November 30, 2018 | Blake Cochran

The Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) volleyball team made it to the Final Four of the NCCAA National Volleyball tournament before losing in the semi-finals to Division-2 opponent Biola University. Leading up to the Final Four, the Lady Lions were set in a pool with College of the Ozarks, Grace College, and Trinity International University were these teams played each other once trying to finish 1st or 2nd to advance to the semi-final match. SAGU played Thursday against Trinity International and Grace College; they won game one against TIU three sets to one before dropping the night game against Grace 1-3. In a must-win game on Friday against College of the Ozarks, the Lady Lions handled business winning three sets in a row (25-27, 25-23, 25-26, 25-21).

SAGU, College of the Ozarks and Grace College all finished 2-1 in pool play; College of the Ozarks took the 1st seed due to points which led to SAGU and Grace playing a one set game to see advances to the Final Four. Kali Shaw and Suzanny Figueiredo came up big in this one set playoff with them having 11 kills combined to advance them past the Lancers. Sophia Ivy had 16 assists in the 25 points and Celi Bruce had six digs.

With little time after the playoff game, the Lady Lions were thrown on the court against Biola University (29-6) who hasn’t lost a game since October 23rd. The Eagles swept SAGU in three sets (15-25, 18-25, and 20-25). Figueiredo had nine kills and 11 digs for a near double-double, Bruce led the Lions with 17 kills. Alexis Mealer finished 10 kills on 17 attempts for a .353 hitting percentage. Ivy filled the stat sheet with 26 assists, four digs, and one kill in their final game of the season.

Beverly Robinson, Career Development Director, speaks at the dedication celebration

The Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) Career Development office recently dedicated their enhanced Career Center in honor of Vice President Terry Phipps.

Because of a long family history with SAGU, the Phipps family was honored to contribute to the Career Development Center for current and future students.

“It was a wonderful time of celebrating the Phipps family and their contribution to SAGU. A lot of students, faculty, and staff attended so it was very well received,” says Beverly Robinson, Director of Career Development.

The dedication took place on Thursday, November 15, in the new Phipps Career Center where an open house was held for students to learn more information about the scope of services and resources offered. According to Robinson, the ceremony was the culmination of a process that began two years ago. Due to an increasing number of students enrolling in SAGU’s distance education program, Career Development looked for ways to offer its services conveniently to students who are unable to physically attend seminars or take advantage of the office’s resources on campus.

Because of the generosity and support of the Phipps family, the enhanced Phipps Career Center can now live stream seminars for distance education students.

Robinson says that thanks to the Media Services team, the Career Phipps Career Center is equipped with state-of-the-art technology enabling students to have access to a plethora of career resources at the click of a mouse.

In addition to a greater access to the office’s resources, alumni speakers throughout the country and overseas can now be filmed or streamed live for seminars. This will allow for more guest speakers and career experts who would otherwise be unable to speak due to their location.

“I am just very excited to reach all of our students. That’s the bottom line. There’s no limitations now. I will able to even do a session the other day with one of the other Schools of Ministry (SOM) sites up in Wisconsin. So, that was also exciting for me-to realize that our School of Ministry students will have access to the same resources that our on-campus students do.”

In Memoriam

Jeretta Clark Hardwick (1956), 81, passed away on July 31, 2018. She was born March 30, 1937 in Erick, Oklahoma to Clifton and Sybel Clark. Jeretta met the love of her life, Horace, at SAGU and were joined in marriage June 29, 1956. Horace’s job took them from Dallas to Little Rock, Beaumont, Corpus Christi, Houston, San Antonio, Kansas City, Mexico City and finally settling in Bentonville in 1989. In Bentonville Jeretta was instrumental in the establishment of the Circle of Life Hospice Ladies Auxiliary, “Angels Paying It Forward” and was Co-Chair with her husband of the Capital Campaign of Benton County to raise funds to build a Circle of Life home in Bentonville. Some of her happiest times were spent working in her garden. She is survived by her husband of 62 years Horace; their children and spouses Kevin (Laura) Hardwick of Bulverde, TX, Kim (Greg) Mertes of Bentonville, AR and Kirk (Tracey) Hardwick of Dallas, TX; and many grandchildren. Jeretta was preceded in death by her parents and brother Kenneth.

Joel Anthony Watson, 64, passed away on Tuesday, October 2, 2018. He was born on June 30, 1954. Joel is survived by his beloved wife Marie Watson, his three sons, Joel Watson, Jr., Micah Watson, and Caleb Watson. Joel attended SAGU and graduated with his undergraduate degree in 1980. He majored in Church Ministries and minored in Missions. He then went on to further his education at SAGU and graduated in 2000 with a Master’s in Education. He was brilliant. Joel excelled academically and possessed an amazing gift of mastering multiple languages. He was a brilliant linguistic. He spoke, Spanish, French, Malagasy, and Swahili, just to name a few. Joel and Marie met at SAGU. Got engaged and married. Two sons of their three sons attended SAGU (Micah and Caleb). They all were very active in mission’s organizations while here at SAGU. Joel and Marie are part of SAGU’s remarkable heritage of missionaries who’ve followed the call of God around the world. In 1983 went to be a Zaire and now is Congo served one term. Then he went to Madagascar, and served there about 10 years there. They were among the first missionaries in that area. He established the first bible school. When he got to Madagascar there were less than 100 churches, now over there are over 1000. Then they went to Durban, South Africa to work with the indigenous people, the Zulu. Marie worked with human trafficking victims while she was in South Africa. Then they left the international missions field and came to SAGU and served 4 years as the Mission’s Directors. They overhauled the program and started the MissionTEN program (To every Nation in 10 years, 2010-2020). They brought in a new way of thinking and changed the culture within the mission’s program and mission trips at SAGU. After serving at SAGU they left and went back into missions to a sensitive country in Peninsular Asia where they’ve served the past 8 years and began a ministry. Joel also served as an educational consultant operating an after school life skills program.

1st Corinthians 16:13 says, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.”

It is important for Christians to not only take this verse to heart, but to live it out in their everyday lives. For some believers in the world, courage is required daily to survive. For others, being brave is simply trusting God’s faithfulness and following His path.

Alumni Ryan and Courtney became an example of this lionhearted faith when they moved to Colorado Springs to start a unique ministry within the walls of their home.

Hosting church services in their home wasn’t what the Ragozines had originally planned. After being at seminary in Kentucky, Ryan Ragozine felt convicted to live out his faith in a more social and relational way.

Ryan & Courtney Ragozine

“The goal after SAGU was I was going to go on and do a Master's degree in Theology, and then I wanted to become a professor and teach theology. At some point in seminary, I felt God kind of leading me away from the academy and calling me into more practical ministry,” he says.

A Relational Church

Both Ryan and Courtney always cared deeply about being hospitable—being personable—with people. So, the house church approach seemed like a great idea to build close relationships with nonbelievers and believers alike.

“Today in our society, there are a lot of people who are leery of the church. There are a lot of people who might be hostile towards the church. So we were thinking in terms of ministry. How can we kind of break down some of those barriers and some of those obstacles?”

One of the ways to do that was through Christian hospitality and by creating a warm and welcoming environment in their home. Rather than meeting in a church building, the Ragozines host a group in their house with a shared meal, fellowship and Bible study.

“We try and create an environment that's very welcoming and inviting and comfortable,” he says. “Our church…is a church for all people; the church for churchgoers and non-churchgoers, for those who grew up in the church, for those who did not. And we feel like we are uniquely suited to do that kind of ministry because we meet in a home, because it's a very comfortable environment, and because we are very relational.”

They also lead volunteer activities once a month. Even the people who don’t attend the church Monday night show up for these events. Ragozine says that it’s a great way for their church to connect with others in the community.

““It's a ministry that revolves around hospitality…the friendships in our church go far beyond meeting just once a week.”

During his teenage years, Ryan fell away from his faith and became agnostic despite growing up in the church. Around the age of twenty, he abandoned his agnosticism and turned back to God. Ryan believes that that faith experience allows him to connect to the non-believers and engage with them on a more personal level.

“I can relate to a lot of the things that I think non-church people feel, and I can relate to their questions and even their distress sometimes in relation to certain themes in the Bible that are difficult,” he says.

Biblically Driven

Though this approach to ministry is great when it comes to building authentic relationships with people who aren’t Christians, it can also be challenging. In terms of teaching the Bible on Monday nights, Ragozine says that it isn’t always easy to present the gospel in a clear way.

“In a ministry that is not only for church goers but for non-church goers as well, there will always be a temptation to skip over tough passages or ignore difficult themes in Scripture; the idea of sweeping counter-cultural and potentially offensive biblical concepts under the rug can be attractive at times,” he says.

However, he tries to convey the gospel in a way that will allow people to discuss, engage, and think it through. For almost two years, the group has been going through the Gospel of Matthew, verse by verse, and passage by passage. Ragozine says that by going through a book in this manner, he is forced to teach what’s in front of him, even if it’s uncomfortable.

“This is certainly not the easiest thing in the world to do, but Christ doesn't necessarily call us to a life of comfort or ease, but he summons us to carry our cross and follow him. We are trying our best to do that.”

Trust over Numbers

Another challenge the couple faces in their ministry is the steady but slow growth of their church.

“Unlike more traditional, brick-and-mortar churches, [it’s] not the kind of ministry that grows through marketing or advertising; all the people who attend do so because of previously formed relationships,” Ragozine says.

“For us, it takes a long time to grow because we have to build these relationships and friendships over time, and that's the way we grow.”

This kind of challenge can seem daunting, but the Ragozines take heart in sharing the gospel in a nontraditional way.

“In a ministry like this…your faith is tested all the time. I think you are constantly put in a position where you have to just rely on God and trust Him,” Ragozine says.

Ragozine graduated from SAGU in 2010 with a Bachelor’s degree in Theology. He says his time at SAGU was able to help him with his spiritual growth and prepare him for ministry. One professor that greatly impacted him was Dr. Rosdahl.

“Dr. Rosdahl…was someone who influenced me very strongly and was a mentor for me. He’s someone who really helped me learn…really helped with my theological development,” he says.

While at SAGU, Ragozine was president of a group called the Forum, an open forum headed by Dr. Rosdahl where students could discuss philosophical and theological issues. He says that this experience at SAGU was formative.

“The idea was, with this forum, we are trying to cultivate an environment where people feel free and safe to express their doubts and their questions and their concerns and to talk about theological issues. And that's the kind of environment we try to create on Monday nights,” Ragozine says.

Presently, the Ragozines host one service on Monday nights for people to gather and spend time together. Their vision is to multiply and extend to multiple gatherings.

Lee Guidry stood over the copy machine on a Monday morning this past January as he attempted to print some last-minute materials for his lesson plan. The middle school teacher was frustrated because the machine was not working properly and worried he would be late for his class.

Suddenly, he heard a popping sound. Guidry initially figured a student was lighting firecrackers outside until the sound of screams filled the hallways of Italy High School. Standing by the window next to the cafeteria, he rolled up the blinds.

“That’s when I saw it,” he said.

As crowds of students raced out of the cafeteria, he saw freshman Noelle Jones stumbling to make her way out of the cafeteria. Sophomore Chad Padilla stalked her as he continued to fire shots at her from a handgun. Without hesitation, Guidry ran out of the room towards Jones and Padilla until he made his way into a breezeway between the cafeteria and another academic building.

There he found Jones collapsed on the ground with Padilla standing over her.

The door behind Guidry immediately locked due to the school lockdown protocol. The three were now at a dead end and Guidry was face-to-face with the school shooter.

Lee Guidry

SAGU alumnus Guidry began working for Italy Independent School District (ISD) approximately five years ago where he now teaches Math and English Language Arts in the Special Education Department for the 7th and 8th grade. Guidry also teaches Civil Air Patrol (CAP), the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary for both middle school and high school.

The CAP is an Auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force and CAP cadets receive the opportunity to perform aerospace-related tasks and emergency services. As an Air Force Veteran, Guidry was familiar with the Civil Air Patrol and started the program from scratch when he first began teaching at Italy in 2014.

Among his cadets for 2017-2018 school year was freshman Noelle Jones. The day of the shooting was Noelle Jones’ first day on the Civil Air Patrol and her first day in uniform. This was also the day she was to earn her stripes.

Guidry locked eyes with Padilla as Jones laid on the ground.

The 16-year old eyes were glazed over as if he was in a trance.

“It was like he was physically there… but not really there,” says Guidry.

Completely unarmed, Guidry attempted to calm him down as the barrel of Padilla’s handgun continued to point at Jones.

“I told him, ‘Chad, you need to calm down. I need you to back away from her. We’re gonna figure this all out but I need you to just back away.”

“I need you to calm down and back away,” he said once more.

“Chad-calm down and back away.”

On the third attempt, something snapped within Padilla. His lifeless expression was gone. He turned and jumped over the fence leaving Guidry and Jones in the breezeway.

Guidry immediately knelt down and started applying pressure to the gunshot wounds of Jones as she continued to fade in and out of consciousness. One of the moments she came to, she said to Guidry, “I don’t want to die, please don’t let me die.”

The school nurse ran towards the two in the breezeway and together, she and Guidry administered first aid prior to the paramedics' arrival. Jones was then airlifted to Parkland Hospital in Dallas.

Jones was shot six times that day. Miraculously, none of her major organs were hit during the shooting.

The next day as Jones laid in her hospital bed, Guidry paid her a visit. He pinned the stripes she was supposed to earn the previous day on her hospital gown. He told her, “You know, you can’t get away from me. You’re gonna get your stripes pinned on.”

Guidry with Noelle Jones and the Italy ISD School

Almost one year has passed since the shooting and Jones is alive thanks to the heroic actions of her CAP Commander. She continues to walk the halls of Italy High School as a straight-A student motivated to live life to the fullest with hopes to eventually be a voice for survivors of school shootings. According to CBS News, she still suffers from a fractured pelvis, nerve damage, and a bruised liver-reminders of how her life was almost tragically lost this past January.

Looking back on that day, Guidry considers two major influences in his life—two things that matter the most to him—that caused him to prioritize the life of Noelle Jones over even his own well-being. Guidry is a father with a son and a daughter of his very own. “I don’t know if it was the father in me—because looking back, I remember that going through my head—’that could be my daughter’ and I just ran,” he says.

The second major influence on Guidry’s actions was his faith.

“I’ll tell you, I am not a brave person,” says Guidry. “I am scared of snakes. A scary movie gets me. Sometimes students like to jump around the corner and scare me. I scare real easy. But that morning, when I looked out that window and saw the gunman standing over her, something in me just snapped. I just knew I had to get there and danger wasn’t on my mind.”

Lee Guidry with his family

“God did not allow me to have fear that day. He needed me without fear for the situation. And I think that’s where my faith played the biggest part. He took that fear out of me.”

Guidry understands that the copy room was right where God wanted him. If the copy machine had worked properly, Guidry would have walked out of that room unable to get to Jones in time. Everything happened in God’s timing. “I would not have been exactly where I needed to be,” he says. “I believe that was Providence, a divine appointment, whatever you want to call it. I believe I was supposed to be there that day.”

Guidry’s faith is also evident in the way he interacts with his students every day. He makes an effort to invest in the lives of all of his students and cadets demonstrating Christ’s love in and out of the classroom.

“If I wasn’t a Christian, if I had no faith in God, I naturally would not be like that. But it’s because I love God, because I’ve seen what he’s done in my life, I try to show that love to others.”

Guidry's commitment to showing love and care to students of Italy Middle School and High School included Chad Padilla, the school shooter. When Padilla was a student, Guidry made an effort to reach out to him every day and ask how he was doing. Padilla never gave much of a response, but Guidry continued to ask him every day.

Guidry believes that the efforts he made as a teacher to show he cared about Padilla affected the teenager’s actions when the two were face-to-face in the breezeway that morning in January. It occurred to him months later during crisis counseling. Guidry said that his counselor told him, “You showed him Christian love your whole time at that school. And when you ran out there to confront him, he saw the one person who has ever shown him Christian love at that school. You showing him Christian love is what saved you that day.”