Small college buoyed by husband-wife's witness

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (BP) -- Bacone College is a small college with a strong Native American heritage. The BC football team competes at the NAIA level yet doesn't get much recognition beyond Muskogee, Okla., where the campus was founded in 1880.

On Aug. 21, 28 Bacone College football players made professions of faith and two rededicated their lives to Christ at First Baptist Church in Fort Gibson, Okla.
 
But Steve and Sharon Dixon and other members of First Baptist Church in nearby Fort Gibson have invested themselves in the lives of BC players as well as other students for the last six years.

"It's a ministry of love," said Sharon, who had long prayed for a ministry with young people.

It started when she and Steve canvassed the campus and met a young man named Nathan who was a dorm resident adviser. After connecting with Nathan and inviting him to church, he started inviting others.

"It's just grown and grown and grown," said Steve, who serves as director of administration and education at First Baptist after retiring from the corporate world and has been married to Sharon for 48 years.

Stories of Bacone students, especially football players, making professions of faith are plenteous, including a Sunday morning service Aug. 21 when coach Lawrence Livingston brought the whole football team to First Baptist. The squad heard pastor Danny Gandara preach a Gospel message, and 28 players made professions of faith, with two players rededicating their lives to Christ.

Steve Dixon (front left) and Sharon Dixon (front second from right) started ministering to Barone College football players six years ago. This is the first group of players who came to First Baptist in Fort Gibson, pictured with pastor Danny Gandara (front second from left).
 
Steve said in the six years that First Baptist has been ministering to Bacone students they have witnessed more than 100 salvation experiences, and four now-former students are working in full-time ministry.

Among them: L.C. Brown, a defensive lineman who came to BC to play football after struggles with playing at other schools.

Growing up in Southside Chicago, Brown rode a Greyhound bus to Muskogee in the summer of 2012. He had $20 but that was used to cover overweight luggage to be shipped to the school. A teammate gave him $10 after he arrived on campus so Brown could get some food, which he used to buy bread and peanut butter.

After a few days on campus, Brown was in his dorm room when he was told that somebody had brought a large box of food. He went downstairs and met the Dixons who came to the campus with a bunch of hamburgers and side dishes after First Baptist had a cookout for the finale of the church's Vacation Bible School.

"His arms are as big as my thighs," Steve said, recalling when he first met Brown. "When he came down the stairs, he was a little taken back. It shook him."

L.C. Brown is a former Barone College football player who now works in Baptist College Ministry for the Muskogee Baptist Association.
 
Brown did not have a good impression of white people from his upbringing. For an older white couple like Steve and Sharon Dixon to offer him a bunch of food was a foreign experience.

From there, Brown began to attend First Baptist. A couple months later, he made a profession of faith. A few years later, Brown surrendered to fulltime ministry. Today, he serves as associate Baptist Collegiate Ministry director with the Muskogee Baptist Association.

David Spynes, who teaches the college Sunday School class at First Baptist, said watching Brown's spiritual transformation has been an amazing work of the Holy Spirit.

"It has been neat just watching [Brown] grow and mature, answer the call God has put on his life. He has had a lot of influence on the other guys," Spynes said.

Brown mentioned that he and two of his teammates, Terrence Porterfield and Bryan Warren, started a Bible study on campus that began with 15 students. The next week, it grew to 50.

Each of the men is now serving in full-time ministry. Steve said Porterfield has religious radio program in Detroit, Mich., while Warren is preaching in Fort Worth, Texas, and is working toward becoming a military chaplain.

The stories could go on, but even in the span of six years that First Baptist, led by Steve and Sharon Dixon, has been connecting with Bacone football players and other students, God has blessed the work this church in northeast Oklahoma has done on the campus of this small college.

"A friend of mine told me, 'You were praying for a ministry but you were too small in your prayers. You wanted something locally, but God gave you the world,'" said Sharon, who said former Bacone College students to whom they've ministered are now located across the United States and in other countries.

Chris Doyle is associate editor of the Baptist Messenger, newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
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