In our decision to come to West-Ark, I am indebted to Tommy Tubberville, the head coach of the University of Mississippi's football team. He and his wife, Suzanne, are members of the Oxford congregation. He knew nothing about our leaving Oxford until I announced it. Then, how can I be indebted to him?

His decision to become head football coach at Ole Miss significantly influenced my perspective. When he accepted that position, the program was in major crisis. Twice it was found in serious violation of NCAA rules. The second time produced penalties that threatened the existence of the program. Scholarships were severely reduced. Television appearances and bowl invitations were banned. The loss of revenue would be devastating.

Since Ole Miss' football tradition is too intense to exaggerate, alumni were deeply concerned. They wanted a quality coach who knew how to win. Coach Tubberville was an assistant coach at the University of Miami when the Hurricanes won a national championship.

At his first press conference, the hovering cloud of gloom and doom subdued the excitement of the faithful. Questions included, "Can the program survive? Can the team become competitive again?" To everyone's shock and amazement, he replied, "In time, this program can win the national championship." Few took him seriously. Yet, in his first year, this smallest university in the SEC had a winning season. With few scholarships available, he had unbelievable success in recruiting. His optimism was genuine. While everyone else looked at obstacles, he saw opportunity. Though the obstacles were real, he refused to permit obvious obstacles to obscure genuine opportunity.

Before I visited West-Ark, I heard about some past problems. "Then, why did you come?" First, the honest answer is that God made the decision--and we were and are profoundly grateful! Second, coach Tubberville taught me the importance of refusing to allow obvious obstacles to obscure genuine opportunity. When I met the elders and later met you as a congregation, I was deeply impressed with the genuine potential. As we, in faith, combine this potential and God's power, the incredible will happen!

Several individuals have urged me not to be discouraged. I am not--and have not been for one moment! I arrived excited, and my optimism grows weekly. May I urge you, "Don't doubt! Don't fear hope, dreams, or faith! Don't allow any disappointment from the past to obscure our future as God's family." Let's place ourselves in His hands and watch what He does with and through us.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 2 February 1997

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