When KC Onyekanne, BBA '11, says he sometimes prays for discomfort so that God can be glorified, society in general might think he's a little extreme, or even half-crazy.
But no one can ever call him half-hearted. The three-year Community Leader spent his first two years at Baylor in Penland Hall, moved to the Arbors as a junior, then requested to return to Penland for his senior year. Community Leaders (CLs), each responsible for two to three dozen residents, strive to offer support to students in every way possible.
"My sophomore year, becoming a CL and going from feeling obligated to really being convicted, God was rocking my world for the good," explains Onyekanne, the fourth of five children born to Nigerian parents who raised their family in Austin and then Fort Worth.
"I always have to remind myself, prayer is part of the plan and not a backup plan. I've even prayed to be uncomfortable so I can grow and learn because it's so easy for me to be comfortable."
With its 544 freshmen men, Penland can be described with many great adjectives -- 'comfortable' is not the first one that comes to mind. Those who have called Baylor's largest male residence hall home know it has its own enigmatic subculture. The 51-year-old edifice carries a vibe of uncertainty -- a prank could await around every corner -- but it's also a place where young men carve their niches and bonds are formed to last a lifetime.
"My junior year, I wanted to live somewhere nicer, have my own kitchen and bathroom, my own apartment. But I got convicted that every reason I went to the Arbors was selfish. God could definitely use me better in Penland, so I chose to go back," says Onyekanne.
"I am passionate about being a CL -- it's not just a job, but it really is a calling. It really does become a ministry in the way you live your life and the interactions you have. I have intentionally devoted a lot of my time to developing and fostering relationships."
Onyekanne's commitment to relationships often extends into the wee hours. The night before speaking with Baylor Magazine, after 1 a.m., Onyekanne was in the library writing a paper (due that morning) when a resident approached him. The CL could tell he was in for a long talk.
"I thought, 'Man, I could be doing my paper. I'm going to be up really late.' But one thing I'll never hesitate to do is share life with somebody. It's one thing to say you are living for Christ, and it's another thing to do it.
"You can have friendships without substance anywhere," Onyekanne continues, "but at Baylor, you are exposed to the Christian environment, rather than having it imposed or shoved down your throat. You can take it or leave it. If you want to take it, you can go at your own pace and get involved at your own pace.
"It's almost expected of you to talk about Jesus in conversations on campus, and you can see people praying for each other, but if you don't do that, then you're not shunned. It's not 'do this or else.' The genuine community, with people so willing to help you out, this is nothing but Jesus. Baylor shows you what true community is."
In his own life, Onyekanne says his first year as a CL -- "when he was surrounded by real, down-to-earth upperclassmen who were living for Jesus" -- was when he wholeheartedly began trying to live what he believes.
"Before, my attitude was mostly based on moral standards instead of on spiritual conviction. If you look at it that way, you're probably living in a legalistic faith, in a religion and not in a relationship. A decision you make on your own might not be the wrong one, but you're not making it the right way if you don't consult Him in every decision. That's also something I have to remind myself.
"I always wonder what my walk would be like if I was going to any other school. I've been so blessed to come to Baylor. God has been working in my life, and it's been so evident through my scholarships and getting to be a CL. I even went on a mission trip to Alaska with my church, Highland Baptist, and an anonymous donor even paid for that out of nowhere."
Being a CL is far from the only thing keeping Onyekanne busy. He's an excellent student, earning his way to full scholarship during his sophomore year. After nearly pursing a basketball scholarship at another university, his intramural basketball team played in the championship game three years running, winning it this year.
He has represented Baylor in Student Foundation, talking up Baylor on campus tours and at college fairs across Texas, and he can't wait to tell his future children about the chance he got to represent the junior class during the first year of the new Homecoming Torchbearer tradition.
Onyekanne is that rare individual who seems to fit in wherever he goes. Soon, he'll have to do it again. With his undergraduate degree in human resources and management in hand, he will attend Texas A&M for a graduate degree in the fall, but he won't forget what he's experienced at Baylor.
"A&M is a very tradition-saturated school, but it seems like a different kind of pride there than it would be here. I'm so proud to be a Baylor Bear, but here, the real pride comes from being part of something so much bigger than yourself," he explains. "Baylor, the community, the network, it's unparalleled. I don't think it could be emulated in the sense that you just run into a lot of genuine people and form genuine relationships. I always tell people, I focus on the intangible, not the tangible. You can't put a number on the intangible.
"One thing that really sets Baylor apart from some Christian schools or schools in general: when I give tours or speak at a college fair, people want to probe and ask meaningful questions. I can tell someone Baylor gives you this and that -- the people that live on your hallway might be in your wedding some day -- but you can't really understand that until you experience it. It's hard to put into words."
Just like Baylor, just like Penland, just like KC Onyekanne.