Clovis Campus graduate rediscovered faith at Wayland

Note: This is the second in a three-part series of stories about the spiritual impact of Christian education.

CLOVIS, N.M. -- Raymond Atchley was admittedly unsure of his faith when he enrolled at Wayland Baptist University in Clovis, N.M. a few years back. He remembers asking then dean of the campus, Dr. Carol Green, if he could even attend.

“I told her, ‘I’m not really sure that I’m a Christian, and I may be agnostic,’ and she just smiled and said that everyone was welcome here,” Atchley said. “I felt confident that was where I was supposed to be.”

In 2003, after earning an associate’s degree at Clovis Community College, Atchley enrolled in Wayland to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Occupational Education degree in human services. Having spent a 32-year career in law enforcement as a police officer in several cities and on several military bases, Atchley, now 50, said he was looking for a fresh start and the fulfillment he had lacked for many years.

“I was looking for God, so it was good to go to a school where you can do that,” he said.

Atchley admits struggling with his faith and what he believed, wanting to be a bold Christian but not feeling worthy of that title. Some of the Christian concepts, like being “born again” were void of meaning.

During the campus’ Spiritual Emphasis Week, Atchley said the speaker’s words hit home.

“He said, ‘Sometimes you gotta get out of the boat,’” he recalled, referring to the story of Jesus and the Apostle Peter walking on the water by faith. “I guess I got out of the boat.”

At Wayland, Atchley said he found acceptance, love and a Christian witness displayed in faculty and staff who didn’t preach or condemn but encouraged him to seek out the truth and investigate God and the Bible.

“People are sometimes afraid they’ll be preached at (at a Christian university), but no one ever preached at me,” he said. “They allowed me to find God on my own, with the love and care of my professors. I found a home here.”

Through his Old Testament and New Testament classes at Wayland, Atchley said “things started gelling; my faith started coming back to me.” He credits his teachers, Dr. Glenn McCoy and Jesse Cantu, with providing the answers and the openness to seek them.

In March 2005, Atchley earned his bachelor’s degree, starting work on the Master of Education degree the next term. He’s found a new joy in teaching concurrent high school students at a community college, a vocation he never would have imagined since he never liked teachers as a young man. He hopes to teach history at Wayland some day.

“Wayland gave me an education, but it also brought me back to the Lord,” he said. “I just paddle the boat and let God work the rudder where he wants me to go.”