, Kyla, will be a freshman in 2015 – won a trip for two to the Wildcats’ season-opening football game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Caravan 1

Former quarterback John David Baker (’13) tells a Caravan crowd about his growth as a player and person during his ACU football career.

Coaches recalled their favorite moments from ACU’s first season in Division I and previewed future opponents. The Wildcats’ record-setting quarterback John David Baker (’13) shared the story of being recruited by various teams and how ACU head coach Ken Collums’ pitch centered on what the football program would do for him – as a player and as a man – rather than what he could do for the program. And athletics director Jared Mosley (’00) gave an update on fundraising efforts for the two new on-campus stadium projects and other athletics program initiatives.

Two Very Tall Men

Athletics director Jared Mosley (’00) catches up with ACU Sports Hall of Fame member Greg Stirman (’75) at the Caravan event in Houston.

But the Caravan is always less about what is said than it is a celebration of the great moments that have defined ACU’s sporting history and the legacy that continues to be handed off to the next generation.

For example, try to follow this bouncing ball. In Frisco, we were joined by Rob Orr (’52), one of four brothers who in the summer of 1950 helped convince a young Wildcat football player – unsure if he wanted to play for a new coach, Garvin Beauchamp (’41) – to return to Abilene for his sophomore season. The Orrs successfully steered Wally Bullington (’53) back to campus where that fall he helped the Wildcats go undefeated. Bullington would go on to become ACU’s head coach and win a national championship in 1973 thanks, in part, to all-Lone Star Conference defensive lineman Dub Stocker (’74), a member of the ACU Sports Hall of Fame who attended the Caravan event in Fort Worth. One of Stocker’s teammates on that title team and fellow Hall inductee, Greg Stirman (’75), a third-generation Wildcat football player whose father, Fred (’50), played alongside – who else? – Bullington. Sitting back-to-back with Stirman at the Caravan event in Houston Tuesday night was Dr. Dave Fuller (’98), whose father, Clifton (’73), was one of Stirman’s classmates 40 years ago. Along with Fuller and his wife, Dr. Amy (Berry ’95) Fuller, were their grade-school kids, J.D. and Zoe, decked out in Wildcat apparel, listening to the stories and perhaps catching a vision for one day wearing the Purple and White themselves.

The Long Purple Line got a little longer last week as the Wildcat Caravan rolled along. It left our hearts and our stomachs full.