AU Alumni Fulfill “Lives of Faith and Service” Around the World

The mission of Anderson University is “to educate for a life of faith and service in the church and society.” Alumni of AU carry out this statement in a wide variety of ways, including the traditional missionary service that many think of when considering these words. The following alumni span several years in age, come from different backgrounds, and studied in different fields, but they are all using their AU background to fulfill its mission in countries around the world. Selections of this article originally appeared in Signatures, spring 2019 issue.  

The Briscoe and the Kurrle Families

By Maria Neathery

Twila (Tucker) Briscoe BA ’67 and Tabita (Meier) Kurrle BA ’66 were two different people who were destined to meet at Anderson University (then Anderson College) in 1962. Twila was from West Virginia and a coal miner’s daughter, while Tabita came from a missionary family from Brazil. Both young women were drawn to attend AU because of their deep backgrounds in the Church of God.  

“I was a mountain girl and so when I heard my roommate was from Brazil, I thought that was amazing,” says Twila. “When we first met, we looked at each other and immediately embraced. There have been few moments in my life that were electric, but this one, at this moment, we knew.” Rooming together in Morrison Hall room 100 would configure a long-standing purpose of faith, relationship, and service to others.

Upon graduating from AU, Twila married her husband Charlie Briscoe ’65 and moved from place to place as Church of God pastors and worship directors, while Tabita and her husband Martin Kurrle moved to South America where they served as missionaries. No matter where these two couples went, they both had a passion for service and being in relationship with all people.

While pursuing mission work, Tabita and Martin wanted to build a Christian school for Paraguayan children and plant Church of God churches as well. Still staying in touch with the Kurrles, Twila and Charlie knew that their friends lacked funding for their mission work in Paraguay. In 1978, Twila and Charlie decided to organize a softball tournament in Johnson City, Tenn., through their church, Tacoma Church of God.

The tournament quickly became known as the “Interstate Softball Tournament” because there were multiple players and teams from out of state. All funds made from the tournament were sent to help their dear friends, the Kurrles, in Paraguay. The tournament grew and grew and it eventually followed the Briscoes to Roanoke, Va. in 1981, where it continued to flourish. “We realized that the tournament was God-ordained and we had to keep doing the tournament,” says Twila. “The fellowship of the whole thing was just amazing to watch.”

Twila and Charlie dreamed of opening a Christian daycare center and eventually achieved this as well. While Twila opened her school, Tabita coincidentally also built a Christian school and they opened at the same time. In a letter addressed to Twila, Tabita told her friend that they chose the name “Alpha and Omega School.” Twila was astounded to learn that they had chosen the same name. “It truly was so touching when I found out,” says Twila. “And we never discussed the names of the schools beforehand.”

Almost 57 years later, the Briscoe and Kurrle families are as close as ever. Throughout this time, Twila and Tabita became mothers, whose two oldest children, Chad Briscoe BA ’96 and Norberto Kurrle BA ’97 MA ’02, attended AU and became lifelong friends as well.

“Another electric moment I had in my life was when our sons graduated from AU together,” says Twila. “Back in the day they allowed all the grads to sit wherever, and Chad and Norberto decided to walk across the stage together, and I thought, ‘Oh, God how could life be so precious?’” That our sons could’ve bonded so deeply like Tabita and me.”

Chad took over the Interstate Softball Tournament when his father Charlie retired in 2002. Chad is also the director of athletics for Grace College and Norberto moved to Paraguay to be a missionary like his parents and other siblings. “I grew up not knowing anything different,” says Chad. “My parents were just so passionate about raising money for the country of Paraguay because they saw that there was a need.”

The amount of love, effort, and sweat that has gone into the tournament and the work in Paraguay has been nothing short of two strong families who share a vision for God’s work. “The Kurrle family members are miraculous,” says Twila. “They have made an incredible difference for the kingdom of God.”

Upon reaching the fortieth anniversary of the church softball tournament, a book called Where the Colors Blend by Stephen Copeland was published to celebrate. Copeland was chosen to share the story of the tournament and its rich history due to his deep friendship with Chad Briscoe.

These alumni have not only helped one another grow into who God wants them to be, but they’ve also touched the lives of Paraguayans by raising over a quarter of a million dollars. Overall, the tournament funds have helped plant a total of six churches, a school, a Bible college, and a Christian Paraguayan radio station. Through it all, Twila and Tabita have stayed close through handwriting regular letters to one another from Roanoke to Paraguay.

“It’s a blessing to be a sister in Christ with Tabita,” says Twila. “I have no words…I treasure her.”

Claire Brown

By Michael Ulrich

What do you do when you know that there is so much more to life than all of the things that are right there in front of you? For Claire Brown BA ’13, knowing this meant seeking out a school that would challenge and grow her faith. That search led her to Anderson University, where she was challenged, changed, and ultimately called to the mission field in eManzana, South Africa.

A Biblical studies major with a minor in Christian ministries, found herself drawn to AU’s campus ministries and loved them from the very first day, choosing to be a member of the leadership team for three years. She led a prayer ministry, the Neighbors campus ministry, and worked with the Christian Center; all to create ways for students to encounter the Lord, but also to help students meet and serve the community surrounding Anderson University.

“One year, the theme on campus was ‘Beyond Me’,” Brown remembers. “I think that set the stage for my life. It’s easy to stay in your dorm room or do just the fun things, but it’s not my life to live. It’s God’s.”

So beyond herself she went, serving for a year in Ethiopia before moving to South Africa, where she would start the organization Lydia’s Mission, whose goal is to “provide jobs for women, then work on their hearts.” This is because Brown knows that she has to meet their physical needs before they’re ready to talk about the spiritual ones.

Her first contact with the women who would become the basis of Lydia’s Mission happened after she caught monkeys scattering the trash outside of her house. Her landlord was supposed to send someone to collect it, but after cleaning up after the monkeys more than once, she decided to find the trash dump on her own.

Women, who were already there, began to swarm her car, fighting over the trash bags she was there to throw away. “Are they fighting for their next meal?” Brown asked herself. “Are they going to eat the moldy food I’m throwing away?”

As she pulled away, she felt the Lord calling her back. She would return with a translator to hear about the women’s lives and needs, then asked if they would let her come meet with them once a week. Eventually, she even baptized many of the women at the very same dump, a choice meant to symbolize good coming from what they described as “such a place of shame.”

“I don’t think God calls the qualified. I think he equips the called.”

Brown has felt that calling from a young age and still feels that He’s in the process of equipping her. “AU can only equip you so far. Chapel and other campus activities round you as a person, but after graduation, you just have to let God take over.”

Jean Manners

By Michael Ulrich

Jean Manners BA ’16 is currently earning a masters in social work, specializing in mental health, at the Banyan Academy of Leadership in Mental Health and Tata Institute of Social Science in Thiruvidandai, India and hopes to complete her degree this year. After completing her bachelor’s degree in social work at Anderson University, Manners decided to further her education in India because that’s where she wanted to serve. She knew there was more learning ahead of her, but also that getting the education in the United States wouldn’t necessarily translate.

“Change almost never starts from the outside. It is always an internal, growing flame, so if I was going to be a part of that change, I had to be a part of the internal community.” After graduation, Manners hopes to build creative and sustainable business plans to provide jobs for people from marginalized communities in Shillong, India. Manners saw a population that is trying to grow and solve its own problems, “that is thriving to grow, creatively solving its own problems, with a plethora of different experiences and skill sets that our city desperately needs to see,” but that also struggled with “unemployment, prejudice, and skills that don’t fit the status quo of a secure job.” She believes that what people need most is the opportunity.

Thinking back to AU, Manners recalls the safety net that the campus and community provided. “I knew that there were people rooting for me, those I could talk to, some I could pray with, and some who would always be praying for me.” She also knows, however, that a lot of the realities ahead of her could only be faced when she didn’t have the safety net to rely on.

“I am getting to experience social work in a completely different lens in terms of culture, language, poverty, the meaning of liberation, mental health, and community.” Her learning takes place in a Clustered Group Home, where more than 50 women also receive care for severe mental illnesses and are given the opportunity to sit in on classes with the students. “This doesn’t give much room for stigma around mental illness to exist in our little community because the only way we can move on from our biases is by building relationships with each other.”

The content of Manners’ courses is similar to what she learned in her time in the social work program at AU, but more focused, in-depth, and steered specifically for the Indian community in which she lives.

“The Banyan’s model of care has been deemed to be the ideal recovery model for the Indian population and is now being replicated all over the country for direct access to care.”

Since June, she’s been working as an intern at the Emergency Care and Recovery Center site of The Banyan, doing case management and running group therapies, among other things. Through all of it, she feels she’s learned the most about the complexity of the population in India and how to develop a large professional network to begin work in Shillong.

“The best way to support any mission is to first educate ourselves about the issue at hand. India is a very unique country with very diverse, pressing issues that need to be addressed,” Manners says. It is also, though, “a country of resilient and creative people that have preserved their culture since ancient times.”

How can you support these alumni?

Visit lydiasmission.org or follow @lydias_mission on Instagram to learn more about Claire Brown, her ministry with Lydia’s Mission, and how you can get involved or support her work.

Where the Colors Blend by Stephen Copeland, the journalistic memoir published to celebrate the Briscoe and Kurrle families and their Interstate Softball Tournament anniversary was released on Nov. 28, 2018, and is available to purchase via Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Learn more about the Tata Institute of Social Science, where Jean Manners attends the Banyan Academy of Leadership in Mental Health at tiss.edu or on LinkedIn.

Anderson University is a private, liberal arts institution in Anderson, Indiana with a mission to educate students for lives of faith and service in the church and society. Anderson University is recognized among top colleges by U.S. News and World ReportColleges of Distinction, and The Princeton Review. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, the university now offers more than 60 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in businessmusic education, and theology.

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