Students fill the chapel with arms stretched wide and hearts open. Some kneel reverently while others bow their heads, their lips slowly moving to the melodic words of the song being played.
“I’m no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God,” the worship team sings. Absolute. Resolute. This is a declaration of the heart.
An hour past chapel dismissal, Jonathan Swindal walks through the door, focused and ready to interview. He’s tall, polite and apologetic about the interview delay.
“I’m honored this is even a story, honestly,” he admited, sitting back in his chair. “I just sing songs, man, and I get to love on kids.”
Swindal joined the ORU Worship Center as assistant worship director in 2009. After two years of helping lead students, faculty and staff in worship he was promoted to worship director. Since then, Swindal has earned a master’s degree, produced two albums, taken part in six series of missions ropes training and been to nearly 20 countries.
“I had plans and dreams when I came,” said Swindal, “and looking back they were nothing like what has actually happened and I’m grateful for that.”
He said pausing for a moment. “The one thing I did plan on that happened was I found my wife here. That’s one thing I wouldn’t change and I’m glad [God] didn’t change.”
Swindal and his wife experienced this personally when they buried their son, Oliver Jude Swindal this past July, just 20 days after he was born. Yet Swindal still firmly believes God has a roundabout way of transforming bad into good with everyone.
“This is the most difficult thing Bonnie and I have ever gone through, but we decided long ago that he was first a child to God and that our worship will always belong to God,” Swindal wrote on his Facebook page.
The couple’s reverence for God remains in this new season. This month they move to Colorado Springs, Colorado to work with Pastor Jay Duncan at Antioch Church. Swindal will serve as the church’s worship pastor.
“A year ago we started feeling an itch toward transition, but I knew it would be later than sooner,” Swindal said. “It was before our son passed that we decided we were going to move on. And of course that did cause questions and concerns: ‘Does this change anything?’ So we had to stop and evaluate, and we felt like the same thing, that it was time to move on. And there was nothing at all negative. It’s not a reactionary negative thing at all in any shape or form.”
A new worship director has not been chosen for ORU Live. Swindal has full confidence in the selection process. The current staff has started alternating musicians in each position on stage to get more people involved each chapel.
“Daniel [Tsubota], the assistant director, is staying and at least in the interim he’s heading this up,” he laughed as Tsubota pops his head in and smiles upon hearing his name.
“Who knows what might happen?” Swindal said. “He’s holding down the fort for sure.”
Swindal has served as an educator and mentor for numerous students over the years. He encourages everyone, especially young adults, to trust the Lord in every process of life no matter how difficult it seems.
“I see kids all the time fighting the process and trying to make circumstances change to fit how they feel, what they’re supposed to do or what they’re supposed to get out of ORU,” Swindal said.
Swindal confesses one of the hardest yet most valuable lessons to learn on earth is trust in God.
“I think it’s just so valuable to give your best, to try hard and do everything that is within your control to do, but with whatever cards you’re dealt to take it, and let the Lord form you through it instead of fighting it.”
The piano man plays his final song in chapel next Friday.