In 1899, a feuding mountaineer convinced men and families at war to lay down their rifles and lay aside their pride for the sake of their children. This unlikely agreement gave birth to Oneida Baptist Institute and our long history of loving and caring for children.
Our founder, James Anderson Burns, helped birth and lead the Oneida ministry for the better part of three decades. However, Burns had a lot of help in this unlikely venture.
Most don’t know that a pastor from Kansas named H.L. McMurray convinced Burns to launch the Oneida ministry. He gave Burns the support and encouragement he needed in those early days, and many pastors today give the Oneida work the support we need.
How amazing is it that God brought together a pastor and feuding mountaineer to launch an unlikely work that would change the lives of tens of thousands of young people? How amazing is it that He continues to use pastors and laypeople today to help carry on our work?
For much of my career in Christian education, I have also been blessed to serve as a bivocational pastor. Perhaps my role now is partly that of an evangelist as I am blessed to preach in many different churches. It might be a simplification to say a pastor’s job is to love God and love people, but I believe it is accurate. I also believe the role of all those involved with the Oneida work is to simply love God and love children. It amazes me that folks who have never met our students love them in very tangible ways.
Over 30,000 kids have passed through this little place called Oneida. Some of those stayed for many years. Others were only here for mere days or weeks. No matter their length of stay, I believe they were shown the love of God by our faithful staff. As we closed out our school year in a non-traditional manner, it became more challenging for our faculty and staff to minister to our kids. However, I am happy to report our people rose to the challenge. They adjusted and they continued to love our students in new and different ways.
The unprecedented events in the last few months have created challenges for all of us. Oneida has faced many difficult times throughout our rich 120-year history. No matter what we have experienced, we are still called to love Jesus and love others. Some folks are more difficult to love than others and Oneida has a long history of reaching, through God’s grace, these types of kids.
Oneida, as long as the Lord sees fit, will continue to love children, and we are grateful for our faithful friends who help us carry on our work and calling.
Larry Gritton is president of Oneida Baptist Institute in Oneida, Ky.