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A Persistent Invitation

Published on July 09, 2024

Shannon Farlow

Sierra Winkler was a standout high school athlete who collected many athletic awards and honors during her high school career at Keys High School in Park Hill, Okla.

During her senior season, she was even ranked as one of the top 30-point guards in the state. But, she says the greatest highlight from her high school days reaches far beyond her athletic success. It has to do with falling in love with Jesus.

An invitation
Winkler grew up going to church until her father passed away when she was 8 years old. Even though she didn’t go to church after that, she still felt like she knew Jesus, and she was involved with FCA at her high school. During Winkler’s junior year, one of her friends began invitingT4MeNvpw her church—a lot.

“I was like: No way; I didn’t feel like I knew enough about God to go,” Winkler admitted. “I didn’t want to be embarrassed, so I kept making up excuses as to why I couldn’t go.”

Thankfully, her friend was persistent. Winkler finally agreed to go bowling with her friend’s youth group one evening. It was here that she met and instantly connected with Don Cochran, the youth pastor, and Taylor, one of the youth leaders. Winkler loved the fellowship, but later, felt a little guilty that she only went for the fun.

“After bowling, I didn’t want them to think I just came for the fun stuff, so I knew I needed to go to church too,” she said. “I kept going back each week and ended up falling in love with Jesus. I was learning more about Him, and that’s when I realized I knew about Jesus but wasn’t saved.”

Day by day, Winkler’s faith grew, until one Wednesday evening when Cochran led her to Christ.

“I started reading the Bible every day; I was on fire for God,” Winkler shared.

She then got involved with the church and became an incredible volunteer at Vacation Bible School and church camp.

“When you have a kid as bold and humble as Sierra, you use them for those type of things,” Cochran shared.

Taking her faith to college
As Winkler moved to school at Oklahoma State University (OSU), she was anxious to find a home church, but quickly discovered some bigger challenges. A new town, new classes, new friends and new activities—they were all vying for her attention.

2TZaLCqA“When I got to college, I realized how hard it was to prioritize,” she said. “Your parents aren’t there to remind you that you’re leaving for church in five minutes. You have to stay firm in what you believe in and prioritize time with God. Do I study for this exam, or do I worship Jesus? Do I sleep in, or do I go to church? There is always something competing for your time, but every time, I decided to worship Jesus.”

Winkler wasn’t going to let the busyness of college life push God to the outskirts.

During OSU’s orientation week, Winkler and her roommate attended a literature seminar (mainly for the free ice cream). They were next in line for the ice cream when they ran out. What were the odds! On their disappointed walk back to their dorm, they saw a group of students in the commons. “They came up to us and offered us free ice cream—we couldn’t believe it!” Winkler remembered.

The students were part of an on-campus ministry, Missionary Baptist Student Fellowship (MBSF), and Winkler instantly connected with the welcoming group of students.

“It was a God thing that we stumbled across them,” she said. “If the seminar hadn’t run out of ice cream, we wouldn’t have crossed paths.”

Winkler quickly got involved with MBSF’s discipleship and evangelism“There is always something competing for your time, but every time, I decide to worship Jesus.” – Sierra Winkler efforts, walking the campus to share the Gospel and talking to people about Jesus in the student union. She became a leader on campus, boldly sharing her faith. This led her to go to summer camps and speak at an Oklahoma FCA Field of Faith event near her hometown in front of many peers.

“One year ago, I never would have been able to do this,” she admitted. “One thing that has really helped me is that I switched from a negative to a positive approach. I used to want to tell people about Jesus so they didn’t go to hell. Now, I want to tell them because I want them to feel the joy that I feel every day.”

Winkler still uses her love of sports to connect with and disciple others on OSU’s campus, participating in the Paddle People—a student-led cheering section at football games. She also plays on MBSF’s intramural teams.

“I really like doing intramurals with MBSF because our director reminds us that we’re here to have fun, but our main purpose is to serve Jesus Christ. That’s the part that really drives me.”

Prayer / Get Involved
Father, please bless Sierra and the thousands of college students on campuses across the globe. Open their hearts and help them lean on You as they navigate the busyness of college life. Help them see You as their most important priority, and remind them that no matter how distant they may become, You will never leave their side. Give them the confidence and persistence to pursue you and share the Gospel. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

To get involved with FCA near you, visit fca.org.


Photos courtesy of SB Live Sports, Stephanie Hair Daily Press, Vype HS Sports, Tahlequa Area, and Don Cochran