Though meager in size, congregants of Oakley Wesleyan Church (OWC) are not meager at heart. With an average attendance of roughly 15 people, OWC, of Oakley, Kansas, is determined to make a gospel-sized difference in its community.
Ryan Sturdy, who serves as OWC supply pastor and is a member of Colby Wesleyan Church (CWC) of nearby Colby, Kansas, said, “OWC is small, but every member wants to find ways to show the love of God to others.”
A unique setup, OWC does not have a “lead pastor,” as does most churches. Instead, a group of four emerging preachers from CWC (Sturdy, Tiffany Martin, Tim Lindskog and Tom Nickols) stepped up as supply pastors in October of 2018, and OWC sees a different speaker each week.
“God gave pastor James Thompson of Colby Wesleyan Church a vision of how our need could be met in a way that would help others develop their spiritual gifts of preaching and teaching,” said Dwight Jurey, vice chair of the OWC local board of administration. “We have had a wonderful variety of speakers. Their messages have been a help and encouragement to us … Not only have they honed their preaching skills, they have enjoyed Christian fellowship with us. God has knit us together with them.”
Beyond the preaching, OWC has developed a deep priority for local missions, discipleship and ministry. With a women’s group designed to love on women who have lost loved ones or are otherwise struggling, a food ministry that fed over 60 families for Thanksgiving and an addiction ministry (Heart of Addiction) that ministers to people struggling with addiction in and around Oakley, OWC is cultivating a new generation of people with hearts on fire for God.
“People that have come to service in Oakley, who don’t regularly attend OWC, have spoken about the love for others that they feel when they are there, as well as the presence of the Holy Spirit’s leading,” said Sturdy, who is a licensed pastor with Kansas District.
One couple specifically affected by OWC, Shanda and Shane (pictured with their family), have an incredible story of lives being made new.
“Shanda attended church off and on as a young child and was unsure about God. While living in Colorado Springs, she started to attend church every Sunday with her mother-in-law around 2017-2018. Shanda struggled to make solid choices until she decided to make a change. In trying to better herself through finding our Lord and Savior, she has become a better mother, wife and person,” Sturdy said. “Shane was born and raised in Colorado Springs. Before he met Jesus, his life was filled with sadness and constant worrying. But that changed when he came to the knowledge of the saving power of Jesus.”
Sturdy noted that Shane placed his faith in Christ in April 2020 at a non-Wesleyan church in North Carolina. The family left Colorado Springs to be closer to Shane’s mother, who was lived in North Carolina. A pastor at the church shared the gospel with Shane. “Knowing Jesus brought him peace and joy,” said Sturdy. “He was also filled with love for others and the desire to help them, specifically people suffering from addiction.”
Shane struggled with addiction for a time in his life and now leads the Heart of Addiction outreach at OWC, based on the book “The Heart of Addiction—A Biblical Perspective,” by Mark Shaw.
According to Sturdy, the family eventually left Colorado Springs for North Carolina. They later landed in Oakley, Kansas, where they were both able to find stable jobs and a promising future. “God has continued to bless them during their time here in Oakley,” said Sturdy. “They plan to make OWC and Oakley their home for the foreseeable future.”
Sturdy recognizes that though OWC is small, God has providentially provided, paving a path for lives to be transformed.
“If Pastor James, former Colby Wesleyan pastor, had not suggested that four members of Colby Wesleyan fill the pulpit in Oakley, there may well have been no Wesleyan church in Oakley when Shanda and Shane moved here. If there were no Heart of Addiction ministry to help Shane when he was incarcerated, he may never have had the dream of helping others struggling with addictions. If OWC would not have been as willing to help support the Heart of Addiction ministry it may have not become a reality,” Sturdy said. “We could not have planned what God has been doing. We could have never predicted where God would lead us, but we can see his guiding hand when we look back at what has happened.”