A Prophet not without honors
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
By Ray Fink
SHAWNEE, Okla. (BP)--Bertholomew Bailey isn’t comfortable talking about himself. He comes across as shy and maybe that’s why his father, who nicknamed him Prophet, was shocked when his seventh child told him he wanted to be a preacher.
Prophet, though, has made a habit of being a surprise.
His ACT score wasn’t impressive to Oklahoma Baptist University track coach Ford Mastin, but Bailey has been a model college student.
His injuries should have kept him back, but Bailey continues to be a vital cog on Oklahoma Baptist University’s perennially powerful track team. His engaging smile belies a competitive nature that tells him he should be the All-American he is and maybe more.
Bailey is a Bible major at OBU, where he is a relay national champion and a five-time All-American in indoor and outdoor track. He recently qualified in the open 800 for the 2007 outdoor track and field championships.
He was born into a large family where serving God is the family business. Prophet has five brothers and five sisters. He was seventh in the birth order and probably hasn’t finished that far back in anything since.
“I was No. 7 and I’ve always joked that they should have stopped with me -- the (biblical) number of completeness,” Bailey said. “But it is great to be in a big family. There’s always someone to laugh with and there’s always something going on. It’s always love, love, love.”
His quiet demeanor may have been the reason his father, the Rev. Bertrand Bailey of St. Andrew Baptist Church in Tulsa, was surprised when Prophet surrendered to God’s call. The Bailey family tree is loaded with pastors, including three of Prophet’s brothers, both grandfathers and several uncles.
It was his junior year in high school when Prophet responded to God’s call on his life.
“It was just a matter of time. I couldn’t hold it off forever,” Bailey said. “I talked to my brothers about it and I just had an urge and a fire to preach. Then I talked to my dad and he was excited about it. He was shocked. It was the third Sunday in July, 2003. Ever since, things have been great. These have been good times in my relationship with God and my understanding of what He wants.”
Prophet preaches once or twice a month all over the state and sometimes at his brother’s church in Texas.
“Prophet is an example and inspiration to everyone of any age,” Mastin said. “He rarely speaks, and when he does, it is with a smile on his face, purity in his words, and positive, Christ-like attitudes about whatever subject is being discussed. It is a huge statement to say that his teammates are different when they are near him. Several of them will travel to be in the church services where Prophet has been invited to speak.”
OBU turns out a lot of great track athletes and a lot of strong preachers. In Prophet’s case, the two have come together.
Bailey won the State Class 5A 800 meters at Central High School in Tulsa and also left that meet with renewed confidence.
“I thought when I won state I could do whatever I wanted to do if I put my mind to it,” Bailey said. “One of my favorite experiences here at OBU was winning at the Drake Relays. You get to take a lap with a flag and they just make you feel like you’re in the Olympics.”
That may have been eclipsed this year, when he and three teammates -- A.J. Carter, Durrell Williams and T.J. Lightsey -- won the national championship in the indoor 4x800 relay in March.
“Prophet has been plagued with some nagging injuries during his three years at OBU,” Mastin said. “He has had some great success – a national championship, five All-American awards in the two-mile relay and the distance medley relay -- but there have been times that his legs would not do what he wanted them to. He is a smooth runner that doesn’t show spastic-like effort, but I know he has hurt many times and managed a great performance to help his teammates.”
After graduating, Bailey plans to take a year off before entering Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, where he will prepare to be a pastor.
In that “year off,” Prophet has a plan to give a little back at the high school that helped put him on the map in track.
“I think God has blessed me with the ability to run so I can help somebody else,” Bailey said. “I feel like God called me and blessed me with this ability. I plan to go back to Central in that year off and help the track coach there.”
While Bailey’s high school grades were good, his ACT score was deflating. But Prophet has proved that standardized tests shouldn’t be the only barometer of success for potential college students.
“In the van, traveling to meets, sitting against a wall at the meet, Prophet will be found studying. He was admitted conditionally to OBU with a low ACT score. Academically, he is a success story,” Mastin said.
And it’s more than coach-speak.
“I remember the first time that I had him in class,” said Jerry Faught, assistant professor of religion. “He took my Reformation-Modern Church History course. As I lectured, he took notes, but also had his book open. Every class period I could see that he had made numerous markings in the book indicating that he had poured over the reading. He worked diligently to understand church history. I appreciated his effort in the class. After teaching him in several other courses I came to appreciate his steadfast commitment to learning. I wish all my students had his drive and determination.”
Bailey has been a good fit for OBU in many ways and has taken to the quality of the diversity he has found.
“OBU is a good school to go to no matter your denomination, your race or where you come from,” he said. “You will get a good education and it is a great experience. There are people here from different worlds -- Africans, Americans, Chinese, Brazilians. You just get to know so many people from different cultures.”
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Bailey will graduate on time next year. He’ll leave a void at OBU and with his coach.
“I will miss him greatly when he graduates,” Mastin said. “He will be a wonderful church leader, husband, and parent. I would love to stay a part of his life and watch how he continues to grow and influence others.”
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