I had heard that there could be thousands waiting early for a place to sit at Oral’s funeral, so I got an early start driving and arrived at the Mabee Center parking lot located on the ORU campus in Tulsa, Oklahoma at 8 a.m.
I had heard that there could be thousands waiting early for a place to sit at Oral’s funeral, so I got an early start driving and arrived at the Mabee Center parking lot located on the ORU campus in Tulsa, Oklahoma at 8 a.m. There were no crowd waiting, just a big mostly empty parking lot. So I took the time to walk the grounds of ORU and the former City of Faith Towers to take pictures of the achitecture.
When I was returning to my car I noticed several news vans had shown up, almost a dozen all together. I talked to one reporter who was so young he had never heard of Oral Roberts and seemed quite dissinterested in the story.
I left for lunch and returned to the Mabee Center in time for funeral at 2 p.m, and still no thronging crowds. People sprinkled in, and as they did they were heckled by members of Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., pastored by the notorious Fred Phelps. The group was lead by his daughter Shirley Phelps-Roper with picket signs proclaiming Oral Roberts was in hell, and that he was a liar and a false prophet, among other racist and politically charged signs, some signs were even held by small childred. This nearly caused traffic accidents and a fist fight.
After interviewing Shirley Phelps-Roper, I made my way through an ocean of limousines, security guards, handlers, and celebrities; I was then seated in the VIP section. As I looked all around me I saw all sorts of famous people; actors, singers, athletes, polititians and many well known TV preachers. Just eight seats down from me in my row was Eddie Sutton former OSU basketball coach and next to him was Bill Self current KU basketball coach. As I looked up to the general seating, there was a decent looking croud but lots of open seats.
The memorial service started off with the ORU singers and band and moved quickly to the opening prayer given Pat Robertson (host of the 700 Club, founder of CBN, Regent University and former presidential candidate). With a choked up voice he prayed “God send us another like Oral Roberts.” The prayer was followed by Mark Rutland President of ORU who basically discussed continuing the work and vision of Oral Roberts at the university.
Kelly Wright, a FOX News correspondent, sang the song “Falling In Love With Jesus”. Then the lights were turned out and a we watched a video/documentary of Oral Roberts’ life which lasted roughly a half hour. It was one of the most entertaining and inspiring things I have ever seen. This was followed by both of Oral’s remaining childred, reflecting of their father, and what it was like being Oral’s kid. His daughter Roberta Roberts-Potts commeted that her father/Oral, “sacrificed their family for the sake of pursuing his calling, but she understood how important it was.” Oral’s son Richard Roberts started by saying “My father Oral Roberts was not a perfect man, but he served a perfect God.” He told a humorous story of his young and rebellious days when he once looked his father/Oral in the eyes and said, “you need to get the hell out of my life” and Oral responded, “that’s exactly what I’m trying to do, I’m trying to get the hell out of your life.” Then he and his sister together shared details of Oral’s final moments and together sang the hymn they sang with Oral as he passed. Once again Kelly Wright returned to the stage and sang the classic hymm “Amazing Grace.”
Minister Marilyn Hickey (Board of Trustees Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association, and Chairman ORU board of regents) shared final thoughts, then in typical Oral Roberts fashion she prayed for those who were sick, having financial problems, and for people to come to Christ. The final prayer was offered by Pastor Creflo Dollar recent President Obama appointee. But before he did, he paraphrased a Bible story and likened it to Oral Roberts and son Richard. He looked at Richard Roberts and said “the prophet is dead, and now it is time for you to rise up, change your posture, change your position.”
The crowd was dismissed and then we (the VIP’s) were wrangled through a tight hallway and into a freight elevator then to a private dinner reception with the Roberts family on the mezzanine of the Mabee Center. One by one as we exited the elevator we were greeted by Richard Roberts shaking hands and giving hugs and thanking us for coming. After everyone had eaten and had a chance to visit, Richard Roberts picked up a microphone and addressed the crowd of about three hundred. He finished by saying with a choked up voice, “thanks for coming and celebrating my dad’s life” then he paused for a moment, and said “I can’t think of anything to say but thank you, thanks for coming, thanks for being here.”
As I continued to eat and mingle with old friends and new acquaintances I kept thinking of how grateful I was just to be there with all of them at this time. It was a truly special time, and one I will not forget.