ORU president shares life journey
BY BILL SHERMAN World Religion Writer
Saturday, July 03, 2010
8/12/10 at 9:55 AM
Twenty-some years ago, long before he became president of Oral Roberts University last year, Mark Rutland was sitting in a cafe in Thailand pouring out his troubled heart to a local pastor.
The night before, a pimp on the street had offered him a young girl.
"I was horrified," he said.
The pastor listened patiently while he railed against the local child sex trade, insisting that someone should do something about it.
"He took it for a little while, then he said to me, 'Well, aren't you somebody?'
"For the life of me, I didn't have an answer for that," Rutland said.
He and his wife, Alison, talked and prayed about it, he said, and educated themselves on the child sex slavery in Thailand. They learned that Thailand had a million child prostitutes. Often, young girls were sold into sex slavery by a father who needed money to support an opium habit.
In 1988, they started House of Grace in Chaing Rai, Thailand, a home for girls at risk of becoming sex slaves.
They hired a house mother, rented a small flat and made a home for four at-risk girls.
The first girl they took in now runs the home, which has 110 girls from the Akha tribe. Money the Rutlands raise provides housing, food, medical care and education for the girls, including some who have gone on to be lawyers, nurses and accountants.
The home operates under the Rutlands' Global Servants ministry, which also operates a Bible training center and 50 churches in west Africa, supports his speaking, writing and travel ministry, and until recently, conducted regular marriage seminars in which Mark and Alison Rutland speak. All proceeds from speaking honorariums and the sale of his 13 books go to Global Servants.
Mark Rutland was raised in a nominal Methodist home. He made a commitment to Christ, he said, at a high school youth rally.
, his girlfriend and now wife,
had a "tremendous experience with Christ," which helped deepen Mark's commitment.
They were married right out of high school, and he worked as a youth minister in college. He went on to be an associate minister and then a senior minister at Methodist churches while working on his master of divinity degree at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta.
In June 1972, he graduated from Candler and was offered a position as senior associate pastor of a large Methodist church in Atlanta.
"There, I suffered through what is appropriately called a crisis of faith," he said.
"A struggle with depression that I had held at arm's length became unmanageable. It was a dark, dark time."
At that time, the charismatic renewal was sweeping through the mainline denominational churches.
"It hit the Methodist Church like a tsunami," he said.
"I was not happy about it at all. I didn't understand it. I opposed the charismatics in my church."
In 1975, Rutland's senior minister asked him to attend a conference designed to help pastors understand the charismatic movement.
Among the speakers were the Revs. Ralph Wilkerson of California and the Rev. James Buskirk, who later became the dean of the Oral Roberts University seminary and pastor of First United Methodist Church in Tulsa.
Rutland was put off by Wilkerson's white shoes and California style.
"He was at first glance absolutely bizarre to me. I was literally dumbstruck."
And he was equally put off by his teaching.
"I understood the Holy Spirit in terms of the Apostles Creed. He understood the Holy Spirit in terms of present tense power for effective living and ministry."
At that meeting, Rutland saw ministers he had known for years get healed.
"It blew my socks off. I had no intellectual or academic framework on which to hang what I was experiencing."
Overcoming great fear and urban myths about Pentecostal preachers who zap people with electric buzzers in their palms, he allowed Wilkerson to lay hands on him and pray for him to "receive the Holy Spirit," he said.
Charismatic and Pentecostal Christians generally believe in what they call the baptism in the Holy Spirit, an experience that follows the experience of salvation and that empowers the believer for service.
"I was at such a low point in my life that I figured whatever he did would be better than what I had."
The experience resulted in a "profound and substantial healing" from depression, and "the beginning of a lifetime of transformation," Rutland said.
"The older I've gotten, the more I've come to believe in inner healing, that we are all in the process of it, at one level or another," he said.
Rutland moved on to another Methodist church, which also experienced the charismatic renewal and then moved from pastoring into a traveling ministry.
His bishop in the North Georgia Conference named him the conference evangelist, and for 10 years he traveled extensively in Asia, South America and Africa speaking and planting churches.
After that, he returned to pastoral ministry, taking over the leadership of the troubled Calvary Assembly of God Church in Orlando, Fla.
In five years, the church grew from 1,200 to 4,000 in attendance and paid off nearly $1 million of debt each year he was there.
Based on that success, he was asked to become president of Southeastern University of the Assemblies of God in Lakeland, Fla., which was on the verge of collapse. Under his 10 years of leadership, the school grew from 900 to 3,000 students, built a $55 million campus and transitioned into a full university.
Those experiences made him a prime candidate to take over ORU on July 1 last year, a school that for years had been plagued by debt and management problems.
Rutland is quick to credit his wife for her part in his ministry.
At ORU, she has an office in the executive suites and has been involved in the renovation of the campus.
"Her presence among the student body has been of tremendous value," he said.
"They really have accepted her, not just as the first lady, but in a very real way as the campus mom. That's very rewarding to me."
Bill Sherman 581-8398
Mark Rutland and his wife, Alison (right), greet church members on Sunday following morning services at First United Methodist Church in Tulsa. Rutland is president of Oral Roberts University. ADAM WISNESKI/Tulsa World
Oral Roberts University President Mark Rutland enjoys a game of basketball at the House of Grace home for at-risk girls he and his wife founded in Chaing Rai, Thailand. Courtesy