A day in the life of OCF
For seven decades the living waters of Jesus Christ have flowed forth, from the heart of the ministry of Officers’ Christian Fellowship—innumerable men and women making a kingdom difference by living, loving and working with others throughout the military society. No “day in the life of” is typical—Bible studies, small group fellowships, supporting the chaplaincy and so many other ministry endeavors, the kingdom work of our limitless Lord. How it all gets done is the continual flow of the Holy Spirit working through hard-working men and women, those OCF members who are the hands and feet of Christ, reaching out in His love no matter where they are.
As another workday commences, the sweet-smelling incense of fervent prayer is offered up to the Lord from coast to coast. USCGA cadets are praying in Chase Hall chapel. In Kentucky and Washington state, and countless locales in between, alarms go off and knees hit the floor: “You alone are the giver of life. Fill and empower us…”
Tom and Jean Schmidt, Fort Leavenworth. On this crisp Kansas morning, with coffee brewing, Tom prepares for his week’s “best two hours”—the weekly discipleship training breakfast in Pioneer Chapel. Between swigs of hot coffee and lively banter about favorite football teams, he and others set up tables and chairs while breakfast burritos are cooked.
“How great is our God…” sing fifty-eight men and women at the discipleship breakfast, placing the Lord at center stage. After their worship and praise, petitions are offered—for the deployed and their families, our nation’s leadership, and local events.
OCF ministry advancement director Mike Tesdahl is on an extended trip through Texas, now at breakfast with a new lay leader, discussing how-tos, such as “how to best help military Christians be the Good News of Jesus Christ to others.” One portion of Mike and his team’s work of creating ministry opportunities and having the ability to respond includes grants, foundations, capital campaign, and the Combine Federal Campaign.
Bill and Judy Hudspeth, At-Large. OCF’s “circuit riders” of support, the Hudspeths are aiding OCF’s CFC efforts by manning several booths at events. They chat with federal employees seeking to support a charity, and hand them OCF materials, especially those with OCF’s CFC number: 10531.
The continuous move of the Holy Spirit throughout ministry efforts is mirrored by the constant action of members and leaders alike. OCF executive director, Brig Gen David Warner, USAF (Ret.), other home office directors, and field staff are often on the road visiting OCF members and friends for God’s kingdom purposes.
Larry and Bobbie Simpson, Puget Sound/Family Outreach, and Aaron and Joyce Zook, Fort Hood and South Texas. Nearly a half-million combined on-base personnel, two OCF couples, one awesome God. That is the OCF Centers of Mass ministry of the Simpsons and the Zooks. Aaron and Joyce’s 0700 hour finds them seeking the Lord together in prayer, while Larry is already mentoring an officer and Bobbie is making an hour-long drive to lead a women’s Bible study. Mike Tesdahl is also on the road, heading for an OCF dinner at another installation.
In Colorado, General Warner has an appointment with the King of the Universe, seeking Him first before tackling today’s diverse itinerary: budgets, speaking engagements and an extended East Coast trip. Sixty miles to the south, with Bible, journal and coffee in hand, Steve Wade is “talking to God about those I minister to before I talk to them about the God I love.”
Back in Kansas, several OCFers at the discipleship breakfast are now discussing the speaker’s encouragement to be an available mentor; others are talking family issues with Jean Schmidt, or chatting about the best deer hunting locations.
OCF Council has approved the upcoming year’s budget. At the home office, finance director Dean Millard is preparing to transfer those numbers into the accounting system. But before he can start, other account numbers must first be recorded.
In Texas, Aaron Zook works on a Bible study for today’s discipleship luncheon, and practices his guitar for the Sunday worship service he’ll lead at the chapel.
On a wall in the lunchroom of the home office is a corkboard dotted with photos, cards and notes from OCF leaders, families and fellowships. A transformation has just taken place: a room of chatter and laughter has become a sanctuary. After the daily devotions and prayer, staff members write and mail notes of encouragement, especially to known members on deployment and their families.
Hank and Betsy Teuton, U.S. Coast Guard Academy; Bryan and Sherri Burt, U.S. Naval Academy; Tom and Cheri Austin, U.S. Military Academy; Steve and Rita Wade, U.S. Air Force Academy
Hank’s dual-purposed, successful plan B worked: the exhausted skunk Hank just scooped out of the swimming pool with a long net is now providing a spiritual lesson for Betsy. Just as the skunk never saw the plywood board put in the pool for him to climb out on, conversely Betsy recognizes that she has been missing God’s outstretched hand offering her rest. The respite God provides for the Christian walk, coming from personal time spent with Him, is available whether juggling endless to-do lists—or recovering from surgery and chemotherapy as Betsy did last year.
Fully engaged in the high-octane world of our nation’s future leaders, the Teutons, Burts, Austins and Wades have opened their hearts, homes and lives to mentoring these young men and women. They and their ministry teams’ schedules are jam-packed. Fruitful ministry requires balance, by prioritizing God time and family time with ministry time. The Burts especially, still raising three children, make family time together key as Bryan and Sherri coordinate their schedules so one parent is usually home when the kids are.
Having received his “marching orders” during his quiet time with God, the Simpsons’ home office is up and running planning the next Spiritually Smart Family retreat, OCF’s family outreach to the military society. Before heading off to an OCF workplace luncheon, Larry reads a thank-you note from a soldier’s spouse considering divorce, “…I still struggle, but now want to grow old with the man I married.”
The key word for the lunch hour is work—as in work out at the gym or workplace Bible studies. While some OCF members build up their bodies exercising, others are building up each other, with the Bread of Life. One group is discussing how their Christian perspectives shape conflict resolution. Twenty USNA mids and an officer are watching Francis Chan’s Crazy Love video Bible study, while Aaron Zook leads the Fort Hood chapel Bible study at the discipleship luncheon.
In the home office, member care and ministry support director Marci Morris and her team continue a busy day of mailings, database work, and handling member requests. An email from a deployed Marine captain arrives: “Thank you for the card and for praying for me… It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing we are only here to accomplish an earthly mission.” He requests prayer for his pilots, their families, and returning home stronger in the faith.
The finance team works through some financial data, bookkeeping, and processes a check needed for an OCF conference. It is time-consuming and requires complex internal controls to protect OCF’s financial integrity. But the payoff is eternal: Christ is poured into more lives.
While Larry Simpson works out, Bobbie takes time to respond to emails and texts: “Can you please pray?… A friend’s marriage is in trouble… I know you’re busy but I didn’t have anyone else I can share this burden with…”
Hospitality ministry flourishes today across OCF land: small group fellowships being welcomed to the open doors of private homes; OCF’s conference centers, Maranatha Mansion at USNA, and the Fellowship House at USMA. Rita Wade now prepares for her cadet women’s Bible study, a ministry passion of hers and of others. Tom and Cheri juggle their USMA OCF baccalaureate weekend: four families lodging, making pasta salad for 500 people, hundreds of chairs set up for the spiritual commissioning ceremony, dozens of bridesmaids dressing for a wedding—and a power outage.
Bob and Kelly Plantz, Quantico. Supporting field staff is one facet of field operations director Chris Blake’s ministry of “helping others’ ministries succeed.” One of his East Coast trips includes Quantico, where all Marine Corps officers go several times in their careers, starting with The Basic School. Chris talks about Bob’s Bible studies, with participants from all five of the companies continually coming through Quantico for training. Flexibility and text messaging enable Bob to have a stack of Bibles and pizzas awaiting the Marines when they come in from the field. The fruit of his diligent labor is reflected in the spiritual commissioning ceremonies held in conjunction with graduation.
Mark and Deb Benz, Strategic Partnerships/National Capital Region. Starting his day with the Lord at 0400, followed by a prayer breakfast and an intercessory prayer meeting, OCF’s rep for developing strategic partnerships with others passionate about ministry to the military society. He’s now at a meeting with other team members finalizing the logistics for the NCR Military Ministry Summit. Then it’s off to walk the dog of a wounded warriors family he’s helping.
The day is ending as it began for Dean Millard, with the untouched budget still on his desk. It does get done, but he will need to leave on time tonight. The AWANA activities director needs his Cat in the Hat lid for “crazy hat night” with the kids.
Kim and Kari Ann Hawthorne, Spring Canyon, and Clay and Marty Thomas/Paul and Dawn Robyn, White Sulphur Springs
Finishing up nearly twenty-five years of successful ministry, Clay and Marty Thomas have hundreds of details to work through during the transition at White Sulphur Springs. Through the changing seasons of OCF Conference Center ministry, one thing never ceases: the living waters of Christ continually flow out of it and into the lives of hundreds of military service men and women and their families. For Kim and Kari Ann, and Paul and Dawn—all quenched by OCF’s conference center ministry—in many ways they’re coming home, not to drop anchor, but in service to Christ as the new director couples. As the transitioning takes place, learning the ropes of conference center management, there are also upcoming programs, speakers, and staff that need to be lined up now. It’s a long day as interim director Charlie Sturgis works through budget issues at Spring Canyon.
For over twenty-two years Greg and Lucy Lane have served OCF on Council, in small groups at Fort Campbell, and in ROTC ministry. Greg’s leather Bible and Diet Coke stand in stark contrast to the Austin Peay State University cadets’ iPhone-accessed Bibles and neon power drinks. But together they are examining what the Bible says about leading wisely and handling temptation.
The heartbeat of OCF—small group fellowships—are in full swing across the continental U.S. Deep in the heart of Texas, they’re enjoying the praise night underway at Fort Hood, an aspect of Aaron and Joyce Zook’s OCF ministry also serving as a garrison event in support of the chaplaincy. Aaron has melded a rich variety of worship styles into one unified Body of Christ worshipping God. The worship styles include traditional, contemporary, Hispanic, or gospel, as well as praise dancers or a mime team. But tonight it’s Samoan worship, complete with native dress and dance.
USNA midshipmen-led Bible studies are drawing over fifty attendees, and cover a wide range of topics including Christian living, discipleship—and the “Bad Girls of the Bible” women’s study.
Fort Campbell OCF’s pre-Bible study conversation over dessert is heavy on training exercises and upcoming deployments. Two regular attenders are on deployment, while another will deploy soon; a fourth soldier is now home, recovering from combat wounds. Prayer time ensues, especially for traveling mercies and the three babies due over the next few months.
Marriage counseling is another aspect of several OCF field staff couples’ ministries, particularly pre-marriage topics with cadets, mids and young officers. A licensed minister, Steve Wade has also officiated at several weddings of cadets he and Rita counseled. But even before pre-marriage counseling are Bible studies discovering what God says about dating relationships. The freshmen at tonight’s study look expectantly to the sophomores: what do they have to say about dating at the Academy? The Wades are thrilled “seeing the next generation of leaders emerge before our eyes” as the women mentor and learn from each other.
The dinner Mike Tesdahl attended is over, but Christian brothers and sisters linger enjoying warm fellowship with each other. Mike has seen this picture many times, most recently at Hampton Roads’ celebration of OCF’s 70th anniversary.
Houstoun and Tami Waring, Maxwell-Gunter AFB, and Chet and Michelle Arnold, NAS Pensacola. It’s lights out for the four kids, two adults and one dog in their new-but-used hard-shelled pop-up trailer. Traveling indirectly from Alaska to Alabama, by year’s end Houstoun and Tami Waring will have logged some 18,000 miles, over 42 states and through dozens of Air Force installations, before arriving to Maxwell-Gunter AFB to stay. Mike and Mary Martin are passing the baton to the Warings after twelve years of faithful service, including senior mentor breakfasts, cooperative events with the chapel, and “Mondays with Mary” ladies Bible studies. The Warings’ road trip purpose: to become “current and relevant” by connecting with the airmen and chaplains along the way, positioning themselves for ministry to the entire military that will come through Maxwell-Gunter.
Chet and Michelle Arnold’s arrival to Pensacola, starting next year, began earlier this year with their trip to WSS for summer camp. When Pensacola’s upcoming vacancy was announced, the Arnolds’ desire to “better serve God in the military community“ spurred them to apply for and be selected to that position.
At this hour in Pensacola, after ten years of service to the Lord, the last fellowship gathering in Mike and Arden Patterson’s home has concluded. While the group of fifty is now gone, having shared laughter, fellowship, and twenty-seven pounds of Shepherd’s pie, this final night’s emotional impact has just arrived. Eagerly anticipating the Lord’s next chapter for their lives, Arden acknowledges not realizing “just how hard this moment would be.”
OCF team leaders John and Eva Haddick’s volunteer ministry for OCF is a “God-given mission” going back to “what Christ did” for them through the legacy of OCF’s biblical foundations. OCF’s small group gatherings are key to their lives, and the JBLM one they now attend is a varied mix: second lieutenants, a retired Air Force general, medical professionals, and Rangers.
John is at a chapel service that is just wrapping up, as part of a joint OCF-Valor ministry to the Army ROTC cadets attending Warrior Forge for field training. The voluntary chapel services are the only outreach opportunity available to the cadets, who train with no days off. The last of the sixty cadets at the 2100 service are beginning to filter out, but several of them linger behind to talk. The topic of Christians and killing often tops the list, with cadets seeking answers to the question “their Christian friends ask them: ‘why are you involved in an activity that kills people when you’re supposed to be bringing Christ to people?’”
John talks to them for a while, and then hands them a copy of General William Harrison’s classic May A Christian Serve in the Military? booklet.
First, a quick stop to Starbucks, then a three-hour drive back to the Sound. And although the trip started off with conversation and event planning, Larry Simpson has spent much of the drive “talking to myself” while Bobbie dozes. Thankful they’re now safely home, delighted with their day’s ministry, in forty-five minutes it’s lights out. The 0520 alarm is coming soon.
OCF’s Council is the ministry’s governing body, member-elected and comprised of officers from all military branches. Flying in from duty stations around the world, these members devote long hours to the tasks and issues before them.
The Council meeting ended a few hours ago, and Jamie Vandiver and fellow Council member Steve Hoffman have been catching up on life, and about being dads and husbands. Jamie is simultaneously feeling tired and jazzed, overwhelmed and blessed.
Elected hours earlier to replace Kim Hawthorne as Council VP, Jamie stepped outside Spring Canyon’s Hartley Holmes Lodge to pray while surveying the mountain scenery, including “The Hook” on Mt. Princeton. As with so many others serving throughout OCF, Council VP duties add to the numerous hats Jamie’s already sporting—husband, father of four, Navy captain, and Pensacola OCF interim leader. He petitions God: “If You can create this with just a word, then you can help me accomplish the tasks before me.”
At any time of day, nearly 350 known OCF small group fellowships are occurring across the globe, including New Zealand, Japan, Korea, Norway and the United Kingdom. Even on deployment, OCF members and other Christians have devoted off-duty hours serving the Lord: food and clothing outreaches, creating and building schools, and baptizing new Christians, such as WSS’s new program director John Hoyman, who baptized a new brother in Christ in his off-duty hours while deployed.
On Saturdays, the cadets meeting in the Wades’ home will sometimes linger around as late as 0400 to “talk about stuff, usually guy/girl stuff.” Most of them have already gone back to their rooms, but a few older ones stay for time one-on-one. The one hanging around the longest eventually says, “I need to talk with you about this guy.” Steve and Rita listen, eventually offering some guidance, “that may not want to be heard.” Surprisingly, the cadet declares her appreciation, blessing them to see her desire “to follow God and trust His ways.”
Ideas for the new summer conference center brochure and an upcoming radio interview for Brig Gen David Warner has awakened director of communications Michael Edwards two hours before his alarm is set to go off. He sketches out the list he and his Comms team will tackle in a few hours: the brochure, radio interview, OCF website changes, Facebook posts and the upcoming command magazine deadline. He commits the list to the Lord, asking for wisdom.
The sixteen wooded acres surrounding Shepherd’s Fold serves as training ground for USCGA’s Sandhurst Military Skills Competition squad. Camping outside as part of their training and “having a blast” while doing so, twenty camouflaged cadets on two teams are attacking each other’s strategic positions. When their bonfire accidentally scorches their cooking pans, by 0700 the Shepherd’s Fold kitchen will be invaded by the cadets to cook breakfast.
Sometimes God wakes Steve Wade at night, so he goes to the living room to pray and listen to Scripture online. His Skype rings in and he sees the tear-stained face of a former cadet on the other side of the world. Loneliness, the stress of working and living in a war-torn area, and anguish over personal relationships is almost more than this young officer can bear. Steve listens—for hours—and will finally pray softly until he sees this defender of our nation’s freedoms relax and fall asleep. Good night. Good morning. Recover, repeat. Thank the Lord for His ministry here.