After a recent week-long road trip, I was given a good reminder of why I go on the road from time to time. My recent trip had been a long and exhausting one. This trip, like most of my trips, was simply an effort to strengthen current Oneida partnerships and to also make new friendships for the Oneida ministry.
Sometimes I know immediately what the results of a trip are. Other times I may realize later on what the results are, and sometimes I will never know what the results may or may not be. Oftentimes my travels are exhausting, and I don’t ever enjoy being away from my family for very long, but I also know the importance of reaching out to the many friends of Oneida.
When I consider the challenges of my travels, I am often reminded and encouraged by what our founder, James Anderson Burns, once did. In “The Crucible” Burns wrote, “I followed the long, long trail which would wind its way all over every state in the Union for twelve weary years. I delivered four thousand lectures to two million people. Every lecture was my best possible effort to secure friends for Oneida Institute and our mountain children. If five percent of the people in my audiences were vitally interested, then Oneida Institute has one hundred thousand faithful friends scattered over all the various states. The friendship of these, when materialized, should result in sufficient facilities to meet emergencies and supply the demands made upon our school.”
I am baffled when I consider how Professor Burns was able to reach every state in the country in the early 1900s, but I am also encouraged in knowing I must do my very best to secure faithful friends to sustain Oneida well beyond my tenure.
The reminder I needed and received after my most recent trip came the following morning in chapel. At separate times just before the service, two of our students approached me. This young lady and young man each epitomize Oneida. They are who we serve and why we do what we do in the Oneida ministry. Both have experienced trials in their home lives and both have unique challenges academically, yet they seem to be thriving at Oneida.
As our faculty and staff invest in them each and every day, they continue to grow spiritually, socially, physically and mentally. As each of these young people walked away from me, a tear came to my eye because I was reminded they are Oneida and they are why I go out seeking friends for Oneida.
Thank you for helping Oneida to reach these two youngsters and so many more just like them. God has been so faithful to Oneida, and you are a vital part of His work in this small yet significant place and work.
Larry Gritton is the president of Oneida Baptist Institute.