Couple's missionary journeys detailed in new books
After a 50-plus year career in ministry and mission work, you can bet that Clay and Pat Coursey have a story or two always at the ready. While they may be retired now, those years of service are never far from their minds and the memories are vivid.
It was this sentiment, along with the desire to immortalize the amazing things the couple witnessed God do both in the United States and in Africa, that led to the Courseys penning not one but two books sharing their experiences on the mission field. “God Did It! We Experienced It” and “Adventuring With God: We Survived – You Can Too” were recently released through Westbow Press as self-published autobiographical memoirs.
“Pat thought we were writing out some stories for the kids, but our health is getting worse and our time on earth is not much longer,” Clay said. “I didn’t think the story should die with us about what God has done. We can’t get out and go much anymore, but this is one way to share our story.”
Pat wrote a few stories in the second volume and did the lion’s share of copyediting the text her husband penned in an admittedly much faster process than he expected. Then they turned their testimonies over to official editors who prepared the books for press and helped them market them.
Revisiting the past
“God Did It” is a retelling of the Courseys’ journey through ministry, starting with their marriage in the mid-1950s, through the lean college years and finally into church planting work before heading overseas for what would become a long career in missions to the nation of Kenya in East Africa. “Adventuring with God” details stories from their missions experiences that were both painful and funny – at least years later when looking back – and that peppered their journey trusting God on the mission field. It would become a theme of both volumes, woven though their memories.
Clay and Pet met in high school in Lubbock at church, with both feeling God’s call to special service separately. But it wasn’t until shortly after they married they put the commitment into action.
“I sensed early on that God was calling me top special service but I always said ‘no’ because I was a stutterer and couldn’t talk before groups,” Clay recalls. In January 1957 the couple finally surrendered to God’s call and headed to Brownwood for the first leg of their college journey, encouraged by a pastor who had graduated there. After a year of struggling financially to keep their growing family alive while earning college credits, the same pastor took the Courseys to visit the Wayland campus in Plainview, where President Dr. A. Hope Owen not only helped Clay find a job but also promised a scholarship and a waiver of the first $50 charges toward his degree.
The family moved to Plainview in 1958, where Clay worked at Kimball Grocery Company full-time while taking classes and Pat raised a young son and a new daughter. After a year, he took a hiatus to pastor a church in Wellington, Texas, for nearly two and a half years, returning in 1962 to finish the degree after sensing that God’s call might be leading them overseas for missions work.
Setting the stage
A mission trip with fellow ministerial students to Idaho would pave the way for later work in the heavily Mormon area after Clay finished his Wayland degree in 1963. He taught school while planning a church in Gooding, Idaho, and the family stayed four years. A visiting missionary speaker from Zimbabwe again turned Clay’s thoughts to foreign missions, and the couple began exploring the possibilities. The Foreign Mission Board agreed to send them to Kenya as teachers at the Mombasa Baptist High School and church planters, with their first real assignment being language school. After a four-year tour, they took a furlough home to Lubbock and pondered the next steps.
“I wasn’t sure we wanted to go back, because we had tried to start churches and nothing had really happened,” Clay recalls. “While dropping my kids off at school, the principal tried to offer me a job and without thinking, I popped out, ‘No, I’m going back to Africa.’ When we went back, God began to work miracles.”
Five small churches wanted to form their own association and wanted Clay as their missionary, and the mission board approved it. The family soon moved to Malindi on the coast. Then early one morning just a few months later, Clay got a revelation.
“The Lord woke me early one morning with the conviction that before we went on our first leave He would help us start 100 churches,” Clay recalls. “The coast was considered unresponsive at that point because of the Muslim influence. The Lord brought out the Giryama Project, as we called it, and sure enough, we had 100 churches going before we went on furlough three years later.”
A model for multiplication
The Courseys said they followed a model of using a young Kenyan seminary graduate, paired with a wiser Giryama elder they had trained in theological education and form a team. The pair would spend 8 days in one village, sharing their testimony and leading others to Christ. Then on the 6-7th day, they’d teach them about what a church was and ask if they’d like to organize with their assistance. The team would move to another village on the 9th day and begin the process again, taking a three-day break after two such crusades. Clay spent most of his time growing those churches and teaching the people.
With his role evolving more into an evangelist, the mission board then encouraged him to pursue a Seminary degree, so the Courseys spent two years in Texas attending Southwestern Seminary for Clay’s Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees. He was also trying to absorb all the literature on church planting he could find and take back to Kenya. But it was God who spoke again.
“The Lord woke me up again one night and dropped on me the first half of how churches could start churches,” he said. “In mid-summer he woke me up again and dropped the other half on me. That became my DMin project.
“We went back to Africa and started the project with a small group of pastors first, using church-planting principles from the Book of Acts and presenting 8 other steps over a four-day seminar. Twenty of them started 22 new churches, and that became our basis for working from that point on.”
For the rest of their time in Kenya, the Courseys saw countless numbers of churches planted before they retired in May 2000. After just a few months’ rest in the Dallas area, they were returning to Idaho to serve as Director of Missions for two and a half years, then back to West Texas, where Clay pastored a few churches before finally retiring fully around 2010.
The Courseys’ books can be found online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble or through www. WestbowPress.com. They are selling for $13 each.
From the History Files
The first Wayland graduation was held on June 5, 1911, in the unfinished administration building auditorium. R.E.L. Farmer, president of Canadian Academy and later Wayland’s third president, spoke at the graduation. Elmer Childress was the first graduate to receive a diploma from Wayland Baptist College.
A native of the Tulia area just north of Plainview, Childress transferred to Wayland from Clarendon College at the urging of Dr. I.E. Gates, who himself had just arrived on the campus as president. Only about 50 students lived on campus at the time, mostly country boys and girls, Childress recalled in an interview with the Plainview newspaper in 1962.
“My father had encouraged me — inspired me — to get an education, and I was really determined to get one, but I was too contrary while at Clarendon to take any (foreign) language. When Dr. Gates looked at my records, he told me if I graduated I would have to have credit for some foreign language. I just decided to go whole hog. I took two courses in Latin and one each in German and Greek. Those were all the courses I earned at Wayland — an ‘A’ or an ‘A-plus’ in every one of them.”
As a member of Wayland’s inaugural student body, Childress noted, “I was there for the first gathering of the faculty and student body. We met in the unfinished west section of the ground floor of the administration building. We upended nail kegs and laid 2x12 (inch) planks across them for seats.
“That student body was a varied lot, you can bet — little fellows from first grade, awkward, raw-boned country boys in boots and Sunday clothes, girls in their best skirts and blouses, ribbons in their hair, and every face shining with the thrill and anticipation of going to college.”
Meet your Alumni Board
This month the board spotlight falls on a long-time Plainview resident who has a big hand in promoting the area. Kevin Carter, BBA’93, spent nearly five years promoting the city that Wayland calls home as director of the Plainview/Hale County Economic Development Corporation. Then in 2014, he moved into his current role as executive director for The High Ground of Texas, a regional economic development marketing coalition that markets the top-most 67 counties in West Texas.
Though he graduated from Wayland almost 25 years ago, Kevin said he still cherishes the experience. “My favorite thing was the close relationships that I built with professors and staff. I still have many of those relationships today,” he says.
Kevin has served the WBU alumni board for many years and will rotate off the board in August.
“I love being on the alumni board because of the new relationships that I have been able to have with different generations of Wayland grads,” he says. “I would encourage people to get involved to meet new people and to give back to an institution that gave you great opportunities.”
New scholarships help public servants
Three new scholarship programs are helping those who serve our country, the state of Texas and our communities earn an education at reduced rates.
The Law Enforcement Scholarship provides a $1000 grant each term for active-duty law enforcement officers as well as their spouses or dependent children. These officers may also qualify for credit hours based on work experience and POST-certified academy training. New enrollees may pursue any of Wayland’s undergraduate or graduate degrees and must be enrolled full-time at any of the WBU campuses or online. They must have completed certified academy training prior to enrollment at Wayland.
The TDCJ Scholarship provides a discount each term to those who work in one of the many Texas Department of Criminal Justice facilities around the state in what are deemed “hazardous duties” roles as well as their spouses or dependent children. Employees are able to pursue an undergraduate or graduate degree in a number of fields through Wayland’s online programs with up to $1,000 in scholarship funds each term available. Credit is also possible for work experience and training per WBU guidelines. Dependent children may earn the scholarship at Wayland’s residential campus in Plainview, Texas.
In addition, a special $250 per credit hour tuition rate has been announced for active-duty military personnel attending any of Wayland’s campuses or the online degree program pursuing an undergraduate degree.
See the WBU website at www.wbu.edu or www.wbuonline.com for more information on these programs.