Longtime pastor has long, varied Wayland ties
It’s been 65 years since Dr. Claude Cone first stepped foot on the Wayland campus, and from that very first moment he says he knew it was God’s place for him. Now after years of education and nearly seven decades of ministry work, Dr. Cone said he’s enjoyed a variety of Wayland ties throughout the years. He recently reflected on his career and long relationship with his alma mater at an alumni function in Albuquerque, where he has lived for more than 30 years.
A native of Melrose, NM, Dr. Cone started his education at New Mexico A&M (now New Mexico State) in Las Cruces, intent on studying civil engineering and attending with a friend from high school whose father was their pastor in Melrose.
“I had a great time there and was active in the Baptist Student Union. When I surrendered to preach, a lot of my friends, particularly in the BSU, told me to stay there, that there will be a lot of good opportunities for me to preach in the Las Cruces area and the campus needed a Christian witness,” he recalled. “But I prayed about that and I just felt like I needed to be in a Baptist school.”
Dr. Cone said he knew there were several options in Texas but “in the back of my mind it was always Wayland.” His pastor – who would later become his father-in-law – had attended Wayland with his bride and offered to take his son Bob and young Claude to the campus for a tour. It was the Christmas break, and Red Hardin, the business manager, was the only person on campus at the time. They were sold, and the pair transferred in January 1955 to Wayland to finish out their college careers, Claude as a ministerial student and Bob pursuing music ministry.
Pretty soon that preacher’s daughter, Jeannie Miller, joined him at Wayland as a student. The two were married on Thanksgiving Day in 1956 near Lubbock, where Dr. Cone was preaching at the Slide Baptist Church. He finished his WBU degree in history in 1959 and went to Southwestern Seminary for a master’s degree. Later he earned a Doctor of Ministry degree in 1984 while pastoring in Pampa, Texas. The couple was married for 56 years before Jeannie’s death in 2012.
Of all his memories, Dr. Cone recalled the excellent faculty he enjoyed while studying at Wayland, including many of his Bible professors.
“They were all godly people. My English teacher, my Chemistry teacher… they all loved the Lord. My Bible teachers were tremendous,” says Dr. Cone. “I remember those godly people always exalting Jesus and never questioning the Bible truths. It meant a great deal.”
Dr. Cone also recalled his history professor providing an impromptu premarital counseling session after class one day, sharing some truths that he said he took to heart and put into action.
But one of the funniest memories Dr. Cone related was his only brush with the law.
“The only time I ever came close to being in jail was at Wayland Baptist University. I can remember it vividly. I had a roommate that was always thinking up wild, crazy things to do,” he recalled. “My freshman roommate sent off and ordered a little transmitter that you could put in your room and turn on a radio station. Then you could go to some other guys’ room and put it on a blank spot and it would transmit from your room into his room and he would think he was listening to the radio. The roommate came up with the idea that there was going to be a kidnapping to play a prank on another guy in our suite who was a gullible type of guy.”
Cone said his roommate enlisted him to be the radio “announcer” due to his voice. He’d already arranged for the suite-mate’s radio to be set up on the fake station, and he was in his room since he had loaned his car to another student to take his girl to Wednesday night prayer meeting. Then in the middle of listening to the local KVOP station, the plan began to unfold.
The prank goes down
“All of a sudden he turned the radio down, and I read, ‘This is an emergency announcement. I’d like to announce there’s been a kidnapping in Plainview’ and we went through the spill. I still remember this guy coming out of his room and saying, ‘Do you think Sam would really steal a girl?’” he laughed. “He said he needed to get down to the police station and so he got another guy to take him to the police station. He called the dorm a little bit later and said to come down and pick him up… they didn’t know anything about a kidnapping and all that business.”
When Cone and a friend arrived at the Plainview Police station, they were summoned to the desk and asked what was going on. Claude explained the plan was to get the suite-mate riled up. It had worked.
“He looked at the fellow with me and said, ‘you know what I think I ought to do to two guys like you?’ … and he said, ‘I think you should spend the night in jail and that might help you not to do this again.’ Man, I could see it all… I could see (WBU President) Dr. A. Hope Owen and me standing in his office being expelled from school and here I am a ministerial student and I thought ‘please, Lord, help me here,’” he said.
Dr. Cone said he finally convinced the officer he wouldn’t do anything like that again and the students were allowed to head back to campus. But word go back and indeed Dr. Owen was not happy about the events. But Cone said he learned his lesson.
The relationships continue
Friendships made during his college years are valuable to Dr. Cone, and he recalls some he’s stayed in touch with over the years. He fondly recalls serving for 21 years as a trustee for the Wayland Board, a role he said he thoroughly enjoyed. During his first years of service, Cone was preaching at FBC Pampa up in the Texas panhandle, but then he moved to New Mexico, taking the helm as director of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico. Soon, however, Wayland got permission to add a few New Mexico Baptists to their governing board and Dr. Cone was asked to return to the board.
Over the years, Dr. Cone said 14 members of his family have attended Wayland, including his daughter Catherine, who graduated in 1980, three nieces and his brother-in-law Bob, a 1960 grad. It’s a point of pride and also a reason for a deep love he claims for his university.
Dr. Cone also recalled once interviewing for the presidency of his alma mater at the urging of former FBC Plainview pastor Dr. Carlos McLeod. While he personally didn’t see himself as a great fit – he felt a university president should be more of an academician and have a PhD – he agreed to at least apply. He is quick to point out that Wayland got the right man in Dr. Wallace Davis, who served from 1991-2001.
“I’m a pastor in my heart and have always loved that,” says Dr. Cone, who pastored in both Texas and New Mexico for many years. A love for church work and pastors led to his service at the Baptist convention for 20 years, and he retired in 2005 as director emeritus. He then took the pastorate at Albuquerque’s Monterey Baptist Church, where he served for 12 years, retiring from that role in 2018. During his tenure at the BCNM, Dr. Cone was instrumental in helping Wayland expand its reach in the state, starting with a branch in Glorieta that later moved to Albuquerque.
But this true pastor at heart is not interested in sitting at home anytime soon. He just celebrated his 84th birthday in November, also wrapping up a 22-month interim role at First Baptist in Albuquerque. And he’s still filling the pulpit at other churches as needed and has a few revivals on his calendar as well.
Paying it forward
Another way Dr. Cone keeps connected to his alma mater is through giving. He established a monthly draft to the university to help students have the same experience as he did all those years ago.
“I want it to be steady and continual. I want it to be that way until the day I die,” he says. “It’s not an enormous amount, not something I’d brag and blow about but it is every month and for however they want to use it. Right now it’s for the 2020 campaign but I’m glad for that money to go to Wayland.”
Dr. Cone added that he’s got a trust with the New Mexico Baptist Foundation that will provide some interest annually after his death to help Wayland students with scholarships. It’s also another way he’s showing pride and love for his university.
“As long as I can, even after I’m gone, I still want to be doing something to help young people get an education at a place like Wayland,” he says.
Alumni's business offering free volunteer web platform
Sometimes timing is everything.
Seven years ago when Paul McGinnis left his corporate job after some soul-searching, he ended up in a place where he could come alongside leaders and encourage them in their own process of rediscovering their purpose and shifting focus for the second half of their careers.
Then in November 2019, an encounter with the CEO of a relatively new tech startup led to a job offer: bring some senior leadership and a foundation of encouragement and help us grow. He made the leap.
Now, Paul is vice president of sales and marketing for VOMO, a company that mobilizes volunteers using technology platforms to connect organizations needing help with those wanting to get involved. He’s still a part-time coach for The Halftime Institute, where he spent several years in a full-time role, loving the opportunity to support other leaders.
And now, just a few months into his new job in the Dallas-based company, Paul and his team are seeing one of their projects sweep across the nation in light of the major changes that communities are experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures taken to stop its spread.
“We launched the Be a Neighbor campaign in conjunction with the Tom Hanks movie ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’ a few months back and encouraged people to do what Mr. Rogers always said, which was to be a good neighbor,” says Paul, a 1992 graduate of Wayland. Paul said the VOMO team had considered launching the campaign again just to keep it fresh when suddenly the nation was plunged into pandemic prevention mode due to the novel coronavirus.
“We talked to our board and our backers and they said this is the right thing to do,” said Paul of the move to open the platform up for free to everyone who participates. “We’ve loved seeing the exponential impact that we’ve been able to facilitate through this. Having a common platform for all people willing to serve as well as for all organizations to populate with needs is our vision. And it's happening."
Organizations and volunteers are signing up by the minute gearing up to serve in the coming weeks as the needs multiply quickly. All this is happening, of course, as Paul and his coworkers join millions in the DFW area who are sheltering in place and working from home to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, each country that is ahead of the US in this pandemic has reiterated the importance of volunteers in order to get through this difficult and trying time.
The expansion of Be a Neighbor is being made possible by Builders + Backers, a nationwide network of entrepreneurs, investors and donors.
“Volunteer shortages already are emerging at food banks, food pantries and soup kitchens as well as in blood banks and other critical areas,” said Donna Harris, founder of Builders + Backers. “VOMO can solve this problem in an organized and responsible way. Government agencies, healthcare providers, nonprofits, churches, schools and other organizations on the front lines can coordinate critical-need volunteering efforts without having to rely on grassroots efforts that may unintentionally increase chaos or worsen the crisis.”
VOMO’s founder and CEO Rob Peabody says the company is poised to help organize the efforts that are naturally coming out of the COVID crisis.
“We’ve spent the last three years building and perfecting the very thing communities, organizations and neighborhoods need to mobilize volunteers efficiently and appropriately around critical needs. In this challenging moment, we want to make it available for everyone to use for free.”
Interested organizations should visit www.beaneighborcampaign.com to create an account and connect on the platform to organize existing volunteers or create projects that anyone can sign up to help serve. Individuals willing to serve can also see serving opportunities close to them if organizations in their area have joined the campaign. Both are encouraged to spread the word to others since that will be key to making the connections successful. You can find them on Facebook at Be A Neighbor Campaign and follow #BeANeighbor and @Be_a_neighbor on Twitter and @beaneighborcampaign on Instagram.
VOMO is a social impact company founded in 2017. Thousands of cities, nonprofits, churches and schools in 31 countries currently use it to mobilize their volunteers.
Devotional: Peace can still exist in the middle of storms
Our world is an uncertain place. As I write this article today, here is what is going on in our world:
- The coronavirus outbreak is a pandemic: 202 countries affected, 727,288 cases, 34,028 deaths.
- The United States has 140,551 cases and 3,460 deaths.
- Many cities, counties and states have gone to shelter-in-place orders.
- Schools, restaurants and businesses are closed.
- 3 million have filed for unemployment.
- People are practicing social distancing, staying at home isolated from human interaction.
- For the first time in American history, churches are not physically gathering to worship on Sundays.
- People are afraid, anxious, depressed and wondering when will all of this end.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was asked, “When will life get back to normal?” He responded, “It’s going to be a matter of several weeks to a few months, for sure.” Other specialists say that even after the pandemic peaks and then recedes in the US, we may need drastic actions to keep the virus at bay.
How are Christ-followers to respond? In I Thessalonians 4, Paul tells the church that they are not to grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. We are to respond like people who have hope. Where does our hope come from? Our hope as Christians always has been and always will be in the love and provision of our Lord.
- “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” Psalm 46:1-3
- “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2
As Christians, it’s easy to look at all that is going on in our world and to respond the way that the world would respond. And especially in our world today, it would be easy to fear the unknown, easy to imagine all the things that could happen. It would seem like things are hopeless. But the Bible reminds us:
- “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4
- “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid.” Psalm 56:3-4a
- “Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” Psalm 62:1-2
- “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7
No matter what is happening in our world, God tells us that we as Christians have a reason to rejoice! We can come to him with our cares and anxieties in the midst of uncertainties. And we can have confidence that he will give us peace. And one day, “the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore, encourage one another with these words.” I Thessalonians 4:16-17
This pandemic has created for us an unprecedented opportunity for spiritual awakening. It has given us the opportunity to encourage others. Let us seize this opportunity to share the love of Christ with others and to demonstrate the HOPE that we have in Christ.
Donnie Brown is a 1993 graduate of Wayland and currently serves as the Director of Church and Denominational Relations and the Wayland Mission Center. He previously was BSM director at Wayland and pastored churches. He and wife Lori have two children: Josh, a senior at WBU; and Hannah, a sophomore at UMHB.
From the History Files
This month's historic glimpse is the third and final installment in a submission by Don Roberts, who experienced childhood at Wayland while his father pursued his degree in the 1950s. His memories are reflective of many who came to the university as a family, lived in the tiny homettes and called the campus their home too.
For Thanksgiving 1956, my parents and brother and I drove to New Mexico to deliver a trailer loaded with food and clothes to an Indian Reservation somewhere near Taos. This adventure was sparked by two Native American girls who were students at Wayland Baptist College and members of College Heights Baptist Church. They had shared with the church the desperate conditions of many of their neighbors.
Just about the time school started in September, College Heights launched a drive to collect food items and clothing to be sorted, packed and stored until the week of Thanksgiving. My dad borrowed a trailer, which was then packed with all the church collected. On Monday morning, we packed our 1950 Ford sedan to the walls and set off. I’m not totally sure, but I think the girls rode with us, making four adults and two older boys packed into the car itself.
Tuesday afternoon we arrived at the home of the girls and dropped them off to stay with their family. Unknown to me, we would be back the next day to have Thanksgiving dinner with them! My dad then took the trailer to the church where the items in the trailer would be sorted and distributed.
Thursday we arrived for Thanksgiving lunch around midday. For the first and only time in my life, I was a guest in the home of an Apache family. I could hardly wait to get home to tell my buddies about it.
The house was made of adobe brick. The father had created the brick himself and built the house. It was not large, but very interesting, with a small rounded adobe fireplace in each room. A new room was being completed on the back of the house. The adobe walls were in place, but there was no roof. I was in awe at the solid wood furniture, the peppers hanging in the kitchen, and the various pictures and other items that hung on the walls. I guess I thought we would be visiting a teepee!
When lunch was announced, my family was invited to sit at their table, loaded with many types of food that were unfamiliar to me. Their tradition, when guests were present for a meal, really made me uncomfortable: a member of the family stood behind the chair of each of my family, serving us and helping us fill our plate. That felt a little creepy, but they were so gracious and friendly.
Friday morning we got to see their church and a bit of the neighborhood. The church was also built from adobe bricks. Huge timbers held up the roof. The bark had been stripped off and the beams polished to a beautiful shine. It was a gorgeous, but small, building. Another feature of the neighborhood stood out in my mind: there were no paved streets. The roads, the yards, the driveways, and the parking lot were all just red dirt. There were trees and some flowers in the yards, but no grass anywhere.
We visited a potter who, according to my dad, was famous for her clay pottery. My mother bought a piece of pottery known as a “wedding vase.” It was about 6 inches tall and two spout instead of one. According to the potter, the bride and groom drank from it sometime during the wedding ceremony. I didn’t get to ask what was in the vase! Sadly, a couple of years after our trip, I broke the wedding vase while handling it carelessly. On another trip to New Mexico years later we bought another, but it was not the same.
Saturday morning we started back to Plainview, with lots of room in the car, and lots of memories to share with friends and family.
Don Roberts retired in October 2019 after serving 45 years in music ministry across Texas. He is a graduate of Hardin Simmons and Southwestern Seminary. He and wife Carol Ann live in McKinney, Texas. His father, Neal Roberts, earned his degree in 1953 and returned to his hometown of Lamesa, Texas, to teach and later to serve as school principal. He died in 2007.