Written by : Jonathan Clayton
Culture Connections, a new group on the OKWU campus, held their second event on Saturday, March 30, with a focus on diversity and oneness in Christ. A party was held in the Carriage House, complete with food from a variety of cultures, dancing to diverse kinds of music, and a campfire outside. Josh Wilchcombe and Natalie Church, leaders and vision-casters for the group, told the story of its beginnings and what the vision is for it.
Josh said that he and Natalie have the same viewpoint on what Culture Connections is meant to be, and that last semester, Student Development tasked him with the leadership of the group, and he put this into action this semester. He also said that the vision for the group comes from 1 Corinthians 12, which states that Christians are one Body with many members. Josh wants to celebrate the differences within culture, bring students together to get to know each other, fulfill the calling to fellowship together, and show how this can be a part of students’ lives after college. Natalie said that she had the idea of beginning something like Culture Connections, and after getting connected with Josh, they joined together to plan what the group will do. In the future, the hope is to create an environment which will allow students to learn deeply about the different cultures on campus and create Biblical community in that space.
Second, I asked Josh and Natalie about their first event, and Josh said that this was a questionnaire style event, inviting people from different backgrounds and placing them in three categories based on their major, ethnic background and culture, and sports teams that people were on. For this event Josh and Natalie chose to get to know people on campus more so they could know they how to move forward with Culture Connections. Natalie explained that participants got to hear from each other, and community has begun out of that. She also said that she and Josh got ideas that they plan to implement events to allow campus diversity to shine through.
Theorizing how the Culture Connections night can affect culture Josh pointed out that, “If we first take a look at this from a campus perspective, I believe that this is will bring awareness of the separation that exists between people and enlighten other[s] about the things that are happening.” He also talked about the worldwide diversity that exists, and the need for Christ-centered community in it.. Natalie proposed that if people are more aware of the different cultures on campus, it will help people to connect better with each other.
I asked Josh and Natalie how followers of Christ can promote unity in culture, and Josh said that it all comes down to desire to grow in Christ and follow Him, and that when the world sees Christians united, they will see Jesus in us. Natalie said there is controversy on topics like diversity due to people’s desire for everyone to be like themselves, but students must remember that they need each other with their differences. She said that people often forget this in culture today, but if we stand united, the world will notice.
At the event, there was a lot of great food for all to enjoy, ranging from Arkansas Possum Pie, foods from Australia, Serbia, other European countries, East Africa, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and good old-fashioned s’mores! My personal favorite was the Fairy Bread, a children’s snack from Australia.
Summer Smith said, “I’m glad that I have the opportunity to dive into other people’s worlds!” Carolyn Nee said, “I like the variety of students in attendance and the opportunities for students to share what they love.” Espi Graham said, “The food is good and helps you understand different cultures.” Benjamin Bender said, “The fun and lightheartedness help to bridge the divide between cultures and ethnicities and cast a bigger vision for the part everyone has to play in a common goal.” Dezz Williams said, “I like this event because everyone is involved and talking to people they have not talked to before. Everyone here is genuinely happy.” I wholeheartedly agree with the attendees, as the event was fun with a spirit of joy and a desire to build biblical community on campus.
Natalie thought the event was amazing, with a hangout vibe, with people making great connections. Josh said that the event created an atmosphere that was diverse and allowed people from many cultures to come together and celebrate their differences. He also thought that the event began the process of breaking down walls and barriers in the OKWU community.
When asked about how the event affects culture on campus in the days to come, Natalie proposed that continually doing these events can bring a change on campus and looks forward to the future of the group. Josh believes that the event affects culture by bringing interest in and showing the need for connections through the Lordship of Christ. He also said that the conversations between students, alumni, staff, and faculty show aspirations for the future.
As to the future of the group, Natalie explained that one more event will happen this semester, and the desire is for younger students to get involved and lead the group once she and Josh are gone. Josh said that next semester Culture Connections will start from ground zero in how it approaches the OKWU community and the Bartlesville community. Josh is looking to establish a program of stable relationships with focus groups, annual conversations, and tangible changes that begin with trust. The hope is to use the group to reach the masses.