Earlier this week, I spent a two days and a night on the campus of Ozark Christian College. I did not attend OCC, nor am I employed there. So this isn’t paid marketing. This is just me sharing some good news on a Friday.
Ozark Christian College started in 1942. That means they’ve been at it for 75 years. In that time, they have ceaselessly trained Christian leaders. I don’t know their mission statement, I can’t recite their core values, nor have I been briefed on their strategic vision.
What I do know is what I experience when I’m around the school, it’s students, and the faculty.
It starts at the top, with a president that just gets it. Equal parts capable administrator and affable, approachable human being, Matt Proctor leads with integrity and humility. At the chapel service I attended, he was in on a campus-wide joke that killed. No aloof, out-of-touch leadership here. Proctor is the real deal.
Speaking of jokes, there’s a levity on campus that you feel as you walk around. Laughter was kind of the background noise to everything else. Maybe it’s because I was there in late April and everyone was giddy that the year was drawing to a close. Maybe the relief of summer was starting to bubble up to the top of everyone’s minds. I don’t know. I just know that at Ozark, they know how to have fun.
Don’t misunderstand, though — this place is doing serious business. Part of why I was there was to gauge interest in some internship possibilities for our nonprofit organization. Students turned out to hear more, ready to find the right fit and go get their hands dirty for Jesus. That’s why they’re there in the first place — to train for ministry.
And train they do. In my church work, I have interacted with dozens of Ozark students and alumni — some as interns, others as peers, in some cases just bumping into them somewhere around the country. No school is eager to put every student on their promotional material, but there is a consistent ethic present in most of the Ozark community, and it leaves a good taste in your ministry mouth.
On the whole, the evidence of quality and purpose and integrity is ever-present.
Did I mention that Ozark Christian College is located in Joplin, Missouri? Yes, that Joplin, the town that made headlines for buckling under the weight of a devastating tornado in May of 2011. The EF-5 beast swelled to a mile wide at points and leveled entire portions of the town. It was so bad, I don’t feel comfortable talking about it much more or sharing images of the damage left in the wake of the storm. Hundreds died. Thousands were injured. It’s gone down in history as the costliest tornado in American history.
Why bring that up? It’s simple:
A lot of times in life, it feels like we’ve been flattened. I’m not trying to make light of the horrific events of 2011, I’m trying to grasp accurately the devastation life can sometimes leave behind. There are so many people who are crippled by fear, abuse, hate, and addiction. So many people are walking around barely scraping by, barely surviving, walking with a limp of their own inner storm — a storm that stretches wide and does major damage.
Evidence of this broken world has been visible from a lot of angles this week. I’ve talked to frustrated spouses, grieving families, and hurt employees. I’m aware of my own limitations to individually help. Our world is big, and every nook and cranny has been infected with brokenness.
It is in that kind of world where colleges like Ozark are present. It is in that kind of place where colleges like Ozark are most helpful. For it is in times of weakness that the world needs strength. It is in times of moral compromises when the world requires people to walk with integrity. It is in a cultural climate that is immensely divided where a little levity can go a long way.
Ozark is a place where they take their mission very seriously, but not themselves. And they’re spreading Good News everywhere they send graduates. They are physically located in a town that has had to experience a rebirth, and they’ve helped lead the way. But they are also located in a world that is spiritually in need of a rebirth, and they are leading the way there, too.
Titus Benton is a student pastor, Executive Director, and writer in Katy, TX. Give him a follow. Unless you’re a troll. If you’re a troll, take it elsewhere.