I AM THIRD
Indiana Wesleyan University
“IAM3,” or “I am 3rd” is a top pillar of the Indiana Wesleyan University men’s basketball team. The team’s blog site describes it as “Building a team of 3rd in a culture of 1st.” Head Coach Greg Tonagel and his coaching staff consistently remind the team that they are third. The concept is simple: it’s God first, others second, yourself third.
From the beginning of the recruiting process, coaches tell prospective students what the team is about. While many are receptive, some are not. And that’s okay. Players know the team is one that will pursue Jesus and love people. The team spends significant time praying, dreaming and seeking God together–even ministering locally through various avenues and going on regular mission trips to communicate the gospel.
The men’s basketball team is building a team of 3rd in a culture of 1st.
Ben Carlson, a senior from Palatine, Illinois, says “I am 3rd” has changed his life forever. A former lukewarm Christian, he knows he’s given God his all this past year–academically, relationally, physically, mentally and spiritually.
“This is a program that doesn’t just believe in growth, but in transformation,” said Carlson. “I began to pray that I would no longer be seen, but God would be seen in everything I do.”
Assistant coach, Jeff Clark, said the team is intentional about seeking God’s guidance in all they do and is quick to point out the team is made up of imperfect guys.
“I am 3rd to us is not a catchy slogan,” said Clark. “It’s the heart of what we’re trying to accomplish with our program. We are not perfect, but we learn greater depths of it each year.”
While the coaching staff and players want to win, they know they have a greater purpose.
OBLIGATION OR CALLING
John Lamos grew up in a family of pastors including his dad, grandfather, aunts and uncles. It seemed obvious he would follow in their footsteps. However, Lamos ran from God’s call.
“I hesitated about going into a life of ministry because I felt I was doing what everyone expected me to do,” Lamos said. “I decided out of my own story with God as opposed to saying ‘yes’ by default. God put [in me] a passion to love people with his heart that only came from him and not from following a family calling.”
After earning a B.A. in ministry at Kingswood University that included an internship as creative arts pastor at Kings Church, Quispamsis, New Brunswick, Canada, Lamos joined the staff serving full time in the same role. He oversees campus worship, media and productions.
Lamos embraces Lead Pastor Brent Ingersoll’s vision to be led by the Holy Spirit and to say “yes” to God, even when seemingly impossible. He has repeatedly witnessed people entering the church and experiencing the love of Christ for the first time.
One teenager showing interest in the creative side of Sunday morning services was asked by Lamos to help with media. “He’s a teenager whose heart has been set on fire for God’s kingdom,” Lamos said. “It is seriously a gift to watch him fall deeply in love with Jesus.”
Southern Wesleyan University
The men’s soccer and the women’s mentoring program teams helped launch a mentoring program between Southern Wesleyan University volunteers and Walhalla High School students. The program’s goal is to provide support, inspiration to continue a college education, and witnessing Christ to the high school students and the Seneca and Walhalla communities. Interactions have included a campus visit and soccer clinic.
“The SWU mentoring program has given our athletes a chance to see what it is really like to play college-level sports,” said Miguel Resendiz, Walhalla High School soccer coach and SWU alumnus. “This tangible example gives our athletes confidence that the dream of college sports is not out of reach with hard work and dedication.”
Opening a community outreach program in Walhalla and Seneca involving Welcome Wesleyan Church and several other churches is also planned. The Latino discipleship program, “La Ruta,” started by Dr. Raul Chavez-Negrete, SWU associate professor of business, and Walhalla High School board member, will focus on helping the Latino/Hispanic population, young women and generational poverty.
POSTURE OF WORSHIP
Oklahoma Wesleyan University
About 15 years ago, a group of Oklahoma Wesleyan University students expressed a desire to create an entirely student-led worship environment at the university. Today, OKWU’s Spiritual Life team helps run ALTAR, a student-led chapel service occurring Sunday nights throughout the school year. Typically, ALTAR consists of worship, a brief message from a student, prayer, communion and other activities.
ALTAR’s intent is to begin each new week in worship before returning to the busyness of homework, practices and classes. Students are given a chance to remind themselves of what’s ultimately important: to be in intentional community with God and their peers.
The thing I love about ALTAR is that it is all student-led.
“The thing I love about ALTAR is that it is all student-led,” said Sam Thomas, Spiritual Life team member who worked as an ALTAR worship leaders coordinator. “The students who are speaking know exactly what we're all going through as college students. It's a great community environment where anyone from campus can come and have some quality worship time with their peers. It's also a great platform for anyone who wants to go into ministry because they can get experience speaking or leading worship.”
GOD CAN USE ANYONE
Jaclyn Algier’s plan when she arrived on the Houghton College campus was simple: play volleyball. A generous scholarship motivated her to enroll even though she “wanted nothing to do with the religious aspects of Houghton College campus.”
“I thought a person had to be all put together nicely before they could be a Christian,” Algier said, “but when my teammates started sharing some personal things and we began to pray, seeing those prayers being answered was intriguing.”
The transformational moment came on a team mission trip to Nicaragua. She recalls going only “because I wanted to play volleyball, visit a new country, work at the orphanages and just spend time with my teammates.”
I thought a person had to be all put together nicely before they could be a Christian.
Algier cried all 10 days of the trip, her heart moved by “people with their hands in the air, tears running down their faces, knees bent on the dirt floors, praising God with all their hearts.” These people “had nothing, yet I had everything … I lacked nothing yet they were happier than I was.”
From that point on, she was on fire for God, baptized at Houghton Wesleyan Church. Algier worked at a Christian camp and went to Costa Rica with Push the Rock to engage in sports ministry at dangerous prisons.
Algier followed a call to Ecuador with One Mission Society after her 2015 graduation and is teaching at an elementary school in North Africa through English Language Institute/China (ELIC). She is determined to impact the students through education and sports ministry. Although Algier never intended to become a disciple and share the gospel, she now embraces that charge wholeheartedly.