By: Scott Emigh, Editor-in-Chief
It has been thirty years since Jim and Stephanie Schrepel first felt God calling them to start a ministry. But the timing never seemed right until now. Jim turned 71 years of age last week and the couple celebrated their 38th anniversary, but he is more energized than ever before when it comes to following God's call on his life.
You could compare the couple to Abram and Sarai, and fittingly enough, Stephanie's maiden name is Abram. Jim personally identifies more with Noah. He feels God calling him to do something that has never been done before, and like Noah, he has had to endure some skepticism from people who don't share his vision.
The vision came to Jim during an intercessory prayer session. "I saw myself standing at the old Forward Youth Building, looking down in to the Charles Page High School stadium, full of people praising the Lord." He knew that God was calling him to make it happen.
Thus began the difficult but rewarding journey to launch the first and possibly annual Unity Praise event. "It's a time to bring the body of Christ together, without worry of denomination," says Schrepel. "No denomination has the corner on praise. Praise is universal. God is trying to put this together, showing that denominations can come together and work together."
A lifetime in the Sand Springs community has given Schrepel plenty of connections. He has attended church with House Representative Jadine Nollan and City Councilman Phil Nollan in the past. Jadine introduced him to City Manager Elizabeth Gray. "Mayor (Mike) Burdge and I have known each other for decades," says Schrepel. "The City has just embraced this. Everyone I've crossed paths with has been there to meet a need."
Word of Life church recently moved Forward Youth Ministries to their main campus and sold the old building to The Stronghold church, formerly known as The Church at Moriah. Stronghold pastor Brent Thurber has caught on to Schrepel's vision and will be one of the speakers at Unity Praise.
Also speaking at the event will be former Word of Life Children's Pastor Smiley Elmore, Jr. Elmore played running-back for the University of Missouri from 1987-1989, participated on the TV show American Gladiator, and is an active bodybuilder, speaker, and physical fitness coach.
There will be multiple worship teams and speakers from area churches working together to put on the event. "God has just opened doors and given us favor. Every day people are getting on board with it."
Securing a venue, sound equipment, advertising, and insurance can get expensive, but Schrepel isn't sweating it. "It has just totally blown us away how the money has come in. It's come from the individuals--not just businesses and churches. They're catching the Unity Praise vision and wanting to see change in Sand Springs."
"God's going to build up Sand Springs to be a spiritual hub in America," says Schrepel. "I asked myself, 'Tulsa's right in the middle of the Bible belt, why is there not more happening here?'"
In the beginning, many church leaders doubted whether Schrepel could pull off an event of this magnitude in Sand Springs. But he insists he has nothing to do with it, it's all God's work. "It's to raise up a new generation of ministers."
The event is on sure ground now. Flyers have gone up all around town, the location, speakers, and musicians are all secured. The Schrepels will even be guests on Good Day Tulsa on April 3rd at 9:00 a.m. to promote the event.
"This event is going to saturate Sand Springs with the word of God."
In correlation with the Unity Praise event, the two have also founded the nonprofit organization "In Jesus Name Ministries." Jim was previously a Radiologic Technologist at City of Faith, while Stephanie supervised Respiratory Therapy at the Oklahoma State University Medical Center. Now they feel called to be paramedics to the body of Christ.