Covering Dallas with Love Alumni Share Passion for God and Compassion for People
On a plane from Athens, Greece, to Berlin, Germany, Robert Stolte (95) found himself wanting to go home … immediately.
‘Home’ was Dresden, Germany, where he and his family were missionaries.
In a day before cell phones made it easy to communicate on the go, Robert had no way to reach out and tell his family he was changing plans – cutting short his stay in Berlin – to come home.
When he finally connected with his wife, Brenda (95), he found out she’d been praying for God to bring him home.
Her car had hit a man on a bicycle earlier that day. She wasn’t hurt, but the man wasn’t expected to live.
She faced jail time in a foreign land. She faced threats of retaliation from the man’s friends and family.
Brenda needed Robert home.
God worked. The man pulled through. Reconciliation, forgiveness and friendship followed.
Robert, now the adult education and equipping and empowering minister at Prestoncrest Church of Christ in Dallas, Texas, traces his ministry calling back to a meeting with Dr. Loren Gieger at a “Taste of Culture” event at Oklahoma Christian.
A campaign to Greece followed. A subsequent trip to Germany with Clyde and Gwen Antwine hooked Robert and Brenda. They embraced the need there.
“Faith began to flourish in hearts that were not open to the Lord before they were introduced to Jesus, much like my heart wasn’t open to mission work until I went to that event on the campus of Oklahoma Christian. We saw that play out over and over again on the mission field, that God has a way of pursuing us for his purposes.”
In 2004, the pursuit led Robert to Prestoncrest, where he serves alongside fellow OC alumni Gary Cochran (84) and Gordon Dabbs (91).
Gordon, Prestoncrest’s preaching minister since 2009, and his wife Ila (Lewis 95) worked as church planters in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for 10 years. The Victory Church in Rio now has 200 members and Brazilian elders and ministers.
Gordon’s Rio experience helped prepare him for his work in Dallas. Poverty, addiction and broken lives are all around in the big city.
“We have been known for a long time as a great missions congregation. But God is starting to open our eyes and say, ‘Hey guys, I put you in Dallas, Texas.’ There are needs all over the place,” Gordon said. “There’s a stirring to make a difference here in our neighborhoods. We always have, but it seems like its gaining momentum. We’re beginning to take seriously that call to show compassion for people in the neighborhoods where we live and work.”
People are flowing into the area and into the congregation from all over the world. Prestoncrest recently adopted an elementary school where members help 100 Burmese refugees. They’re helping local college students from Taiwan find jobs. Their FriendSpeak program works with people from Afghanistan, China, Columbia, France, Honduras, Hungary, India, Iran, Korea, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Russia, Taiwan, Thailand, Ukraine, Uruguay and Vietnam.
“We’re embracing them, we’re helping them, we’re sharing the love of God, and that’s drawing them into relationships based on Jesus Christ,” Robert said. “And in those relationships, belief is being transferred, belief is being developed and faith is beginning to flourish in hearts that never had the opportunity in their home countries.”
Gary, who became Prestoncrest’s singles minister in 2006, developed his passion for urban ministry at OC. While he pursued biblical studies as an undergrad, mentored by Howard Norton, he drove newspaper delivery trucks for the Oklahoman into “places a Christian boy from southeast Oklahoma City rarely ever went.”
He began to wonder how people got into those difficult situations, and who was helping them. He decided to help, and he hasn’t stopped … working in inner-city ministry during grad school in Abilene, and in his jobs at Mayfair Church of Christ in Oklahoma City, A&M Church of Christ in College Station, Texas, and now at Prestoncrest.
“Our mission field begins on the other side of this door and it’s outside of our own homes,” Gary said. “It takes us to places in the city that we really can’t anticipate. What we can anticipate and choose is whether we’re going to go or not. Are we going to be open to people, and to love, serve and give, and see what those possibilities are? He has a mission for us all throughout this mission field called Dallas, Texas, and then He also will take us beyond that to where he chooses to take us.”
A few hours after he said that, Gary and other Prestoncrest singles went to a boxing gym, where they’re mentoring children who don’t have fathers at home.
They’ve provided coats and blankets to others in need, and formed Christ-like relationships as they “cover Dallas with love.”
Urban ministry is a big part of Camp Genesis, which Gary helps lead on the OC campus each summer.
Gordon also feels God’s calling home to Oklahoma Christian. In addition to his work at Prestoncrest, he looks for ways to be involved with a place where his sister, senior vice president for academic affairs Dr. Allison (Dabbs 84) Garrett, has made such a big impact as a student, trustee and administrator … and where mentors like Norton, Dr. Ron Bever and Dr. John Maple blessed his life.
“I had a great time at OC. God spoke to me there; God stretched me there; my faith became my own there,” Gordon said. “God did so many things at OC. It’s such an amazing opportunity to continue to be a part of this university that’s been a big part of my life.”
View more stories from the Spring 2012 issue of Vision magazine.