Dr. Reggies Wenyika, Ottawa University president, returned to his ministry days and gave a spirited message to those attending the First Friday Forum at Neosho County Community College.
Wenyika first told the attendees his background. As a 12-year-old boy, he ran away from an abusive home life and ended up being welcomed in by a family that he is still close to today.
He ended up in a Catholic Mission for six years and became a priest. How he ended up there was a miracle, he said.
Wenyika said one day a priest knocked on his door and he followed him. He told me there was a meeting and some nuns from Germany put together a fund and decided they wanted to sponsor a kid from South Africa.
“What are the odds that person being me?,” Wenyika said. “That is how I finished school. That is how I got my degree. At that point, I decided I would serve others, but not in education. I decided I would be a giver and never a taker.”
A South African Bishop gave the whole nation some advice that a young Wenyika took to heart.
“Relationships can help you or hurt you,” Wenyika said. “The Bishop said, ‘you always want to make sure you have right relationships, that you behave well and always behave in accordance of how other people like to be treated.’ You have been told about the golden rule, ‘treat others how you want to be treated.’ No. We have the platinum rule, ‘treat others as they would like to be treated.’ If you are a giver and not a taker, and decided you are going to serve, part of being a servant leader is to serve others on their terms, not on your terms. Their terms determine the nature and width of their needs. You want to meet their needs holistically.”
The Bishop gave more advice to the nation.
“The Bishop said this ‘if you have fractured relationships and you don’t care of them, they will come back to haunt you and when they do they will haunt you on their terms and not on your terms,’” Wenyika said. “Because walls have ears, skies have eyes and a small community like this, somebody is always watching. I am probably going to be the best behaved college president because everybody knows who I am. The world is watching. Always be on your best behavior. You need to be a person that has good relationships all the time.”
He gave another example of living a servant life came back 10-fold in his life.
Wenyika, a young minister at the time, canceled a golf outing to spend with a traveler who was stranded at the airport for the day back in 1998. In 2000, Wenyika came to the United States and landed in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he planned to attend Oral Roberts University.
After renting a place and paid a deposit on a landline phone, he was penniless.
“I wanted to go to Oral Roberts, but did not have a dime in my pocket,” Wenyika said. “The day they connected the phone, an hour later, the phone rang. Who knows who I am? I don’t even know my number.”
Wenyika said a guy named Ben called and told him his dad had been searching for him for two years.
“This is Dr. Bill Ward, you don’t remember me, but two years ago, I was in Zimbabwe and got stuck,” Wenyika said. “You picked me up and entertained me for the day. I have been looking for you for two years. I got a call and somebody told me you lived in America. We looked everywhere. This morning, my son said, ‘let’s try one more time. We called Southwestern Bell and they said we may have an individual with that last name and we just connected him today.’”
Wenyika said Ward bought him a plane ticket so he could visit his home in Virginia.
“He paid for all my tuition at Oral Roberts University,” Wenyika said. “He gave me a Chrysler Town and Country, fully loaded. I drove that from Roanoke, Virginia, nonstop. That is how I got educated at Oral Roberts. Be a giver and not a taker. Always be mindful of others. That is the kind of spirit I bring to Ottawa University.”