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THE FLAME VOL. 3 NO. 2, June-July 2016


Village of Hope Uganda

A Welch College Alumnus Shares Hope With the Hopeless Cindy Cunningham ('85) is founder and director of Village of Hope Uganda. Cindy has dedicated much of her adult life to helping people around the world through organizations like Youth for Christ and Josh McDowell Ministries. However, a 2006 trip to Africa changed her life and ministry forever. She visited the Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, and Uganda, and was haunted by the devastation war and disease had left in their wake, especially among the innocent and helpless children. They shared firsthand stories of abductions and being forced to kill other children. They described beatings that nearly killed them and how they became child soldiers, sometimes coerced into killing their own parents. She returned to the United States heartbroken, asking herself the question we should all ask: “God, what can I do?” Before long, she returned to Uganda, and with her she brought hope. Village of Hope Uganda was born out of Cindy’s broken heart and burden for the people of Africa. The ministry rescues former child-soldiers and sex slaves, along with war orphans. According to the mission statement, the village "provides a safe haven for healing and hope for a future.” Residential villages meet physical needs, provide stable and loving homes, and teach important life skills to residents. Combined with biblical discipleship, the ministry provides systemic solutions to counteract the epidemic poverty and hopelessness among Africa’s most vulnerable children. Cindy's vision is to “transform children of war into children of hope.” After being rescued, healed, educated, and taught to become self-sustaining, the village hopes to see these former victims bring about change in their communities and country. The ministry has blossomed. Today, 336 children have found safe refuge in the Village of Hope, and the organization is constructing a second village to shelter more children. The village also ministers to former sex-slaves abducted during the war, who returned to their villages and homes only to find themselves rejected because they gave had given birth to “rebel babies.” Village of Hope provides trauma counseling and career training, teaching these young women to sew, to make jewelry, and to weave baskets. These life skills help them

Photo: Cindy Cunningham with children from Village of Hope Uganda.

Photo: Children and staff member at Village of Hope Uganda.

earn an income and provide for their children. Many of the women also find hope in God. “It has been a long, hard road for them,” Cindy shares, “but their hope has been renewed and their lives transformed through the work of God. Their hope has been restored.” Cindy currently resides in Dallas, Texas, but continues to guide Village of Hope Uganda while raising funds. The ministry is a strategic partner of Free Will Baptist International Missions. Support their efforts by praying, sponsoring a child, purchasing jewelry, or promoting their work in the United States.

From the Alumni President Prayer is vital to the success of the relocation process. Therefore, Welch College is calling our alumni to join the Building on the Legacy Prayer Campaign. Reasons to pray: + The relocation process is a God thing. “Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it” (Psalm 127:1). + The process requires wisdom from above. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God...and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). + The process is so great it cannot be accomplished without the hand of God on it. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). + Prayer allows us to participate in what God is doing. God doesn’t need our help. He is sovereign. Yet prayer is part of His plan for accomplishing His will in this world. Prayer can clear human obstacles out of the way in order for God to work (Isaiah 55:8-9; Matthew 6:8, 7:7-11). How to get involved: YOU PRAY: Make this prayer campaign a high priority. Use the 30-day prayer guide at and follow Welch College on Twitter and Facebook to get updates. YOUR FAMILY PRAYS: We encourage you and your family to pray through the 30-day prayer guide during devotions. YOUR SMALL GROUP PRAYS: Share the requests with your small group or Sunday School class every week. Develop a small group for the purpose of praying for the Building on the Legacy Campaign. YOUR CHURCH PRAYS: Please share these prayer requests with your local church each week: The college is happy to provide 30-day prayer guides for your family or small group. Follow Welch College on social media for daily reminders and updates. The college has mailed out over 5,000 prayer guides. If you have not received one let me know. We will be glad to send you one. The request for day 18 is that God would provide major gift donors to the relocation process. On that day President Pinson secured a seven-figure gift, the largest gift to date for the campaign. Praise the Lord! And thank you for praying. Mike Edwards (‘95):|615-522-8791

FOREVER FRIENDS "God placed us there to lean on each other, not to carry each other; that was His job. I cannot count the number of times that I have been so broken, and my friends dragged me out into public to reconnect with civilization once more after being holed up in my room for a week (or more). Or the number of times when we have laughed so hard people thought we had finally lost our minds (I was convinced at one point that someone was sure to send us to Dr. Forlines to be evaluated). The friends I have made at Welch have supported me, cried with me, laughed with me, been annoyed by me, put up with my constant changing emotions and decisions, and have loved me through every moment of anxiety and trying circumstances. God truly used Welch College to send people into my life who I know will always be there, no matter the distance or length of time." Excerpt from the senior testimony of Hannah Skaggs

It’s easier than you think. Make a contribution to the Welch College Alumni Endowment. The money you contribute today will be multiplied through the generations at Welch College.

Free Will Baptist Foundation 877-336-7575 |

Visit to submit news items, to share your story, or to get involved today!

Alumni Encouraged to Attend Convention Events Join the Alumni Association at noon, Wednesday, July 20, in the Count Basie Ballroom of the Kansas City Marriott Downtown for its annual luncheon. The event is hosted each year at the Free Will Baptist national convention. Preregister for the convention at to purchase tickets in advance ($30). Tickets will will cost $5 more onsite ($35), and will be available in a very limited quantity. Luncheon Menu Garden salad with choice of dressings Vegetables; Potato salad Pulled pork; barbecued chicken breast Strawberry cheesecake and apple Streudel Freshly brewed coffee (including decaf) and assorted teas

When Free Will Baptists Went Liberal: The 1911 Merger, Jesse Owens Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Rebekah Talbot Funding College When Funds Are Low, Debbie Mouser Panel Discussion: Sexuality, Gender, and the Church Cultivating Biblical Kindness in Millennials, Anna McAffee A Classical Christian Perspective on Literature in a Post-Christian Culture,          Frank Thornsbury How Our Songs Reflect the Image and Glory of God, Josh Owens Roommates and Rush Week: Need to Know Before You Go, Debbie Mouser Engaging the Minds and Hearts of Children, Etta Patterson

Check the Convention Program for a complete list of times and locations. Please note: some titles abbreviated for space.

While at the convention, be sure to take avantage of the exciting slate of seminars to be presented by the college: Seminars and Workshops Revitalizing Your Church Through Word-Driven Ministry, Barry Raper The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? Matthew McAffee Youth Ministry in an Age of Distraction, Chris Talbot Transforming Culture With the Christian Worldview, Matthew Bracey Building a Culture of Stewardship, David Williford What Not to Do in Your Church’s Strategic Plan, Greg Ketteman How to Reach Those Who Ridicule the Bible, Jeff Cockrell

Relocation Update From President Pinson God is doing great things in the ministry of Welch College as we move forward with campus construction and relocation. Allow me to give you a brief update on campus relocation and the Building on the Legacy capital campaign. I want to thank you for your prayers for the Building on the Legacy campaign for campus relocation. The early stages of the campaign have been more successful than we had ever dreamed possible. We currently have about $8 million in cash and commitments (about $6.5 million of that in cash) toward the Building on the Legacy campaign. We give thanks and praise to God for His bountiful blessing! These early blessings will allow us to increase our campaign goal to $14.4 million(our original goal was $6.5 million). This will enable us to build a full auditorium/chapel, which had been omitted from the original first-phase plans for the campus. It will also allow us to be debtfree after the completion of the five-year campaign. Visit to read more about our campaign and see the latest videos of campus construction. We thank you, our alumni, friends, and supporters, for your prayers and support thus far, and we ask you to join us in this campaign for the relocation of Welch College, as we continue building on the legacy. —J. Matthew Pinson, President, Welch College

Welcome to Forty-Nine New Alumni! Welch College conferred degrees on 49 students from 15 states in commencement exercises at Memorial Auditorium on Friday, May 6, according to President Matt Pinson. Students completed degrees in multiple programs ranging from two-year associate’s degrees to four-year bachelor’s degrees. Forty-nine percent of the class graduated with honors. Rev. Keith Burden, executive secretary of the National Association of Free Will Baptists, delivered the commencement address. He challenged graduates to be the best they can be, to take responsibility for their actions, and expect great things from God and attempt great things for God. Jeff Nichols, executive pastor of The Donelson Fellowship in Nashville, Tennessee, presented Thursday evening’s baccalaureate sermon. He relayed to graduates that they were made by God who knows their future and to look at their years of preparation with patience for the future. Welch College Pastoral Ministry Coordinator Dr. Barry Raper was named Academic Advisor of the Year. President Matt Pinson also recognized Christian Service Director John Murray for 25 years of faithful service to Welch College. Associate of Science Degrees Adam Heath Giles Ashland City, TN Business Kenneth Mark Murphy Kannapolis, NC Ministry David Alan Robinson Lexington, NC Ministry Keith Michael Stegall Moline, IL Ministry Elisabeth Grace Webster Norfolk, VA Nursing Bachelor of Science Degrees Erik Mark Armstrong Red Bay, AL Youth and Family Ministry Nathaniel Bacon Brimer** Norfolk, VA General Christian Ministry

The college commends to you and to the work of the Lord the members of the 2016 graduating class.

Rachel Ann Burns Springfield, OH Child Development and Learning Licensure K-5

Joshua Daniel Dunbar* Russellville, AR Business Administration Youth and Family Ministry

Sunni Coral Champion Florence, AL General Christian Ministry

Hanna Alicia Dunham* Wheelersburg, OH Child Development and Learning Licensure K-5

Lim Nhial Chol Nashville, TN Exercise Science Shelby Faith Cominskie* Virginia Beach, VA Child Development and Learning Licensure K-5 Nathaniel Austin Deel** Antioch, TN History Licensure 6-12 in History and English Leah Carol Dell** Ashland City, TN Child Development and Learning Licensure K-5 Hannah Renee Driggers** Scranton, SC English Licensure 6-12

George Hudson Shaw Dunlap Nashville, TN Exercise Science Taylor Rebecca Greer Manassas, VA English Licensure 6-12 Nathaniel Matthew Hagood Whitesburg, TN General Christian Ministry Benjamin Corey Hobbs Willow Spring, NC General Christian Ministry Carl M. Hooper** Waverly, TN General Christian Ministry

Michael Edward Hunt** Wagoner, OK General Christian Ministry Gabriel Thomas Kear Chula Vista, CA Business Administration Allison Ruth Lewis Chicago, IL Early Childhood Emily Jane Lute Warren, MI Business Administration Jessica Wey Melvin** Mt. Juliet, TN Exercise Science Caroline Elizabeth Merkh Nashville, TN Business Administration Caleb Luke Milling* Ashland City, TN General Christian Ministry John Daniel Newland** Joelton, TN Music Performance

Leslie Blake Nichols* Old Hickory, TN Exercise Science

Wayne Thomas Smith* Fort Lawn, SC General Christian Ministry

Melissa Taylor Owen Canton, GA Business Administration

Paula Melinda Stonerock*** Columbus, OH Child Development and Learning Licensure K-5

Emily Jane Parrish*** Washington, NC Psychology

Larissa Cheree Thomas*** Greenwood, AR Psychology

Amy Michelle Pickett** Pocahontas, AR Early Childhood Education Licensure PreK-3

Gregory Wayne Tucker Huntsville, AL Pastoral Ministry

Andrew Evan Pierce Tupelo, MS General Christian Ministry

Tracye Shawnette Tucker Franklin, TN General Christian Ministry

David Andrew Reeves* Owensboro, KY Business Administration

Zachary Adam Vickery* Taylor, AL General Christian Ministry

Adison Kyler Showalter* Butler, GA General Christian Ministry

James Victor Francis Creek, WI Physical Education

Bachelor of Arts Degrees Stephen Dempsey Bozeman** Butler, GA History Nathaniel Austin Deel** Antioch, TN English Cameron Michael Edwards Cane Ridge, TN English Michael David Hollis*** Washington, NC Pastoral Ministry Brittany La Shae Walker* Spruce Pine, AL Missions Dustin Michael Walters Hamilton, AL Pastoral Ministry *** Summa Cum Laude ** Magna Cum Laude * Cum Laude

Caleb Ryan Smith Mount Holly, NC Youth and Family Ministry

Former Communications Director Dead at 73 Dr. Jack Williams, former communications director at Welch College, died suddenly April 29. He was 73. Dr. Williams graduated from Welch College in 1966. He received his M.A. from Sacramento Baptist Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from Louisiana Baptist University. He served 27 years as editor of Contact, official publication of the National Association of Free Will Baptists, and 24 years as convention coordinator, plus eight years as academic dean at California Christian College. He pastored in Arkansas, Tennessee, and Louisiana. He also served on the Free Will Baptist Historical Commission. Williams joined Welch in 2005 as the director of communications and served there until 2014. His knowledge of college history and Free Will Baptist history made him a perfect fit for writing and editing. Welch President Matt Pinson said, “Jack Williams was just the man we needed when he came to Welch. In addition to his first-rate writing and editing, he brought to the table a deep love for the Free Will Baptist denomination and the college, as well as a keen understanding of our history and culture. He was a great encourager to me personally.� His writing was known for wit, journalistic fairness, and

encouragement. He earned 13 awards from the Evangelical Press Association and helped launch a fleet of new Free Will Baptist writers. He is survived by his wife Janis; daughter, Dr. Rebecca Deel (Recardo), Business teacher at Welch; son, Brad Williams (Tina); and four grandchildren, Austin and Andrew Deel (both Welch students) and Kristen and Kullen Williams; sister, Carol Mariche; and brother, Jerry Williams. He was preceded in death by a grandson, Kyler Williams.

News and Updates Stephen Beck, Principal of Virgin Islands School, to Join Faculty Stephen Beck, principal of the Free Will Baptist Christian School in St. Croix, Virgin Islands, has been hired as a full-time faculty member in Teacher Education at Welch College, according to Provost Greg Ketteman. Beck will assume the position this fall as Dr. Thurman Pate shifts to a part-time role, the beginning of a planned, phased retirement. Dr. Pate will continue to teach some courses and serve as mentor to Mr. Beck. Beck earned a B.S. in engineering with minors in math and computer science at Vanderbilt University in 1997, while taking Bible and missions courses at Welch. He completed most of his coursework toward a master’s degree in engineering at the University of Alabama in Hunstville and holds a master’s degree in mathematics education from the University of Virgin Islands, where he is an adjunct assistant professor. An ordained minister and grandson of founding president, Dr. L. C. Johnson, Stephen served as an engineer for a defense contractor in Huntsville, Alabama, until sensing a call to the school in the Virgin Islands, where he also served as associate pastor of the Free Will Baptist church.

“The college has long envisioned offering a program for math teachers,” Provost Greg Ketteman said. “Having Stephen here will allow us to pursue that goal. Dr. Etta Patterson will serve as interim chairman while Stephen completes his doctorate.” President Matt Pinson said, “I am delighted Stephen Beck will join our Welch team. He has an ideal mix of administrative background, ministry experience, and fit with Welch’s mission." Stephen, his wife Rejyna, and their five children will move to Nashville this summer. Read the full release at

Be disciplined. Work hard. Go the extra mile in order to succeed. But when you do occasionally come up short, and you will, admit it and take the necessary steps to do better the next time. —Commencement address, Keith Burden, executive secretary, National Association of Free Will Baptists | 888-97-WELCH

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Welch College

The Flame | June-July 2016  

The Flame is the official publication of the Welch College Alumni Association