Encounter began in October 2016 as a dream to see freshmen not only find a church that they could call home during their college years but also to build a community of faith that would last a lifetime. After working at summer camps and seeing so many of her friends participate in Texas A&M’s Impact Retreat, founder Audrey Base decided that OU needed something similar on campus. Not even two weeks after Audrey made the decision to pursue this idea, co-founder Chesney Woodchek joined her in the creation of Encounter.
Since that day of saying yes to a crazy idea, Encounter took off in ways that no one could have ever imagined. By February, a staff of 80 people was formed. While the staff may have differed in where they went to church or how their ministry was set up, they were all united under one common goal: to connect freshmen to the local church and to the Christian community at OU. Throughout the entire process, everyone involved was blown away with how faithful the Lord has been to qualify the unqualified and to bring this vision into existence.
There has been no doubt that the Lord has provided for this conference and has been answering prayer after prayer on this long journey. Our first conference was held at Wildwood Community Church and had over 50 freshmen in attendance. Over a weekend of worship, devotion, community building, and fun, we saw the Lord work in wondrous ways! We also had 16 local churches and ministries come out and show freshmen how to get plugged in to the Christian community in Norman.
The second year of Encounter was also a huge success in connecting the OU class of 2022 with the local Christian community! While the inaugural Encounter conference accomplished its goals and more, the executive staff decided that some changes needed to be made. So, with the Lord at the steering wheel, Encounter transformed the retreat into a three-day, overnight experience in the middle of summer which was something that had never been attempted before. With these major structural changes underway, we didn't know whether the students would show up or not. We just prayed that the Lord would make it happen.
The results were incredible. Dozens of incoming students attended the conference and established a campus-changing community of faith and friendship.
The 2019 session of Encounter was a truly vital year for the entire organization, so much so that our theme for the year was announced as "Foundations" in February of 2019. The entire executive team and staff poured so much of themselves into the campers that it established a close-knit family that truly made the transition into college a journey centered on the love of Christ. From there, campers could begin to place the building blocks of their college careers upon the foundation of Jesus and the Christian community in Norman.
In 2019, we also saw the revival of the Faith Fair as an integral part of Encounter. With over 15 quality ministries participating, including the Christian Greek community for the first time, opportunities for freshmen to connect to other Christians in Norman have never been brighter.
Powerful moments of faith and love were displayed during the 2019 session. The Lord has done some amazing things through Encounter and we cannot wait to see what's in store for 2020 and the incoming freshmen who will soon call OU home.