Faith in the summer
Outreach and ministry activities tend to be more creative as the warm weather lures people outdoors, and young people, in particular, have plenty of time to spend learning about their faith. For that reason, we are highlighting the many ways faith reaches out in the summer in the Oklahoma City area.
Wilbert Todd baptizes Khalil Rankin, 9, in a pool outside People’s Church, 800 E Britton Road in Oklahoma City. Sarah Phipps/ The Oklahoman
‘Greatest Show’ spotlights baptisms


Under the summer sun, 5-year-old Rylin Vick closed her eyes and held her breath in preparation for a life-changing experience at People’s Church.

Wilbert Todd spoke to her in hushed tones, asking if she was ready to be baptized as an outward sign of her acceptance of Christ into her heart.

The little girl said yes and then nodded to make sure Todd understood her.

And under the water she went.

When Rylin emerged from the water, applause erupted among the people standing around a swimming pool set up outside the church, 800 E Britton Road.

Rylin was one of 214 people baptized June 23 as part of the outdoor baptisms at People’s Church’s main campus in Oklahoma City and its Midwest City satellite. The baptisms were part of the church’s annual summer series “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

Rylin’s mother, Andrea Vick, of Oklahoma City, said her other children also have been baptized at People’s Church.

It’s a blessing,” she said.

Michele Morris, the church’s creative director, said “The Greatest Show on Earth” activities have been offered after worship services during June. Activities on June 23 included a cookout with free hamburgers and hotdogs, plus fun opportunities to interact with members dressed like superheroes Captain America, Superman and Iron Man and Disney princesses. Also, children were encouraged to dress up as their favorite princess or superhero.

“It is an outreach to the community — a tangible way to show the love of Jesus,” Morris said of the activities.

“Some people may not be able to go on vacation but they want to do something special with their family, so we’re trying to create an environment that’s just fun.”

Morris said the Rev. Herbert Cooper, the church’s senior pastor, talks about the tradition of baptism. She said the church was prepared for members who wanted to be baptized, with changing rooms set up and shorts, flip-flops and T-shirts with a baptism theme emblazoned on theme.

Brandon McLaurin, of Oklahoma City, said he already had been baptized but seized the opportunity to be baptized again so he could share the special ritual with his daughter Maya, 4, at People’s Church.

“It’s just amazing,” he said.

Morris she said “The Greatest Show on Earth” continues Sunday at the Oklahoma City campus with a carnival featuring several rides, face painting, inflatables, balloon artists and free snow cones for children. Morris said activities with an animal kingdom theme will be offered at the Midwest City campus, 351 N Air Depot Blvd., including a petting zoo, pony rides and free snow cones for children.

Brian Thurman, one of the volunteer coordinators of Victory Church’s Random Acts of Kindness, washes the car window for a motorist on June 14 at the Valero fuel station at NW 39 and MacArthur Boulevard. Carla Hinton / The Oklahoman
Kindness, fuel and pizza

Customers at a local fuel station and a pizza restaurant got a big surprise one recent Saturday.

A group of volunteers from Victory Church converged upon the Valero station at NW 39 and MacArthur Boulevard with cold bottled water and treats designed to take away some of the pain at the pumps, so to speak.

The church paid so that fuel would be 50 cents cheaper per gallon for an hour on June 7. Some fliers had been distributed a few days beforehand, but most customers who pulled into the station said they saw two young volunteers holding the church’s sign at a nearby corner.

The Rev. Jed Chappell, pastor of community outreach, said the fuel station surprise was part of the church’s Random Acts of Kindness outreach. That ministry effort, along with ongoing outreach activities at several housing projects, is just another way to share God’s love with others, he said.

Volunteer Marcie Thurman gave out suckers as she told customers about the church’s no-strings-attached surprise.

“I love it. It’s one of my favorite outreaches because it’s giving an unexpected blessing,” Thurman said.

Brian Thurman, Todd Coffman and other volunteers washed car windows for customers pumping fuel. Another volunteer, Nadia Coffman, gave out cold bottled water to customers and passersby.

Gomalia Danna said she saw one of the fliers and wanted to accept the church’s kind offer.

“This is a big helping hand,” she said.

Customer Phil Martin agreed. “It’s a nice service,” he said.

Meanwhile, another set of volunteers set out to surprise customers arriving for lunch at Papa Angelo’s Pizza restaurant in Bethany. Taylor Ford and Hannah Elliott, outreach coordinators for pizza parlor effort, said customers attempting to pay for their pizza were told that Victory Church had purchased their lunch.

Ford said some people were hesitant to accept the free food and tried to give a donation to the church, which the volunteers did not accept.

“Some people feel like they have to do something for the church, but we just want to bless them,” she said.

Numerous bikers participated in a June 14 Fun Run to raise funds for Chapel Hill United Methodist Church’s Mother’s Day Out program. The bikers and their friends, including, from left, Peggy Johnston, her husband Mike Johnston, Joe Delozier and Elliott Murray, joined the church’s Community Picnic after the run. The Johnstons are members of Chapel Hill. Carla Hinton / The Oklahoman
The church's 'foundation'
Duffner Park was the site of the fourth annual Community Picnic hosted by Chapel Hill United Methodist Church.

Church leader Shari Detwiler said the park, located across the street from the church, 2717 W Hefner Road, is the perfect setting to offer free food, games and other activities to the surrounding community.

“It’s basically just for the community and to try to get the church outside its walls,” she said.

Activities during the June 7 event included face painting, a moon bounce and volleyball. Free hamburgers and hot dogs were offered along with snow cones. Motorcyclists participated in a bikers fun run that morning to raise funds for the church’s Mother’s Day Out program.

Detwiler said other activities include Friday Night Flicks, a free movie shown on the third Friday of each month at the church. During warm weather months, the movies are shown outdoors, and hot dogs, snow cones and popcorn are offered, she said. On the second Saturday of the month, children are invited to the church to play games, make crafts and take cooking classes through an outreach called Acts 4 Kids.

“It’s just allowed us to be in relationship with the people in our community,” Detwiler said of the outreach activities.

Nancy McCullough, one of the church’s associate pastors, said, “We’re just reaching out to the community and sharing the love of Christ.”

“We believe that’s the foundation of everything we do.”

Sarah Welizer conducts a class at Shiloh Camp, a Christian day camp in north Oklahoma City. Paul Hellstern / The Oklahoman
Faith mixed with fun

Stephen Moore thinks it’s OK that his camp is hidden away from the rest of the metro.

Moore, executive director of Shiloh Camp, said the Christian day camp near NE 63 and Broadway Extension is still doing its part to transform the lives of inner-city youths.

He said children participating in camp activities know all about the place, and they’re telling their friends.

Moore said this was proven last year when camp leaders hoped 600 children would get to experience the camp, and that goal was exceeded by 101.

Shiloh Camp offers classes in drama, arts and crafts and choir. There also are sports and recreational activities including a zip line, a ropes course, canoeing, fishing, mountain bikes, football, volleyball and basketball.

This year, the camp also offers swimming, thanks to the addition of swimming pool funded by an anonymous donor.

The fun activities keep the campers busy, but the focus each day is on a Christian theme or message, Moore said.

“Our mission here is to transform our inner city with the love of Christ through sports, arts and meaningful relationships,” he said.

He said up to 100 children attend each of the eight, weeklong summer camps. In addition to the camp day, the campers and their parents are treated to dinner on Friday nights, and the youths show their families some of the things they learned at camp.

Awards are given out during those dinner events, including a Barnabas Award presented to a camper whose good character rose to the surface during that week’s camp.

“It’s a week’s worth of affirmation and spiritual encouragement in a loving environment,” Moore said.

Several participants in the Muslim Youth Leadership Symposium listen to speakers during a mock debate at the Oklahoma Capitol. Photo provided
Young Muslim leaders gather at Capitol

Should government be allowed to determine whether textbooks are censured regarding religious content?

Is it legitimate for the FBI or other law enforcement groups to secretly place surveillance equipment in mosques to monitor Muslim congregations?

Young adults divided into teams and shared viewpoints on these timely issues during a mock debate June 23 at the state Capitol.

The debate was the culmination of the sixth annual Muslim Youth Leadership Symposium held one weekend in the summer. The three-day event, held at the University of Central Oklahoma and the state Capitol, was hosted by the Oklahoma Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The debate groups were divided by gender, and each team huddled to talk strategy in the House Chamber. Adam Soltani, the executive director of CAIR-OK, said the women had won the debate in previous years, so the men were determined to get a victory this time.

And the men did win, Soltani said.

“They were very happy about that,” he said, laughing.

Soltani said the overall goal of the symposium is to develop today’s young Muslim leaders into social and community activists to benefit Oklahoma. He said 60 young adults were chosen to participate in the gathering, which included workshops, a talent show and team-building activities.

Strolling around the recent “Bone-A-Fide Dog Show and Pet Adoption” event at St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church was Jeffrey Hammons, of Oklahoma City, and his pet Ksew Valentina, whom he adopted from The Underdogs Rescue Inc. Carla Hinton / The Oklahoman
Church goes to the dogs

Plenty of barking recently intermingled with human conversation at St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church.

This was the scene of the church’s annual Bone-A-Fide Dog Show and Pet Adoption event on June 7 at 14700 N May. Many church members and visitors searched for pets among the dogs brought to the event by various rescue groups.

Chuck and Sabrina Evans, who attend the church, played with a Dalmation-beagle mix named Pirate in a fenced-in lawn area behind the house of worship. Sabrina Evans said they decided they like the dog and planned to adopt him from the Rocky Spot Rescue organization.

Jeffrey Hammons, of Oklahoma City, showed off his pet Ksew Valentina, whom he adopted from The Underdogs Rescue Inc. Hammons, an interior designer who also makes pet fashions, had the Cairn terrier decked out in colorful clothing befitting her station as his beloved pet.

“We’re inseparable. She has truly just changed my life,” he said.

Chad Yarbrough, the St. Augustine’s member who coordinated the event, said it is a fun outreach for the church to offer the community. He said the event also helps educate the public about animals and helps find homes for animals that need one.

To add festive punch to the event, pet owners entered their dogs in several contests, such as “best swagger” and best owner/pet look-alike.

Yarbrough’s Catahoula leopard dog named Covey took part in the competition, along with other pets and their owners. Winner of the “Best Swagger” award was Juan and Jackie Herrera’s Labrador retriever named Chucho.

Showing off their handcrafted “shields of faith” are children attending the “Agency D3: Discover, Decide, Defend” vacation Bible school at First Baptist Church of Moore, 301 NE 27 in Moore. Carla Hinton / The Oklahoman
Junior detectives find fun, faith
An assortment of fingerprints and footprints covered the walls and floors at one of the more prominent churches in this suburban city.

Several people wearing sunglasses and trench coats set out to help youths find clues and evidence of Jesus as part of the “Agency D3: Discover, Decide, Defend” vacation Bible school at First Baptist Church of Moore, 301 NE 27.

Deanna Field, the church’s VBS coordinator, said about 900 children attended the camp Monday through Friday, with the help of 300 to 400 volunteers. Activities included games, crafts and outdoor recreation.

In addition to the fingerprints and footprints that carried the detective theme throughout the building, crime scene tape covered some doors and windows.

Leaders said the church seeks to make the Bible school fun and exciting for the children, but the Christian message always takes center stage.

For example, in the missions area, volunteers including Leslie Van Buskirk and Betty Rogers talked to the youths about the importance of proclaiming the Gospel in other places around the city and state, as well as other countries.

The volunteers encouraged the children to donate new flip-flops for a mission project called “Flips for Feet.”

They said the donated footwear would be given to a local homeless shelter, and some would be sent to people in Nicaragua, where the paths are often muddy or dusty.