By Andrew M. Braxter, director of church outreach
Growing up, I was a very picky kid, and honestly, I am a very picky adult — I hate trying new things. I’m a creature of habit, and normally when I find something I like, I stick with it. My father would tell me that I would never know the difference between what I liked and what I disliked if I never gave anything a chance. With new things I was skeptical about he would simply look at me and say, “Son, just give it a chance.” I am so glad that I decided to do just that.
In 1999 my family made the decision to give private schools a chance, and I started attending Alabama Christian Academy in Montgomery. Because of that decision, in 2006 I received my first introduction to Harding University. Who would have thought that more than a decade later, Harding and I would be giving each other a chance in hopes of changing the world.
Ironically, my parents convinced me to try private schools in 1999, and in 2008 I convinced them to give a chance to a struggling historically Black college and university by the name of Southwestern Christian College. That was probably one of the most challenging things I ever had to convince them to try. I honestly believe it would have been easier to get a toddler to eat Brussels sprouts than it was for me to go off for undergrad, but that’s a different story for a different time. To this day, that has got to be the best thing I have done, and it turned into the place that afforded me the most chances. Because of that place, I was given the opportunity to meet Dr. Harold Redd in 2014, who introduced me to Matt Carter in 2015, who reintroduced me to Harding University through Harding School of Theology, which is the place that I gave a chance in 2016. Now in 2020 I have been given a chance to serve as the director of church outreach in the Office of Church Relations.
For the majority of my life, I have been trying to convince people to give different things a chance. In December, I will celebrate 22 years of preaching. I have been trying to convince people to give Jesus a chance, and in the society we live in today, I have been trying to convince others to give “church” a chance. I do not claim to be a chef, but I can say that most things I have cooked come out great. I have been trying to get people to give my cooking a chance (you should try it one day; I promise it’s edible). I have been working in higher education since 2013, and I have been trying to get people to give not just education but Christian education a chance. There have been some days when that task has been tough, from convincing a student that giving it a chance is truly life changing, to convincing a group of constituents that Christian education really doesn’t cost but pays, because it’s truly an investment. We all know that investments start off small, but the right types of investments bring great returns.
I have joined the Harding family during a time when our world is in a shaky place. It’s a time and place that our world has been turned upside down. It is a time when everyone is skeptical about so many things, and we are in a place where we are truly nervous about giving things, places and even people a chance. My work at Harding is internal and external. Externally, I am encouraging underrepresented churches and Christians to give Harding a chance. I want to show that this is a place filled with care and concern for the community in which we have been planted, and it is also a community of people who believe in the betterment of our fellow man. Internally, I will be encouraging everyone I work with — student and staff — to give someone else a chance and hear each other’s stories and experiences, so that the greater Harding story will show a picture of success even through moments of struggle.
Giving things a chance has been a challenge for me, but it also has brought some beautiful changes in my life. Because I have given some people a chance, I have gained some amazing friends who are really like family. Because I have given some places a chance, I have traveled and experienced places that others have only dreamed of going. Because I have given some challenges a chance, I have seen some major life changes. Whatever you are faced with that may seem challenging or even confusing, just give it a chance.