A native of Spencer, Indiana, Antonio entered Olivet as a freshman with a basketball scholarship. He played point guard for the Tigers throughout his undergraduate years while earning a degree in elementary education. As an athlete, he was led by coaches who modeled Christian leadership for him. As a student, he participated in education with a Christian purpose. But he was not a believer of God’s Word or a follower of Jesus.
Going into his senior year, Antonio acknowledged Jesus as his Savior and Lord. As he began to understand more about who God is and what God’s Word says, God changed the trajectory of his life.
Finding God’s way
After graduation, Antonio continued with the men’s basketball team as a volunteer assistant coach while serving as athletic director for St. George Community Consolidated School District in Bourbonnais and teaching seventh grade language arts at Bourbonnais Upper Grade Center. Just two years later, he began to sense God’s call on his life to enter full-time ministry.
As he worked toward earning both Master of Arts in Christian Ministry and Master of Divinity degrees at Olivet, he also moved into leadership positions. He served as the graduate assistant for the Tiger men’s basketball team and then accepted a position as family ministry pastor at Grand Rapids International Fellowship in Michigan.
In 2014 Antonio married O’Malley (King) ’12, a photography and graphic design major. They are now the parents of three sons, Daxton, Barrow and Haynes.
Returning and serving in new ways
“In 2021 former ONU Chaplain Mark Holcomb contacted me about returning to ONU and serving as associate chaplain,” Antonio recalls. “God provided that opportunity as a turning point for me. I worked alongside Mark for a year and then accepted the chaplain position in 2022.”
Today, Antonio leads the Office of Spiritual Development (Spiritual Life) and is fully committed to helping Olivet students find the life Jesus wants them to have. The Office of Spiritual Development exists to foster belonging in the life of every student and to equip spiritual leaders to partner with God in shalom. With the slogan of “Belong to Shalom,” Spiritual Life aims to encourage students to find a sense of belonging and to participate in the pursuit of holistic flourishing in their spiritual journeys.
One of Antonio’s first acts as chaplain was to establish “7 Abiding Habits” to guide students in setting up their lives so they can abide with God and allow God to transform them. He also continually encourages them to slow down, make mental health a priority, and steward their time and their mind.
“The enemy still wants to steal, kill and destroy,” Antonio says. “Jesus still wants us to have life to the full — a flourishing life. I want to help our students find out what flourishing really means, not what the world tells them it means.”
Leading a new team
Antonio’s team spirit continues to thrive, even off the basketball court. He currently leads a team of two paid staff plus seven student leaders.
“Watching them grow as leaders and use their leadership skills to effect change on this campus is a joy for me,” he says. “I love what we get to do together as a team.”
Together, they lead a variety of spiritual growth opportunities for students, faculty and staff across campus, including Belong Groups, Discipleship Huddles, chapel, Upper Room, student ministries, ministry trips and community engagement initiatives. They are providing ways for students to experience the flourishing life of following Jesus.
Focusing on chapel and campus
As students, faculty and staff gather in chapel during the 2023−2024 academic year, the theme for their focus is “Together.” They will look at the reality of Christ as He pursues His Church and what that means for all believers collectively as the bride of Christ. Togethering is especially important for students as they navigate the college experience.
“When we gather in chapel to hear the Word of God, I’m one person on the stage,” Antonio says. “Off the stage, I’m accessible to students so we can engage with the Word of God together.”
One of his highest priorities is meeting students where they are — dining room, gym, football stadium, athletic fields, tennis courts, concerts, presentations, social media — and being available to them.
Students are facing many mental, emotional and spiritual challenges coming at them from all sectors of our society. Antonio leads them in addressing and discussing hard topics that affect their lives — topics that could be divisive if they aren’t approached in a healthy, loving, grace-filled way. He helps them discover what will lead to flourishing and what will not.
Antonio is the first to acknowledge the anxiety and other mental health issues many students deal with. College adds more busyness to their lives in a very busy world. He knows from his own life that it is important for them to slow down and set up their lives for what God wants to do, and he is committed to helping them learn how to do that.
“Students can come to ONU and get a great education and not be transformed by God,” he says. “I want to help them learn how to manage life in a way that allows God to transform them in every season of their lives.”
Mentoring and messaging in today’s world
Capturing students’ attention in a whirlwind world is only part of the chaplain’s assignment. Building relationships with students and being there for them wherever they are is another part. Enriching lives with the truth from God’s Word is another part of the job description. Wherever Antonio is leading, he dedicates his time and energy to accomplishing what God has called him to do. As a person who knows what it’s like to live without Jesus and with Jesus, he is making a difference in hundreds of lives every day.
“I’m grateful to the many people at ONU who have played a huge role in my development as a man, child of God, husband, father and chaplain,” Antonio says. “I am stewarding this position as chaplain to lead students into whatever God is calling them to do. What a blessing for me.”
From Olivet The Magazine, Strength & Hope – Autumn 2023. Read the full issue HERE.