Kingdom work can happen anywhere
Plain and simple, we were created by God to be in community with one another: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers…. all who believed were together and had all things in common” (Acts 2:42, 44).
As a relational ministry where genuine biblical fellowship is essential for spiritual growth and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, the very heart of the ministry of Officers’ Christian Fellowship remains small group fellowships. Whether meeting in homes or workplaces, regardless if one-on-one or within larger group settings of conference center or field staff ministry—or by optimizing technology for online fellowship opportunities—OCF fellowship gatherings are reservoirs of spiritual support, encouragement and accountability for one another.
Two microcosmic examples of Christ’s immeasurable kingdom work through OCF follow below in the tried and true of field staff ministry and the bold and new of an online virtual fellowship group for Christian military women:
Active in OCF for over twenty years, once Marine Corps Colonel Chet and Michelle Arnold retired from active duty, a never fading stirring in their souls frequented their prayers and discussions, “How can we better serve the military community for Jesus Christ?”
From a job opening announcement they heard at OCF’s White Sulphur Springs conference center in 2013, the next summer the Arnolds’ aspirations became the Lord’s calling on their lives. As the OCF field staff rep at Pensacola, Florida—the “Cradle of Naval Aviation”—Chet calls his opportunity to disciple the young officers attending OCF activities “a great privilege.”
Such as 2ndLt Nick Koza, USMC, who was temporarily blinded by an adverse reaction to a flu shot and unable to get friends to help him. Pensacola OCF members stepped in. Kory Defore and Matt Haskins started taking Nick to the hospital and follow-up doctor appointments—and inviting him to Bible study. “We started talking about knowing the Lord, having our priorities straight—and that He has a good plan for us,” said Nick.
While undergoing tests and MRIs for nearly a year before finally being cleared by flight doctors for intermediate/advanced flight school, Nick attended the weekly OCF fellowship. Both Chet and Nick reflected on that season of ministry at Pensacola:
How did Nick’s medical issue come to your attention?
Chet: We met Nick after arriving to Pensacola and heard his story from him and the others involved to that point.
How did you know Kory and Matt?
Nick: Matt and I started at The Basic School. The day I selected jets, Matt told me I should come to church with him, adding I could meet Kory, a fellow jet pilot.
What was the impact of Kory and Matt’s actions?
Nick: I wondered why Matt would spend a big chunk of his day driving me to a hospital, so willing to sacrifice his schedule for me. And Kory drove an hour to check up on and pray with me in the hospital—sacrificing his time to visit someone he met only once. I told Matt, “If the Lord gets me through this, I will trust Him.” When things started getting better, I wanted to know God more and more, and to be around like-minded friends.
Chet: This story has permeated the OCF Pensacola crowd—a vivid reminder of how God will work through us if we step out boldly in faith.
What did you observe in Nick’s growth of faith?
Chet: I saw a young man growing in his faith and desire to disciple others—ravenous for the Word of God and on fire for Christ. Nick’s story is one of those in which God’s hand is so clearly evident. It’s very encouraging to see the fruit of the harvest and know that he’s now a shining light headed for the Fleet Marine Force.
What did that season in your life mean to you?
Nick: It gave me plenty of time to get into God’s Word, to really meet Christ at the cross, and help me see the bigger picture. I was often caught up with the things I had achieved and never gave them back to Him. And to learn from people you respect like Chet and Jamie Vandiver (OCF Council vice-president)—all their abilities, military experiences, their faith—it was great. And I also met my wife then! The power of gathering for fellowship is a great way to have relationship with like-minded people, to reach out to others, and go places.
OCF virtual fellowship group
Col Mandy Birch, USAFR, an OCF Council member, and Air Force veteran Tami Waring, who now serves with OCF field staff rep husband Houstoun at Alabama’s Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, have launched a new online outreach for Christian women in uniform. Mandy answered a few questions about the experimental phase of “Leading Women” fellowship forum:
How did this come about?
As Christian women in uniform, we often find women, Christians, or leaders in other contexts, but we rarely find those who are all three. There are many of us, but we’re rarely at the same location. We’ve heard a need from many military women to connect with others of like calling. So we’re experimenting with filling that gap with a hybrid online/retreat concept.
What’s the technology you’re using?
We’re using Moodle, an open-source learning platform that allows us to post videos, engage in discussion threads, log prayer requests, message one another and more. It includes security features so that we can be sure we’re all genuine participants. We subscribed to a hosting service that makes configuring the site easy with modular options to build the course we wanted to create.
How’s it going?
We’re discovering there’s definitely a need for both Bible study and fellowship. Amazingly, we’ve quickly begun sharing our lives with one another; we’re encouraged to be able to walk together through life and to learn from one another!
How many women are engaging?
Thirty women are participating in the forum. Some have followed Christ for a year; others for decades. Some were trailblazers in the military; others chose civilian paths after a few years of service.
What are some things you’ve learned along the way?
Online, both introverts and extroverts can have a strong voice. We get wonderful insights. I’ve learned it’s more important to be a facilitator than a teacher. And we’re filling niches we’d never thought about (such as shift workers).
Any advice for starting something similar?
- Reach out to anyone who isn’t regularly participating.
- Building community is as important as teaching biblical principles.
- Set guidelines up front, and start simple.
- Never go it alone; recruit a partner and define roles.