Seminary Professor Shares Life Experiences

Dec 28, 2002 02:56 PM EST

FORT WORTH, Texas - Looking back at his life, Southwestern Seminary professor Lyndel Vaught finds the many influences in guiding him to his current position.

Vaught, an Oklahoma native, accepted Christ through his mother's influence at the age of nine. His mother also sparked for him an interest in music while they attended the First Baptist Church in Duncan Oklahoma.

"My mother was very influential in my life," he said.

Complimenting this influence, the Vaughts' Saturday night radio gatherings let young Lyndel's interest grow; Every Saturday, the family gathered around the radio to hear western swing music from Wichita Falls, Texas, and the Texaco Metropolitan Opera broadcast. At the age of seven, Vaught sang his first solo during a church contest, and received first prize.

As Vaught grew, so did his love of music. He majored in music at the Oklahoma Baptist University, where he met his future wife of 36 years, Janet. Graduating from OBU, Vaught received a music scholarship to the University of Oklahoma where he earned his master's degree.

While graduating from OU was one of his childhood dreams, Vaught sought to satisfy his other dream: to serve in the U.S Navy. Soon after his graduation, Vaught enrolled for active duty, serving his nation during the Vietnam War.

During his basic training, Vaught was chosen to study the Hanoi dialect of Vietnamese at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey California for his aptitude for foreign language; he graduated the institute with a diploma in languages within 37 weeks. Following his graduation, Vaught was assigned to the Navy's Officer Candidate School in Newport, R.I.

Although normally, an officer of such training would be assigned as captain of a river patrol boat in Vietnam, Vaught was assigned to the Naval Investigative Service in Alexandria, Virginia instead. There, he served as a Latin American affairs analyst and later as a specialist in the New Left Movement in the U.S.

As part of his assignment, Vaught wrote briefing papers, and his work soon attracted the attention of a High ranking Army officer. He was summoned to the Pentagon to meet the officer, and was selected to serve as the writer for a new committee assembled by the government with representatives from various intelligence agencies. Although his office was located in the Internal Security Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, his duty station was the Defense Intelligence Agency in the Pentagon and his assigned responsibility was the White House.

The committee for which Vaught wrote was responsible for formulating position papers based on requests passed from President Richard M. Nixon through his aides. Vaught researched given subjects and used resources available to White House staff to write papers that he submitted to the heads of the intelligence agencies. These papers would be revised by the agency heads, and finally passed onto the president's advisors who developed its policy. During his two-year service in the Nixon White house, Vaught wrote 35 papers. However, he was never able to meet Nixon.

"I never met Nixon. Nobody ever met Nixon much," Vaught said.

When he left the white house, he received Nixon's cufflinks, and photos of Air Force One and the White House.

Vaught recalled that when the cufflinks were being framed, the framer asked, "Don't you want those polished up before we put them in there?" "No," he answered. "Turn them over and look at the name on the back." As the framer looked at the name Richard Nixon, Vaught said, "No, I think it's appropriate to leave them somewhat tarnished."

When his duty with the Navy ended, Vaught enrolled at the University of Maryland to pursue his doctorate in music. Under the encouragement of his instructors, Vaught pursued a singing career alongside his service in the church. New doors and opportunities in the professional singing field lay before him; however, he refused them, choosing instead to stay in the musical missions field.

"I knew that was not what I wanted to do," Vaught said. "Thinking I could sing professionally and also do God's work on the side ... was not right."

"The Lord called me when I was 16 years of age to the ministry of music at Falls Creek Baptist Assembly," he said. "I was singing in Chicago, and I got down on my knees and I said, 'Lord, I've got what I want but I don't want what I've got. You called me a long time ago to be a minister of music, and that's what I'm supposed to be."

Soon God opened the door for Vaught and his family to move into the music ministry. The family spent their last day in Washington, D.C., on July 4, 1976, and then traveled to west Texas where Vaught became minister of music at First Baptist San Angelo. Here, he enjoyed leading a successful senior-adult choir ministry.

"My philosophy," Vaught said, "is that the only difference between senior adult choir and the Sunday morning choir is the color of their robes, not in the quality of the music and not in how well they sing. They are to sing just like anybody else and give their best offering."

Seventeen years later, God gave Vaught a new assignment: orders to Southwestern Seminary to train future music ministers. At first, Vaught was hesitant, thinking that his secular music education and lack of seminary education would not be a proper fit. He also assumed that the seminary would be "out of touch" with local-church worship styles.

"I was always resistant to coming to Southwestern Seminary," Vaught said.

A church music workshop in 1980 changed his mind. Bruce Leafblad, then only a guest speaker at the conference, spoke about the biblical model of worship in Isaiah 6.

"It so moved me about what worship was supposed to be that I knew that this seminary could offer things that no place else could," Vaught recently said.

He immediately called his church secretary to announce that his approach to worship would be different from that Sunday forward.

As he drove home, he prayed, "Lord, if ever possible, I would like to teach at Southwestern Seminary."

In 1993 Vaught's prayer was answered as he was elected to the faculty. Alongside his teaching in the classrooms, Vaught currently leads the worship team at Ashcreek Baptist, ministering to senior citizens.

About every 10 days Vaught travels to and from Lindsey, Okla., a 400-mile round-trip, to visit and care for the mother who taught him to love music. Until recently, Vaught's mother, 91, lived in Vaught's childhood home; she now lives in an assisted living facility.

Vaught admits that the experiences he had in life had shaped him, however, he believes that the fulfillment brought by teaching and working with senior adults shines the greatest light for his life. Hopefully, many people, both old and young, will be able to be touched by his enlightening music ministry.

By Paulina C.